Introducing: The Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time Ref. 5650G Advanced Research

Introducing: The Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time Ref. 5650G Advanced Research

The Patek Advanced Research Program

The Patek Advanced Research Program is part of a lot larger story, which is the improvement of silicon components for use in watchmaking. A large part of the original research into silicon components occurred at the Center Suisse d’Electronique et Microtechnique (CSEM) and was underwritten by a consortium that included Rolex, Patek Philippe, and the Swatch Group (all of which have in resulting years received the innovation for production watches). The Advanced Research Program at Patek Philippe is basically an outgrowth of its participation in the CSEM group, and the very first practical expression of that program was reported in 2005, when the first Patek silicon component – a getaway wheel in a proprietary silicon dioxide formulation known as Silinvar – was declared, alongside a Silinvar get away from wheel. These components are cut from silicon wafers with a fabrication process known as DRIE (Deep Reactive Ion Etching). 

Silicon wafer with components ready for etching.

The focal points of silicon are notable – its surface hardness (double that of steel) and perfection implies it’s conceivable to manufacture interacting mechanical watch components that don’t require oils, and which can be fabricated with extreme precision also. This was likewise the year that Patek released its first Advanced Research Project watch: the ref. 5250 Annual Calendar, in which the Silinvar get away from wheel was first used. 

The ref. 5250 Annual Calendar, with Silinvar get away from wheel, from 2005. A restricted release of 100 watches.

The first Advanced Research development, caliber 315 S IRM QA LU.

The first Patek Philippe silicon component: a Silinvar escape wheel.

Though silicon is delicate to temperature changes, it’s conceivable to produce formulations that don’t have that property; Silinvar is one such formulation. The word has some profound roots in watchmaking, incidentally; it’s related to the name Invar, which is the term for a unique nickel-iron compound with a very low inclination to grow when warmed. (“Invar” is from “invariable,” as in, invariable measurements regardless of temperature.) It was imagined in 1896 by Charles Guillaume, who might win the Nobel Prize for it in 1920; Invar proceeded to be broadly utilized in scientific instruments and in watch and clockmaking (high precision pendulum regulators frequently had Invar pendulums). 

However, probably the single greatest news in the entire story arc was the introduction of the Spiromax balance spring the following year. Made of Silinvar, the Spiromax balance spring was formed so as to give the benefits of a traditional Breguet or Phillips overcoil balance spring – essentially, better isochronism than that possible from a level spring – however with less stature; any remaining things being equivalent, a Spiromax balance is one third the tallness of an overcoil balance spring. Spiromax springs are unaffected by magnetism, and with a mass a lot of lower than Nivarox, less influenced by external stuns, or gravity. The Spiromax balance spring was first released in a restricted version of 300 pieces in the ref. 5350 Annual Calendar yet it’s presently broadly utilized by Patek Philippe, in virtually the entirety of its watches other than high complications.

The Annual Calendar ref. 5350.

The Spiromax balance spring.

The reason I say “greatest news” is on the grounds that the equilibrium spring immensely affects timekeeping. The introduction of the equilibrium spring to watchmaking, by Christiaan Huygens, in the late seventeenth century, was really what made precision portable horology conceivable by any means, and watchmakers have been pursuing improvements ever since. In the event that you take a gander at the Spiromax, incidentally, you’ll see a somewhat thickened region at the outer terminal loop; this “chief” as Patek calls it, is the thing that gives the outer curl a geometry that is practically identical to an overcoil.

In 2008, Patek added a silicon lever to its repertoire; the combination of a silicon balance spring, silicon lever, and silicon get away from wheel was named the Pulsomax escapement, which was dispatched in a restricted release of 300 watches: the ref. 5450 Annual Calendar, with caliber 324 S QA LU.

The ref. 5450 Annual Calendar, with Pulsomax escapement.

Patek Philippe caliber 324 S QA LU.

The last portion from the Advanced Research program, prior to this year, was the 2011 ref. 5550 Perpetual Calendar. This was additionally a restricted release of 300 watches, and featured, notwithstanding the Pulsomax escapement and Spiromax balance spring, a silicon balance wheel. The entire gathering of silicon regulating organs – get away from wheel, lever, balance spring, and equilibrium – was referred to as the Oscillomax “troupe” by Patek Philippe.

