Back in April, when the world was just beginning to come to grasp with its new normal under the shadow of Covid-19, Patek Philippe and Rolex made the announcement that they would both be delaying the release of new product indefinitely this year. Other brands had already begun rolling out their new watches digitally, so it was a bit of a shock when the two most important companies in watchmaking decided to hit pause for an undisclosed amount of time. But today, Patek Philippe unveiled its first watch of 2020—a couple of months after it would have presented its new timepieces at Baselworld, had the world not gone topsy turvy (now both Patek Philippe and Rolex have pulled out of the show permanently leaving it effectively dead).
The new Calatrava Ref. 6007A-001 ($28,351) is a commemorative limited-edition timepiece of 1,000 pieces to mark the opening of Patek Philippe’s new manufacture in Plan-les-Ouates, Switzerland. The big news here is that it comes in steel, which despite the recent fervor for the everyman material is still considered a rarity in the traditional watchmaker’s collection. Very few Patek models have been made in the common alloy outside of its very hot Nautilus and Aquanaut models. The only steel model available in its current catalog is last year’s Ref. 5212 Weekly Calendar (a Robb Report Best of the Best 2019 winner), which was an unusual example of the brand’s entry-point Calatrava in an off-white dial with numerals presented in a handwritten style.
This latest 40 mm x 10.34 mm steel Calatrava comes in a handsome gray-blue hue with a circular satin finish and a checkered center, which the brand calls a “carbon-style” texture. The backdrop highlights the applied white gold Arabic numerals (which come coated in lume) and pierced baton hands reminiscent of the Ref. 6006 Calatrava from 2017. It comes equipped with the self-winding caliber 324 S C movement, which is visible through the sapphire crystal caseback, which has been marked with “New Manufacture 2019” in a reference to last year when the first group of workers moved into the new production facility.
Work on the new building, however, began as far back as 2015. The massive new space has 10 floors. Starting below ground, there are four subterranean floors which house the building’s technology installations, as well as a parking lot. The ground floor and first floor are dedicated to production and finishing of movement parts, while the second floor houses the machining, manual polishing, gem setting, customer service and assembly of cases and bracelets. And if you’re a collector already plotting your visit, the second floor also houses what may be the most interesting part of the whole venture—the restoration atelier of Patek Philippe’s historical antique pieces. The third floor is reserved for secretive R&D projects, high horology and prototyping, the fourth floor for rare handcrafts and a 299-person training auditorium, and crowning the fifth floor of the building at the top is an 880-seat penthouse restaurant with four VIP lounges and a panoramic view of the Swiss landscape.
It’s a hell of a time to debut a new manufacture, which reportedly cost an estimated $600 million, but also a show of power from the world’s most lauded watchmaker. And the top VIP clients that get their hands on the new manufacture reference 6007A will also have plenty to boast about.