Is this the most beautiful movement ever made?
It may be celebrating its 40th anniversary but the ultra-thin Patek Philippe Calibre 240 automatic movement is still the power behind some of the world's greatest timepieces and is engineering at its most stunning.
While every watch movement could be described as a thing of beauty few can claim to be bona fide masterpieces of the watchmaker’s art. Patek Philippe’s ultra-thin Calibre 240 is one of these few and for the past 40 years has been in a league of its own. In a review of the Calibre 240, Walt Odets – the clinical psychologist and self-taught watchmaker who is one of the great characters of horology – described the movement as “almost lyrically beautiful in the quality of workmanship and finish”.
Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5940R-001 in rose gold by Patek Philippe, £63,380
Launched in 1977, it is a mere 2.53mm thick, even though it is self-winding – an impressive technical achievement in itself. As it so thin the micro rotor has to be made from 21-22 carat gold to optimise the energy yield of the winding performance. It was originally created as an ultra-thin base movement for Patek’s perpetual calendars as it allowed for a perpetual automatic caliber that is just 3.75mm thick. Not surprisingly, it is still widely in use today in a variety of the brand’s most important timepieces.
For example, the Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5940R-001 in rose gold launched at Baselworld 2017 is powered by the 240Q calibre, which, within a mere 1.35mm boats a mechanical memory that spans an entire four-year cycle as well as tracking the lunar orbit. The perpetual calendar doesn’t need to be corrected until 2100, provided it remains wound without interruption.
Ref.6006G Calatrava in white gold by Patek Philippe, £22,230
Another Baselworld 2017 novelty was the Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref. 6006 in white gold, a discreetly tweaked update of the iconic Ref. 6000, though still powered by the Calibre 240 PS C with its 22-carat off-centre mini-rotor and a power reserve of 48 hours. It’s a suitably dramatic setting for such an amazing movement – a workhorse that is still a real beauty 40 years on.