Patek Philippe-Pathology & Beta21

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Now, you know the Swiss were in a rush to keep up with the Japanese, that had the chuzpe to present the first quartz-watch Seiko Astron cal35 on 25th of December 1969, while in central Europe everyone and his dog was below the christmas-tree with tears in the eyes because of the heart-warming songs of the children and their (the childrens) joy opening the surprising presents. Yes and very nice, but we can only guess what was the mood and the impact when everyone returned to the office early January 1970: Basel fair takes place in four months and every participant of CEH should at least be able to present one quartz-watch -- all else would be ridiculous. And so, the Swiss watch-industry reflected by the CEH was -- let me say it without dramatization -- under never before felt pressure and in a hurry to finish the Beta21-movement and every participant was not less stressed to finish the case (most with a 3rd party supplier) and the dial (most with a 3rd party supplier). By the way: Besides the only Swiss fully integrated-manufacturer Piaget every other brand outsourced the case-, bracelet- and dial-creation to a 3rd party manufacturer back then.

Piaget & Rolex made a fantastic job and their products -- the Piaget Black Tie & the Rolex Texano -- could be named the best quality watches holding the Beta21 movement -- see here. Omega and IWC & even Bulova dont stand short very far and their pieces are also of very high quality and show the importance the brands assigned to the project. Now, surprisingly the nowadays most expensive Beta21 is not named here and you probably wonder what's wrong with Pateks Beta21: Besides the fact they generally didn't made neither cases, bracelets or dials in-house in the 60s or 70s, the very obvious thing with their first quartz-watch is that the dial is too small for the case. Yes, correct, the two tone-dial made by Stern Cadran has a small gap of approx 0.5mm either on top or bottom and left or right -- by dimensions and by printing. Almost never it is centered. And the reason for this misalignment is not so obvious but when you open the beautiful case then you find the movement is held by two small aluminum pins and the crown, only. WHAT!? Yes, there is simply no proper movement holder. Just two flexible aluminium pieces that could be bend (and so make the dial move on the Y-axis) and furthermore could be applied some to the left or some to the right but hardly ever centered (and so make the dial move on the X-axis). And all this would be no serious problem if the dial would fit in size -- but it doesnt: Yes, if not fixed by these "essential" aluminium pins then the creative two-tone dial is moving freely inside the case. And so the dial and the movement could be placed here or there and easily move approx 0.5mm to the left or right, up or down. And this is visible: Either you have a gap here or there; needless to say, that this leaves some traces on the dial that make every Patek ref3587 unique according to the watchmakers setting preferences. Haaaaaa!

So, we dont know what exactly happened in early 1970, either Patek Philippe made slight mistakes measuring the components or they had a bad phone line when communicating the measurements to the producing 3rd party suppliers (Atelier Reunis for the case and Stern Cadran for the dial) and then simply forgot to make a proper movement holder that fixes the components. We simply don't know.

Anyway, what we see here again, is that the focus on brands / names isnt helpful and it is the quality that should be taken into focus -- with surprising results, sometimes. So, do yourself a favor and dont buy the dealer, dont buy brand-names -- buy quality.