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Behold the definitive Patek Philippe; the Calatrava 5196G is the very image of the watch that saved Patek from the Great Depression, launched the Stern family dynasty, and propelled the Geneva giant to the exalted status that it maintains to this day.
When 21 year-old Henri Stern's family of dial manufacturers purchased their bankrupt client, Patek Philippe, in 1932, Henri was charged with designing the company's comeback watch. His timeless Patek Philippe reference 96 became the face of the new firm and the instrument of Patek's salvation.
By the 1980s, collectors were pining for the reference 96, and Patek saw an opportunity to relaunch the line, now universally referred to by the nickname "Calatrava," itself a nod to the company's famed Calatrava Cross logo.
In 2004, Patek Philippe issued a Calatrava reference in the true image of the famed "96," and that landmark successor, the 5196, remains a modern icon in the company's lineup.
The Calatrava 5196G has it all; baton indexes, dauphine hands, sub-seconds at 6 o'clock, tapered lugs, and a discreet crown without guards. Each element is a loving tribute to the original, but Patek wisely left the 31mm original case to the history buffs and upgraded the 5196 with a contemporary 37mm frame. It's just enough to suit modern tastes without crossing the lines of voguish indiscretion.
Inside the white gold case (homogenous like Rolex white gold, not plated), the Patek Philippe caliber 215 PS keeps the beat with accuracy and classical good looks. Although hidden beneath the snap-on case back, the cal. 215 in this example retains the famed Geneva Hallmark stamp of finishing excellence awarded to Patek's finest models produced before July 2009. After that date, a romantic era closed with the debut of Patek's private "PP Seal," but that label fails to elicit the same emotional resonance as the old Geneva standard.
For traditionalists, the Geneva Hallmark still carries weight, and any significant discontinued feature piques the interest of Patek Philippe collectors.
This Patek Philippe Calatrava 5296G is - hands down - the Patek to own if you can only own one *or* you must own the most important model in the catalog. The 5196 *is* Patek Philippe. See it with all factory boxes, manuals, documentation, and accessories in high resolution images on https://www.thewatchbox.com/watches/patek-philippe
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Video and content by Tim Mosso.