Hands on review of the Patek Philippe 5303R

Nov 08, 2020,12:54 PM

In 2020, Patek Philippe has chosen to present its novelties progressively, given the sanitary context and the absence of the watches fairs. The year was first marked by the introduction of the Calatrava 6007A, which celebrated the new manufacture building. Most recently, the Geneva-based brand unveiled the new Twenty-4. But between these two events, in the middle of summer, Patek Philippe presented its three new additions to the Grandes Complications family (the true heart of the catalog): the 5270J yellow gold perpetual calendar chronograph, the 5370P platinum split-seconds chronograph with blue enamel dial, and the 5303R minute-repeater and tourbillon watch with pink gold case. I wished to come back to the latter model because of the particularity of its movement.

In fact, the Patek Philippe 5303R symbolizes the introduction into the catalog of the striking mechanism visible on the dial side as discovered through the limited series of 12 pieces made for the "Watch Art Grand Exhibition Singapore 2019" event. The Singapore 5303R is distinguished by its bold decoration and its red hour circle with stars in place of the hour markers. But its most distinctive feature is its tourbillon - minute repeater movement with an original architecture. The RTO27PS caliber that powers this watch is a kind of reverse effect of what we can find in other equivalent watches. The tourbillon carriage is housed at the back of the movement. This is a principle at Patek Philippe, the manufacture arguing that the carriage is lubricated with oil sensitive to ultraviolet rays. The striking mechanism, on the other hand, is positioned on the dial side. To make the show even more mesmerizing, the dial is open (or more precisely: removed) to offer a full view of the mechanism including of course the hammers and gongs. So when the watch strikes on demand by engaging the slide pusher, the reference 5303R offers a visual and sound experience.

The white gold slide pusher is clearly visible on the left case side:

Such a movement requires much more work than we can imagine. The change in architecture from the classic R27 automatic minute-repeater movement is complex because the striking mechanism is not simply moved. It is also reorganized, as evidenced by the addition of about 20 new components and distributed differently over a wider plate. This can be felt when turning the watch over because the back of the movement is smaller than the front. But that's not all. Because the striking mechanism is on the same side as the time display, Patek Philippe's teams had to work to eliminate any disruption between the display and the complication. For example, the shape of the hammers was reworked to tilt it slightly to avoid any possible contact with the hands.

From a visual point of view, the result is remarkable on both sides of the movement. Obviously, the highlight of the show is at the front. The moving parts are clearly distinguishable from the plate and create impressive relief effects. The black hollowed-out hands ensure correct readability without obscuring the mechanism. Finally, the back of the tourbillon carriage makes its permanent rotation at 6 o'clock behind the second hand. Of course, the rendering is not the same as with the visible part of the carriage (we are more in perception and suggestion) but this continuous animation is appreciable.

The 5303R of the permanent collection is an aesthetic evolution of the Singapore limited edition watch. Its range of colors is more discreet by combining pink gold and black details. The black hour circle fits more easily into the overall aesthetics of the watch and blends harmoniously with the two hands. I really like the shape of these "openworked leaf" hands which, in my opinion, gives a very contemporary touch to a watch that breathes the tradition of beautiful watchmaking. To tell the truth, here we apprehend the success of this watch. Patek Philippe managed to create a very contemporary style without upsetting the classic codes. Taken one by one, every detail is part of this tradition. But the whole is very modern. Of course, the view of the striking mechanism contributes greatly to the technical atmosphere. But there is more than that, a kind of subtle balance that is a very particular know-how of the Geneva manufacture.

To be frank, the 5303R could be considered as a baroque watch. It is full of refined and elaborate details. The caseside could sum it up on its own: the white gold inserts with "leaf" decoration give relief, contrast and sophistication at the same time. The 5303R borrows stylistic effects from two-tone watches without this being immediately noticeable. In the same spirit, the white gold slide pusher is clearly distinguishable from the case. 

The watch offers spectacular relief effects:

And yet, despite this wealth of detail, the 5303R never seemed to me to be an "overloaded" piece. It's also a question of dosage. And this dosage is much more balanced than with a piece like the 6002 that I find excessively loaded (in my humble point of view of course).

The dimensions of the rose gold case are reasonable. The diameter is 42mm for a thickness of 12.13mm. The case is therefore rather slender. Considering the distribution of the striking movement, the front side of the watch appears to be adapted to the diameter of the case. This is less the case on the back of the watch for the reasons mentioned earlier related to the particular construction of the movement. The RTO27PS caliber is much smaller on the bridge side but from a constraint, Patek Philippe made it an opportunity. The movement itself is finished according to the best standards of the manufacture. But the "casing ring" is decorated in the same way as the case side. The result is spectacular and contributes to the integration of the movement's aesthetic movement into the case.

