Reference 96 was launched in 1932 as Patek Philippe’s very first Calatrava model. Wristwatches were a relatively new phenomenon in the early 1930s—pocket watches were still the norm. The use of Calatrava name (the company’s symbol since 1887) to designate Ref 96 is an indication of the significance the wristwatch was expected to represent to the brand. To this day, the Calatrava models play a major role in the Patek lineup and have been its most successful collection. Therefore, Ref 96 is an important watch in Patek Philippe and timekeeping history. It was the first reference to be serially produced with a numeric reference number.
Ref 96 is understated and elegant, considered by many to be the ultimate dress watch. The case design is inspired by Bauhaus principle of form following function. It is a minimalist design without any superfluous decorative features or details. The Bauhaus School, established in 1919 by architect Walter Gropius, held the belief that design should be unified in all aspects of life: art, industry and function. The designs were simple and geometric, and purity and visual clarity were emphasized.
The Patek Calatrava features a 31mm round case, perfectly hugging the round movement inside without any use of spacers. The case is 9mm thick and kept slim by the use of a snap on back. The lugs are integral to the case and taper for comfort: this simple feature that we now take for granted was revolutionary, because at the time watch cases and lugs were made separately and soldered together. The dial followed the same principles, with a focus on indicating time in its simplest form using three hands pointing to raised trapezoidal markers.
The earliest movement of the reference was a 12-ligne LeCoultre movement, but in 1934 Patek replaced it with its new in-house 12-120. Our watch is one of the earliest to house the Patek movement, which remained the engine of the model until 1973.
The Calatrava ref 96 was produced from 1932-1973. It’s an absolutely essential and requisite reference to own by any enthusiast of Patek Philippe and horology in general. It’s an especially interesting watch to own in stainless steel, because most Patek Philippe watches are produced in precious metals.