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Hands-On: Patek Philippe Gondolo Tourbillon (5101P)

This is as much a Hands-On as it is a Throwback article, because the 5101P isn’t a new watch by any stretch. This understated and salmon dialed beauty was released 15 years ago. The 5101P belongs to Patek’s family of Grand Complications, and discretely yet resolutely defines their take on Haute Horlogerie. Let’s begin with the dialside. First thing you’ll notice is that it has a Salmon dial. What is not at all obvious from any reasonable distance, is that on the dial it discretely states that it houses a 10 day Power Reserve Tourbillon. This watch, as you can see above, is by no means an oversized piece. Yet both a 10 day power reserve and a tourbillon generally take up quite a bit of space. Patek however managed to fit both of these complications in a small & wearable package, very noteworthy indeed. gondolodial Where most tourbillon watches will show the tourbillon through the dial, the tourbillon here is only visible when you flip the watch over. A little treasure, hidden below the dial. I’ll keep it hidden from you just a little longer, as we first spend some time with the dialside. The dial has all the whistles & bells you’d want on such a watch. The Breguet numerals aren’t just painted on. These are applied Black oxidized gold numerals and are flanked by black oxidized feuille hands. It works extremely well and fits the overall dial and watch design. Combining these details twith the case shape, you really do get an Art Deco vibe. Salmon dials at Patek tend to go hand in hand with precious metal cases (Platinum in this case), so there’s that too. If you’re wondering how you can easily tell if you’re dealing with a Platinum Patek, you can easily tell as they’ll have a diamond set in the case/bezel: platinumdiamond The real magic happens when you flip this watch over, and then take a few minutes to absorb all the extravagance that is on display. Everything, is finished to such a high standard. Most visible are the gold chatons which are plentiful, the Geneva stripes shining bright, and all the edges which are gorgeously finished. Also keep in mind that there are all the others parts hidden under the bridge you can’t even see – these are all finished to the same high level:jewels Visibly, the star of this watch is the Tourbillon. And when looking at it under magnification it’s absolutely astonishing and a real testament to true craftsmanship. But before we go there, you may wonder ‘Tourbillon, what’s so special about that?’. Well, you have to keep in mind this was 2003. Tourbillons were not what they are today, and Patek had to essentially rework the entire base movement (28-20/220) to somehow accomodate a Tourbillon. In addition, in those days a 10 day PR Tourbillon in a wristwatch was pretty much cutting edge watchmaking.  

Notice how Patek goes the extra mile (and then some) when it comes to finishing. Check out those black polished Tourbillon bridges. And how about that nearly superhuman finishing of the tourbillon cage. Keep in mind that they achieve this result (including the rounding) by hand. This is the type of finishing you don’t see every day, to say the least. Notice also how this Patek still has the Geneva Seal. The Patek Seal was introduced about six years later. 

One can only wonder how many hours, days & weeks it took exactly to get every single piece finished at such a high & precise level. Not to mention the time spent figuring out how to ‘upgrade’ the movement with the 10 day PR Tourbillon in a time where a Tourbillon in a wristwatch was new territory (as it was for Patek).

This is quite simply a rare piece of watchmaking history, and it’s oh so glorious.



  1. What a beauty. Any idea how many of these were made? Just checked the price for this model – next level!

    Question: Is Patek the only one to make tourbillon’s where the dial isn’t cut open? I don’t think I’ve ever seen another brand do this – but I’m no expert.

    1. Answer: They are one of the select few, but not the only one. 99% of the tourbillons out there are visible from the front. But I can think of for example the FP Journe Anniversary watch which also had it visible only through the back.

      The piece is very rare, it was a very limited release, which is indeed reflected in the price

  2. Dear Sir,

    I believe even to this day, power reserve more than 3 days is still not the norm. I can only think of maybe Blancpain, Baume et Mercier, Czapek, Glashutte Original, IWC, and Oris with making movements with longer power reserves and I think the watches in question are all bigger than this Patek. Let alone adding a tourbillon in the mix. Grand Seiko has a 8 day PR as well, but also bigger than the Patek in question. Well written and great pictures Sir!

    1. I absolutely agree, an incredible set of complications housed in such a small package even for today of course! 🙂

      Many thanks!

  3. This is what Patek watchmaking is all about, absolute watchmaking mastery with no excuses whatsoever.What a glorious watch!

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