Watches - Expert's Pick

Editor's Pick: Patek Philippe Calatrava World Timer 5110R

Making the case for a pre-owned Patek Philippe World Timer 5110R from the early 2000s, and a brief history of World Time watches.

For this month’s Editor’s Pick I chose an example of my favourite watch type, the World Timer. This particular model is now third generation, but besides a couple of small time zone alterations and a slightly outmoded 37 mm case size, it’s a clean, dignified model and, of course, it’s made to the exquisite standards set by the world leader in sophisticated horology. I had a think about exactly what it is that I like about the 5110R and where it stands in relation to its peers.

Patek Philippe Calatrava World Timer 5110R

As a genre, World Time watches were introduced in the ‘30s by Louis Cottier, an independent Swiss watchmaker with a first-rate reputation. Indeed it was Cottier who was commissioned by the group of “prominent Swiss citizens” who gifted four special pocket watches to the leaders of the new world after WWII—Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, Joseph Stalin and Harry S Truman. They were exquisite World Time pieces that are now museum worthy, in fact Churchill’s watch, which has a Cloisonné enamel effigy of St George in the centre, sold at Sotheby’s in 2015 for a staggering £485,000.

Cottier’s World Time watches displayed the time in all of the world’s 24 time zones simultaneously. He developed them with a number of leading brands during the ‘30s and ‘40s, including the likes of Rolex and Vacheron Constantin, but his best-known collaboration was with Patek Philippe. The Patek Philippe version from 1953, the reference 2523, was the first to have two crowns. It's still one of Patek's most popular models for collectors and it now auctions for a small fortune (one sold at Christie’s for over £1,800,000 in 2014).


Patek Philippe Calatrava World Timer 5110R

This second crown was replaced by a pusher when, after a few years out of the game, the World Time was reintroduced in 2000. The 5110R still works largely in the same way as the 2523. It lists 24 cities, one in each time zone, along the outer ring on the dial. If you position the city that you are currently in at the traditional 12 o’clock position then the hour and minutes hands show the time in that city. The other cities line up with a second 24-hour ring that rotates counter clockwise. With a click of the pusher at 10 o’clock you advance the hour hand by one hour and the city and 24-hour discs move one increment counter clockwise. As this process is performed, the minutes and seconds continue running so time is unaltered.

Inside the 5110R is the technically superb Calibre 240 HU, a self-winding movement which, despite its complicated nature, is only 3.88 mm thick. It has a 22-carat gold rotor and a Spiromax balance spring. It’s as meticulously finished as it is complicated, with various hand-finishing techniques such as the perlage on the plate and the chamfering and Geneva striping on the bridges. The fact that this movement is still used in today’s 5230 is a testament to its quality.

As far as the aesthetics of the 5110R go, as is to be expected for Patek, it’s beautifully finished. It’s very straightforward, particularly alongside World Time watches from different brands, which often have enamel motifs or atlases decorating the inner circle—think: Breitling, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Montblanc, Frédérique Constant and even, more recently, Louis Vuitton. It has an opaline-coloured hand-guilloché pattern on the inner half with applied rose gold hour markers and dauphine hands. The outer half has only the city names and in a straight up, highly legible black font. The case is the classic Calatrava model with a highly polished rose gold. The case back is transparent and it reveals the exquisite movement. Overall, it measures 37 mm in diameter, which is a touch small by today’s standards but by no means too small. It’s also slim on the wrist at only 9.8 mm tall, which means it sits very well and slides perfectly under a cuff.

Patek Philippe Calatrava World Timer 5110R

In 2006 Patek replaced the 5110R with the 5130 and then a few years later they introduced the 5230. The updates were made primarily to reflect changes in city names—Dubai instead of Riyadh or Brisbane instead of Noumea—and time zone designations, such as Moscow moving into Baghdad’s time zone GMT +3 in 2014. There have also been some slight aesthetic changes to the dial and lugs and a slight increase in its overall size but other than that the newer versions are the same deal.

The present edition of the 5110R was made in 2003. It has been kept in near-perfect condition so the pre-owned price of £18,795 is good value and this will most probably only rise over the coming years. On my wrist it feels fantastic and it’s clear that I’m wearing a very valuable piece of history. Having as I do a strong case of the travel bug, seeing the names of 24 cities from around the globe on my watch dial stirs up a sense of adventure and wonder. All in all, this pre-owned Patek Philippe 5110R was a solid contender for my series.

For more information visit our dedicated pre-owned and vintage Patek Philippe watches page.