Patek Philippe unveiled several extremely impressive – and complicated – timepieces this year at Baselworld. The 5270P Perpetual Calendar Chronograph with a head-turning salmon dial was a personal favourite, as was the unexpected, but not unwelcome, Nautilus Perpetual Calendar 5740G. Surprisingly though, it was one of the brand’s non-complicated models that really caught my eye. Artistic yet elegant and flawlessly executed, it celebrates a significant milestone of one of the Geneva-based Manufacture’s more understated collections. Introducing the Patek Philippe 5738/50P-001, commemorating 50 years of the Ellipse d’Or (or Golden Ellipse, in English).
A Cult Classic
I would venture to guess that when you mention the name Patek Philippe to most watch enthusiasts, the Golden Ellipse is not the first model that comes to mind. In fact, I would be surprised if it came up in the discussion at all. And yet, the Golden Ellipse – introduced in 1968 – is the second oldest watch in the Patek Philippe collection, predated only by the legendary Calatrava.
Inspired by the “golden section” (the so-called divine proportion based on the ratio of 1 : 1.6181 …), its bold elliptical case – a cross between a circle and a rectangle – was incredibly popular in the 1970s and 1980s, quickly becoming an internationally recognised symbol of style and class. Viewed through today’s lens, it may seem a little unusual, quirky even but consider the styles and attitudes at the time and you can definitely imagine the understated yet eye-catching Golden Ellipse on the wrists of savvy jet-setters.
The collection was so sought after, in fact, that in the late 1970s, the watch was available in 65 different versions, with various dial colours featuring applied hour markers or Roman numerals. Worn on a variety of metal bracelets (braided, chained, milanaise), or paired with leather straps, there were also jewellery and Haute Joaillerie versions for ladies. The design was even adopted for luxurious accessories such as cufflinks, rings, and lighters.
In a sign of the significance of the collection, the Golden Ellipse – originally powered by a manually-wound movement – was upgraded to the ultra-thin calibre 240 in 1977, which it still uses today. This automatic movement – which itself celebrated its 40th-anniversary last year – features an integrated micro-rotor, allowing the Golden Ellipse to maintain its stylishly thin case whilst still offering precise and reliable timekeeping.
Celebrating 50 Years
To celebrate the 50th anniversary, Patek Philippe has created a stunningly elaborate limited edition version of the Golden Ellipse – the Ref. 5738/50P-001. Presented in a platinum case measuring 34.5mm x 39.5mm and just 6.58mm high, it boasts a black enamel dial complete with a striking volute pattern hand-engraved in the 18k gold dial plate. According to the brand, this “decoratively interlacing volute pattern perfectly matches the unmistakably bold form of the Golden Ellipse – half rectangle, half circle – emphasizing the width-to-length ratio of the famous golden section.” It also happens to look magnificent.
Turning the watch over reveals a solid platinum caseback with the commemorative engraving “Ellipse d’Or 1968-2018”. Underneath is the aforementioned ultra-thin self-winding calibre 240 movement, measuring just 2.53mm high. Comprised of 161 parts, it offers a minimum power reserve of 48 hours and is, of course, adorned with the Patek Philippe Seal.
Worn on a shiny black hand-stitched alligator strap with square scales and a platinum prong buckle that echoes the shape of the case, a black onyx cabochon set into the crown completes the design.
Produced in a limited run of 100 anniversary sets, each watch is delivered in a special box containing matching white gold cufflinks in the famous Golden Ellipse design. Their black enamel inlays feature the same engraved volute pattern as the watch itself and look very dapper I must say.
For more information, please visit patek.com.