PATEK PHILIPPE’S BREAD AND BUTTER:
THE CALIBER 215

BY WALT ODETS


























 

If Patek Philippe has a bread-and-butter line, it is the series of simple, hand wound watches represented by the Calatrava and Gondolo lines. With a few exceptions, contemporary versions of these watches are all designed around the caliber 215. (A few Pateks still use the caliber 177, based on the Piguet caliber 21.)

In years past, Patek produced hand wound movements in both a 12 ligne (approximately 27 millimeter) form, and a 10 ligne (approximately 22 millimeter) form. Today, only the later is available from Patek. The caliber 215 is 21.50 millimeters in diameter and 2.55 millimeters thick. The train runs in 18 jewels.

The caliber 215 is the most recent in a line of illustrious Patek Philippe 10 ligne movements. These include the calibers 10-105, 10-200, 10-110, and 23-300, all inarguably among the finest hand wound movements ever produced. On close examination it becomes obvious that the caliber 215 is a worthy heir to this tradition. It is a movement rooted, not in the mechanical revival and display-back pandemonium of the 1990′s, but in a long Patek Philippe tradition of impeccable craft. With a few very tiny exceptions, the caliber 215 is difficult to fault. Careful craft is evident in every detail of the movement, both functional and aesthetic, whether visible to the casual owner or not. 














In the caliber 215 that I examined, every pivot, pinion, and wheel showed perfect polish. Tooth and leaf form was perfect throughout the train. 







































The caliber 215 has the distinction of being the first and only Gyromax-equipped movement to run at 28,800 beats per hour. While it looks merely excellent on a timer, in daily use it is a movement that shows remarkable stability of rate over extended periods.















During disassembly, the 215 reveals one delight after another. Shown right is the barrel bridge with crown and ratchet wheels removed. Note the replaceable bronze bushing (arrow) for the crown wheel.







































Anglage (angling of plate and bridge edges) is partially functional. It eliminates sharp corners that would otherwise be damaged during service. It thus reduces the amount of debris that can fall into the movement and disturb function. But, as with the handling of edges of fine furniture, anglage is also an important measure of the craft that has gone into the movement. In the caliber 215, the handwork in the anglage is quite evident.  Note (left) the different handling of two corners on two separate bridges.















 

 

 

An even edge on a curved portion of a bridge is among the most demanding to produce well. At right we see the tip of the escape bridge on the 215. Note also the cap jewel on the upper  escape wheel pivot, the eighteenth jewel in the train.

 

 


 

 

 

The caliber 215 uses a single bridge for the fourth and escape wheels (right). A deviation from previous Pateks (which used separate bridges), this construction may have been chosen to reduce cost. It is a functional design, if not quite as elegant as previous construction.
















































Throughout the movement, the treatment of edges is carried out with an eye to craft and a taste for caprice.  As one example (left), note the elegant flourish on the main plate next to the fabricated click spring. While serving no functional purpose, such details are the very essence of craft, and give the 215 a beauty seen in the production of only one or two other contemporary movement manufacturers. 















While the caliber 215 may be Patek Philippe’s idea of bread and butter, it is not easily encompassed by the average grocery budget. But, for those who value mechanical craft and who wish to own a piece of truly great Swiss watch production, the 215 might be more within reach than many imagine. For example, many simple Calatravas can be had for the cost of a modest desktop computer and one middling chronograph; two middling chronographs; or 215 pounds of veal, an endive salad, and a few good bottles of Burgundy. It all depends on what’s worth what to whom. For some lovers of watch craft, a 215 might be well worth some serious dieting. It is, after all, a tiny piece of true excellence. And refrigeration is completely optional.













 
© 2012 Bourne In Time Inc.