I love luxury watches from Rolex, Patek Philippe and other premier brands. But, contrary to legend, love isn't blind, and I can be frank about how all of these luxury watches fall short of perfection. From the Rolex Daytona's advancing age and price to the Patek Philippe perpetual calendar 5236P's quotidian engineering, this special Valentine's Day episode of Watches Tonight is for watch collectors who have learned to live and love despite the flaws in their grail watches.
The Rolex Daytona is old. And I don't mean that in the romantic historical sense of heritage, tradition, legend, and lore. I mean the Rolex Daytona hasn't received a meaningful redesign since the year 2000. By comparison, Rolex has sold three different generations of Submariner in that time, three generations of GMT-Master II, and at least six different Sea Dweller models. But the arrival of the Rolex Daytona's caliber 4130 movement at the turn of this century cast a long-lasting die for Rolex's most coveted watch model.
Today, the Rolex Daytona 116500LN reflects only incremental chance since 2000. A new bracelet clasp arrived in 2009; a ceramic bezel launched for the steel models at Baselworld 2016. And, of course, Rolex prices never cease to rise. Now priced at $14,800, the Rolex Daytona is almost a vintage watch that a person can buy new. Tim Mosso details all the reasons he faults but ultimately fetes Rolex's famous chronograph.
Launched in 2021, the Patek Philippe 5236P perpetual calendar is Tim's current grail watch. It takes the inline perpetual calendar of vintage Patek pocket watches, adds the unforgettable case design of the classic 3448 perpetual calendar, and combines all that with the unique caliber 31-260 micro rotor automatic from the 5135 regulator. Add a gradient blue dial with satin finish, and the result is a devastatingly gorgeous watch that's easily worth its $140,750 retail price.
But look closer, and the Patek's shining image begins to dull. The 41.3mm case is huge for a dress watch. And the calendar system continues to require awkward pusher tools to set via case flank adjuster dimples - one for each part of the calendar. The calendar is unidirectional, and it can't be set in any way by using the crown. Internally, the 5236P calendar is based on the centuries-old "grand lever" designs used since the inception of perpetual calendars. This system's use in Patek Philippe perpetual calendar wristwatches dates back at least to 1941 and the historic reference 1526.
Despite their shortcomings, Tim loves the Rolex Daytona and the Patek Philippe 5236P. That's the nature of love; we fault, but we forgive. Happy Valentine's Day.
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