The finishes are excellent in every way but what I appreciate is the absence of purely demonstrative elements on the movement itself. The decoration is at the service of the technique as the profile of the hammers proves it.

The watch is not only beautiful. It is also efficient. Admittedly, the tourbillon has no technical originality, the carriage making one complete revolution per minute. Moreover, the minute repeater has only two classical gongs. But in each case, we are in the presence of a perfectly adjusted complication. As such, the minute repeater is impressive. I consider Patek Philippe to be the company that best manages to combine the ingredients that make a minute repeater melody successful: the sound volume, the sound purity, the reduction of disturbing noises and the rhythm of the melody. The sound is perfect and above all responds to what we are entitled to expect from such a complication: being able to distinguish each note to understand and determine the time that is played. This is why the hand-wound RTO27PS caliber is a feat. There is nothing innovative or "spectacular" about it. But it does perfectly what we expect from it. Please note its hardly surprising frequency of 3hz and its power reserve of about forty hours.

The perceived size remains reasonable given the thickness of the bezel:

To put such a watch on the wrist causes very beautiful feelings... and I was immediately seduced by this original atmosphere sublimated by the exceptional finishes of Patek Philippe. And yet, the 5303R is not without flaws... I still wonder why the word Tourbillon is written at 1 o'clock: not only is it useless (I think the owner of the watch knows he has a tourbillon...), but it is also detrimental to the aesthetics. And then I come to dream of a tourbillon with a carriage on the dial side... I understand Patek Philippe's reasoning, but basically, a tourbillon in a wristwatch is useless. So why hide it? Let's not deny our pleasure, the 5303R marks a step towards greater visibility. Moreover, the sapphire glass is anti-UV treated. So, what prevents Patek Philippe from positioning the carriage on the front? I'd like Patek Philippe to rethink its approach about the tourbillon lay-out.

In any case, I enjoyed every second I spent with the 5303R. It is one of my favorite watches in the Patek Philippe Grandes Complications family. It's more daring, more open and in a way can hint at the aesthetic evolution of the Manufacture. It's truly one of the most beautiful new watches of the year, all brands combined.


+ a rather original aesthetic approach for the brand

+ a sophisticated decoration without being overloaded 

+ the quality of the finishes

+ the perfect sound of the minute repeater


- the word "tourbillon" at 1 o'clock

- certainly it is a progress but it is only the back of the carriage that is perceptible on the front of the watch


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Comments: view entire thread


I really really like this watch a lot tbh

 By: Watchonthewrist : November 8th, 2020-12:59
Its a masterpiece imho. I also like the side of the case (any photos?) Thanks for this great review my friend. If only I could see this watch in person at some point 🙏🏻🤗

A great review FX, this was definitely one of the most interesting (and controversial) new references ever since it was announced for Singapore, and I'm very happy to see it in the catalog...

 By: FabR : November 8th, 2020-13:07
Frankly, I would be surprised if we'll see tourbillons fully visible on the dial of more traditional references, at least in the near future. However, the fact that even part of the tourbillon was made visible in an "openworked" dial here is already a pre... 

Thanks a lot for your input!

 By: foversta : November 8th, 2020-13:30
Do you think that the anti UV glass wouldn't protect enough the tourbillon oil ? If this glass is efficient so what would be the reason for Patek preventing them doing a tourbillon dial side ? I'm not able to answer these questions... and I think you're r... 

Yes, I'm sure that with today's research advances, an anti-UV glass would fully protect the oils. However, Patek's traditional view has always been that everything that appears on a dial must have a "function".

 By: FabR : November 8th, 2020-14:28
Thus, in this "purist" view, a tourbillon has never qualified to be shown on a Patek dial. The (slightly acrobatic) argument that I believe was made for the 5303 is that, since there's technically no dial because the watch is openworked, then showing the ... 

after reading your article, I have decided I want one

 By: benzng : November 8th, 2020-20:23
You forgot to mention the price as one of its cons Maybe one day, I can dream

Thanks for this great review.

 By: jlux : November 9th, 2020-00:58
The watch is really impressive and represents a whole new dial layout for PP. And yes,the word "tourbillon" should have been left out.

Many thanks Fr.Xavier for such a great write-up ! 👍

 By: GLau : November 11th, 2020-09:06
This piece is eye catching and the amount of work involved is simply amazing. Glad that you had a chance to examine it in the metal !

I think its gorgeous and would also like to see the tourbillon cage as something special to look at.....

 By: Patekphilippecollector : November 23rd, 2020-02:17
As mentioned i think that what you see is the rear of the tourbillon and I am not a purist......