Patek Philippe Gondolo 5200G
Our thanks to The Hour Glass for allowing special access to this piece
Back in the late 1870s, Patek Philippe shipped a silver pocket watch to the jewellers Carlos Gondolo and Paulo Labouriau, and established a fascinating relationship with Brazilian watch collectors and aficionados. One of the most colourful aspects of this history was a clever marketing model by Gondolo & Labouriau, where the jewellers created a watch-collecting club known as the Gondolo Gang. Membership was limited to 180 people, and became a status symbol in early 20th Century Brazil. The relationship between Patek Philippe and Gondolo & Labouriau lasted until 1927; by then, the jewellers retailed nearly a third of Patek Philippe’s watch production.
Fast-forward to today, Patek Philippe’s Gondolo line of Art-Deco inspired watches have continued to play a more quiet role alongside its sportier and rounder siblings. Launched, or perhaps, relaunched, in 1993 as an extension to the series of commissioned pieces by Gondolo & Labouriau, the line includes all manner of shapes that are not circular: including tonneau, rectangular, and square.
The 5200 can be seen as a natural successor to the much loved 5100 series, sharing the same movement mainplate. The case is a more muscular departure from the 5100’s stingray shape. While the case itself is not overly large, it features many design cues that help give it extra presence. Very thick lugs that extend from extruded side sections help give the watch width, and help to aid the height of the piece. The relatively simple dial features an 8-Day power reserve indicator up top, and two concentric subdials below indicate the date and seconds. Rather tastefully, a curved day indicator (which is extremely snappy in its operation) window is used to help blend it in with the rest of the watch. This particular reference features a silvery white dial that is rather conservative and elegant, but a more casual blue-dialled variant is also available. To further the sense of balance, angular appliques match the angular Dauphine hands.
Unsurprisingly, due to the shape of this piece, the movement featured within is specific to this model. Two barrels help continuous power for 192 hours, and this is coupled with Patek Philippe’s ‘Pulsomax Escapement’. This is where the watch becomes most interesting: from the outside, the movement looks like something from decades past, and oozes from traditionalism. But the heart of the watch actually features 21st Century materials in its Silinvar (a portmanteau of ‘Silicon’ and ‘Invariable’) lever, devoid of the traditional lubricated ruby pallet-stones; and Spiromax balance spring, which is less sensitive to knocks, magnetism, and the effects of gravity. The movement itself is rather beautiful to look at, featuring higher levels of finish than its more traditionally cased siblings. All edges are beautifully bevelled. The countersinks and screws are polished and chamfered. Even the Patek Philippe Seal itself is well executed with a hologram-like effect. The mainplate, where some other manufactures seem to neglect, is covered in perlage.
And on the wrist? At first glance, the tall profile of the case, as well as the longer length of the watch, would suggest that it would struggle on smaller wrists. However, the concave caseback means the watch actually sits fairly comfortably on most wrists. The height is further hidden by the decently thick strap that Patek Philippe pairs with this watch.
The problem with it is…
The bridges themselves appear to be three separate elements, but are actually linked, and, upon closer inspection, is actually a single piece. This makes look a bit strange (to pedants), but Patek Philippe should be commended in their efforts, the seamless alignment of the Cotes de Geneve across the bridges, despite its apparent disconnection.
The subseconds hand is mismatched in both the blue and white dialed variants. While this is probably a design choice to aid legibility, it disjoints the sense of continuity exuded by the steel dauphine hands.
Would we own one?
No. The 5200G has an interesting case, especially with rounded sapphire back. Whilst this can be appreciated, as well as the apparatus that shaped rectangular movement, I can't help go back to my love for the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso case. The proportions make it more comfortable to wear and aesthetically more pleasing and is the main reason I wouldn't own a 5200G.
This would be one of my picks at this price point within the Patek Philippe range. It’s a nice sleeper watch and has a much more interesting movement than its stablemates. The escapement technology is also rather impressive. To me, it is a much a better reflection of Patek’s heritage and values than the more popular Nautilus and Aquanaut.