The ref. 5550 Perpetual Calendar.

Patek Philippe Caliber 240 Q SI.

The “GyromaxSi” balance, with gold infill and Gyromax balance screws.

“These parts should be utilized as machined … which works for an industrial approach, however bars any hand-completing — which is an integral part of top of the line watchmaking.”

– Stephen Forsey, the New York Times, 2010

Up until this point, the Advanced Research Program had been in fact creative, yet in a fairly narrow (though critical) way; all silicon developments, and all related to the regulating organs. The watches had additionally been elaborately conservative, perhaps to ease questions Patek fans may have about the degree to which Patek remained committed to traditional watchmaking. After all, receiving silicon implies some performance improvements, however it additionally implies relinquishing traditional changing and completing procedures. Max Büsser and Stephen Forsey (of MB&F and Greubel Forsey) framed the problem in an interview with the New York Times , in 2010: 

“‘As soon as you have silicium components, they require cutting edge wafer innovation,’ Mr. Büsser said. Such pieces ‘can’t be redone, in the event that you don’t have the innovation and precise plans, yet as the innovation will develop, the parts made today will probably not be reproducible in the future.'”

“Mr. Forsey agrees: ‘These parts should be utilized as machined,’ he said, ‘which works for an industrial approach, however bars any hand-completing — which is an integral part of very good quality watchmaking.'”

To put things somewhat in setting, a modern luxury watch, with a lot of its completing computerized or semi-mechanized, and with a Nivarox balance spring and Glucydur balance, isn’t by and large the sort of thing that a watchmaker working by hand with traditional materials can reproduce either. Like it or not, modern watches, even without silicon, are not hand-produced using scratch; virtually all are produced with computer guided processing machines and include, increasingly, other innovative manufacturing procedures like LIGA too. The point remains, however, that silicon rejects hand wrapping up by its very nature, and the very precision with what parts can be reproduced, while a dream for watchmaking for centuries, is likewise at chances with the component of hand-craft; the real issue, at that point, is if the improvements in performance justify the trade-off. Patek clearly accepts this is the situation, and, of course, there is as yet a lot of hand-completing elsewhere in the movement.

After 2011, the Advanced Research program at Patek Philippe went dark, and six years were to pass before the following Advanced Research watch.

2017: The Aquanaut Travel Time Ref. 5650G "Patek Philippe Advanced Research"

The Advanced Research Travel Time is an undeniable departure from previous Advanced Research watches. It is, first of all, the first Advanced Research watch to not be a yearly or perpetual calendar; it is the first not in a round case; and moreover it’s pretty resolutely non-traditional in styling. Also, it’s the first Advanced Research watch to present a development in a material other than silicon.

The ref. 5650G Aquanaut Travel Time Advanced Research.

The first, and generally self-evident, development is the “compliant (adaptable) system in steel.” This is the component for changing the GMT sign forwards and backwards. 

Dial side, caliber 324 S C FUS.

You can see the “compliant component” on the left, and it’s a pretty piece of work. It’s all in steel; there are no extraordinary materials utilized, and keeping in mind that Patek says it required considerable computer time, just as cutting edge manufacturing strategies (the press release isn’t explicit however electric spark erosion is a reasonable applicant) it’s still, strictly talking, traditional watchmaking with traditional materials. It is amusing to think, given its appearance, that it may have been nicknamed “the Crab” at Patek.

The “compliant” (adaptable) steel system in the ref. 5650G for re-setting the GMT indication.

The level of precision required probably couldn’t be accomplished with old style strategies – the clearance between the leaf springs, where they form an “x,” is just 150 microns – yet the entire thing is hand-completed (which more likely than not been, given the configuration of the instrument, and to put it casually, a royal genuine annoyance for whomever needed to do it) and it looks very cool too. It has a sort of instinctive allure; practically nobody could envision something like this except for the essential principle, and construction, appear glaringly evident and undeniable when you see it working. The least demanding approach to understand how it works is to watch this little short from Patek Philippe.

