It was five years in the making, but Patek Philippe’s Twenty~4 Automatic – designed with the modern, multi-faceted woman in mind – was worth the wait.
Tampering with an icon is risky business. The pressure to make an impact is ever-present, yet hovering over every potential change is the maxim “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – not to mention the years of history to honour and respect. Such concerns, however, did not seem to phase Patek Philippe when it recently unveiled a groundbreaking new version of the Twenty~4 – a watch that, when it first debuted in 1999, became an instant classic and remains one of the most recognised women’s watches in the world to this day.
The Twenty~4 Automatic is the Twenty~4 collection’s first with a self-winding mechanical movement set in a round case, which completely rips up the existing Twenty~4 playbook (with its quartz heart and bold rectangular case). But Patek Philippe is never one to rest on its laurels and as president Thierry Stern said at the glittering launch event in Milan: “Today it’s time to evolve. We decided that women should have their own watches.”
Stern was addressing an audience of some 300 guests from around the world, all of whom had no idea what was to come. In true Patek Philippe fashion, details of the new Twenty~4 Automatic had been kept top secret – which was pretty impressive considering the timepiece took five years and some 40 prototypes to get right.
Even the location – the majestic Palazzo Serbelloni, which regularly features on the Milan Fashion Week circuit – was not revealed until that very evening. Upon arrival, the buzz was palpable. A glass greenhouse had been custom-built in the palazzo’s centre, where guests snapped selfies against the foliage-filled photo wall and booth, the hashtag #twenty4automatic hinting at the innovation ahead.
Alongside an exhibition of vintage watches from the Patek Philippe museum, a raft of performers entertained the glamorous throng throughout the evening, including a magnificent dance troupe working a stage the length of the room, while a group of illustrators, Japanese artist M. Ohgushi among them, painted guests’ portraits.
All this to celebrate a watch that, Mr Stern later emphasised, is not entirely new but part of a well-established line. “Why should I do something totally new when the design we had for the Twenty~4 was beautiful?” he asked. “This was the most difficult part – to imagine something new and adapt it to what is working today.” His wife and head of creation, Sandrine Stern, elaborated that the real challenge was creating a watch that remained contemporary and elegant over time.
“When designing watches for a 21st century woman, we need to focus on the perfect aesthetic, comfort of wear, elegance and good readability combined with technical perfection,” she explained. The answer was the 7300 collection, comprising five 36mm watches, in either steel or rose gold, with a double-row diamond bezel. Powering the watch is Patek Philippe’s existing calibre 324 S C, complete with the ultra precise Spiromax balance spring in Silinvar – “the perfect movement in terms of size and reliability for active daily wear” Mrs Stern added – and adapted to a ladies’ size.
It’s a well-designed and well-thought-out range, and guests trying on the new timepieces at the launch were full of wonder and awe – the Twenty~4 Automatic being such a departure from its rectangular predecessor. On the wrist, it is truly beautiful, with its casual, everyday glamour and dazzling diamond bezel. The steel models, with blue or grey sunburst dials, have a bold and sportif look, while modern elegance oozes from the rose gold designs with their divine, linen-like satin finish silvery dials set with gold applied, luminescent-coated numerals. But the real showstopper is the 7300/1201R-001, thanks to almost 500 diamonds encrusted on the crown, lugs and bezel, not to mention on every link of the patented bracelet.
The new Twenty~4 Automatic may look completely different, but the ethos behind it remains the same as the 1999 original. Back then, the aim was to reach a younger, active female audience, exactly the kind of client the Twenty~4 Automatic will attract once more – the sophisticated, adventurous, decision-making, technologically savvy yet horologically-inclined, modern woman.