The Crab (in the event that I may coin an epithet) has a ton of points of interest over the typical GMT exchanging instrument utilized by Patek – lower parts check (12 parts for the entire gathering, instead of 37 in the standard component) and, similarly as altogether, no gears or rotates. That implies no requirement for regular lubricants, no friction anywhere in the component, and very probably, much better durability and general usefulness. The lone drawback I can make sure, is that it doesn’t appear to be repairable; if there’s harm or wear, you’d need to trade out the entire component for another one – the shell would shed the Crab, rather than the other way ’round. It’s doomed clever, anyway.

The other advancement is the expansion of another inner terminal curve, on the Spiromax balance spring. How about we take a gander at the old and new versions, side by side.

The Spiromax balance spring, 2006 edition.

Spiromax balance spring, 2017 edition.

If you look very carefully, you’ll see that the innermost loop of the new version has a slight growing in the curl, similar to the one in the outermost terminal curve. Similarly as the geometry of the outermost loop copies a large number of the benefits of the Breguet overcoil, so the new geometry of the inner curl copies that of an offset spring with a properly formed inner terminal curve. The fundamental thought behind this, is to set up the equilibrium spring so the center of gravity of the spring consistently corresponds with the specific center of gravity of the equilibrium – this is the essential precondition for isochronism. With the expansion of the new inner terminal curve, Patek’s had the option to get pretty phenomenal rate soundness out of the watch – as we referenced up top, the spec is simply – 1/+2 seconds per day.

By the way, there is a comparable to method with traditional equilibrium springs. Similarly as the outermost loop geometry of the Spiromax copies the impact of a Breguet/Phillips overcoil, so the inner geometry of the 2017 Spiromax copies the impact of a numerically correct inner terminal curve in a steel or compound equilibrium spring. One such curve is known as a Lossier curve and it was generally utilized by the American watch company, Waltham, in its high grade railroad watches.

The Aquanaut Travel Time Ref. 5650G “Patek Philippe Advanced Research” sits right in the center of some very strong and interesting discussions – the role of silicon in watchmaking is a major one, and the jury is still very much out on whether it has a spot in top of the line watchmaking, albeit in the entry to medium range, the issue is already settled. It’s well en route to becoming pervasive, as least for some major brands (Omega is the most prominent example). 

It’s likewise a watch that raises the topic of how Patek Philippe sees itself developing in the following decade. Style-wise, this is a polarizing watch; it doesn’t have the simple to like exemplary configurations of the earlier Advanced Research watches, which are a sort of Trojan horse for silicon. The open dial and the way that it’s an Aquanaut have raised a few temper among the Patek devoted, which I understand (in general, I can’t tolerate opening dials either). With the 5650G, however, I get the rationale – this is something of a demonstration model, and it bodes well to make the component noticeable. Certainly, there’s a considerable amount more fun in seeing it in real life, than there would be in watching a silicon escapement do its thing. It’s worth bearing as a primary concern too that this is a restricted release explicitly intended to grandstand new tech, and as a restricted run idea piece with that tech, the plan bodes well regardless of whether it’s not to everyone’s taste.

It must be said too that these are both extremely interesting developments and if nothing else, I believe that notwithstanding being pretty cool all alone, the two of them offer real specialized favorable circumstances (but there are tradeoffs in any engineering arrangement). Perhaps most importantly, however, both add tremendously to the general conversation on modern mechanical horology, and where it will go in years to come.

The Aquanaut Travel Time Ref. 5650G “Patek Philippe Advanced Research” is a restricted version of 500 watches. Price, $58,970. Development, caliber 324 S C FUS, 31mm, self-twisting, with 45 hour greatest power reserve, running at 28,800 vph in 29 gems; Patek Philippe Seal, rated to – 1/+2 seconds most extreme every day rate deviation. Double time region, with compliant steel adaptable system for time region setting. Case, 18k white gold; overall length drag to carry, 47.6mm; diameter from 9 to 3 o’clock including crown, 45.24mm; thickness, 11mm. Inter-haul distance, 21mm. Water resistance 12 bar/120 meters. Strap, water resistant composite with 18k gold foldover clasp.

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