Patek Philippe Sky Moon Celestial Ref. 6102R
The night sky never fails to be alluring. As the sun sets and darkness covers the sky like a black silk blanket, the moon and the stars come out to play in a symphony of silver lights. An imagery most splendiferous. Now, imagine all that… on your wrist. That is exactly what the Sky Moon Celestial Ref. 6102R is all about.
First launched in Baselworld 2015, it is 1 of only 2 variants of the Ref. 6102, the other being a platinum case with blue dial. At the time of writing, I have barely had the Ref. 6102R for 6 months, but that is more than enough for me to be able to articulate my thoughts on this fascinating timepiece. Before I jump into my personal experience with the watch, some technical details are in order.
The nitty-gritty details
Measuring in at 44 mm in diameter, the Ref. 6102R is one of Patek Philippe’s largest timepieces, surpassed only by the Grandmaster Chime Ref. 6300. The watch does however maintain a slim profile at a thickness of 9.8 mm. Along with a generously sloped bezel, the Ref. 6102R slides underneath a dress cuff or tight sleeve with ease. The aesthetics of the case is executed in a way only Patek know how. With pronounced steps on the lugs and around the bezel, the case is delightfully nuanced. As the band is no longer engraved with the Caltrava cross (as was the case in the preceding Ref. 5102), the mirror-polished case has become less baroque, but in turn, cleaner and more elegant. Also on the band are two oblique crowns at the 2 and 4 o’clock positions; the one at 2 o’clock is for winding and time-setting while the other at 4 o’clock sets the moon and the sky chart (more on these functions soon).
As gorgeous as the case may be, it does not hold a candle to the dial. The dial is made of three metalised sapphire cyrstal discs – one blackened to represent the night sky, one for the phases and orbit of the moon, and one which depicts the sky chart on the front side and the Milky Way on the other. Two triangle pointers on the sky chart indicate the time of meridian passage of the moon and of Sirius, the brightest star in the Earth’s night sky. The sapphire crystal on top of the dial is printed with an elliptical contour that frames the portion of the sky visible from Geneva at any given time. There is also a radial date display surrounding the dial like an internal bezel and indicated by a red crescent-tipped hand; this feature was not present in the old Ref. 5102. The hours and minutes are indicated by hollowed feuille hands, which I feel strikes a good balance between not obstructing the view of the dial and maintaining an elegant look.
The watch is powered by the self-winding Calibre 240 LU CL C, a beefed up version of the legendary base Calibre 240. The Calibre 240 (celebrating its 40th anniversary this year) and its functionally-enhanced incarnations also beat inside numerous other Patek timepieces, like the new World Time Ref. 5131/1P-001 and Calatrava Ref. 6006G-001. The Calibre 240 LU CL C was designed to rotate at different speeds the superimposed sapphire crystal discs that form the dial. The background is provided by a black sapphire-crystal disk in a wheel with 279 teeth; it tracks the orbital position of the moon. Via a planetary gear system, it also drives a wheel with a small sapphire-crystal disk that displays the moon phases in a small round aperture. And in addition, a 356-tooth wheel above it rotates the transparent sapphire-crystal disk that depicts the sky chart. Indeed, the Calibre 240 LU CL C is a sophisticated piece of work, and one should expect no less of a movement that choreographs a celestial ballet on the wrist.
The movement as seen from the case back is beautifully finished and decorated albeit without frills; you get your usual fare of polished chamfers and screw heads, Côtes de Genève, perlage and engraving. The 22k gold engraved micro-rotor that sits on the same plane as the bridges provides a maximum of 48 hours of autonomy.
On the wrist – my personal experience
I will be the first to put my hand (and wrist) up and say that the Sky Moon Celestial Ref. 6102R is an ‘oversized’ watch. At 44 mm in diameter, it wears big on an average wrist and is unwearable on smaller ones. I deem the watch to be ‘acceptably large’ on my wrist, as the end of the lugs are just touching and not overlapping the edges of my wrist. A watch like this needs to be big in order to maximise the visual impact of the dial. Allow me to say that in spite of its diameter, when you put the watch on, it feels great because: a) it is thin, and b) it is drop-dead gorgeous. There have been countless times where I’d find myself lost in the depth and beauty of the dial. Sure, fast complications like chronographs and minute repeaters are fun but it is the slow, poetic and admittedly useless astronomical complications that really tug on the heart strings. I also admire the design and craftsmanship of the case very much, most notably the sensuous stepped lugs and the broad sloped bezel that reflects incident light in spectacular fashion (think baguette diamond bezel without diamonds). The watch wears very comfortably on the wrist due to its dress watch thinness and because it has a heft that sits in what I call “the Goldilocks zone” – not too heavy, not too light, but just nice. Additionally, the glossy black alligator strap and gold Calatrava cross deployant buckle that comes with the Ref. 6102R imbues an air of elegance and opulence that matches perfectly with the watch head. They also ensure that the watch is always secured and properly counter-balanced on the wrist; it would be borderline criminal to have a timepiece of the Sky Moon Celestial’s stature go careening down onto the floor!
Date or no date?
With regards to the implementation of the date function in the Ref. 6102, many have criticised that it is out of place and only serves to undermine the purity of the dial – I personally am much less cynical. The presence of a date function does significantly add to the practicality and sophistication of the timepiece and the best part is, Patek Philippe wisely chose the least obstructive way to display the date: a central date hand and peripheral date scale. To add to that, the date function, which marks the passing of days, perfectly complements all the slow astronomical complications on the dial and adds to the poetry. Long story short, while the drawback of having the date function is clear, the added dimension that it brings to the watch justifies its presence on the dial.
Setting the displays requires patience
Setting all the displays correctly and accurately on the Ref. 6102 is a relatively time-consuming, arduous process, especially when it’s your first time. You would first have to go to a page on the Patek Philippe website dedicated to the setting of the Sky Moon Celestial, type in the time and date, then follow the instruction that is generated. To set the moon, you could end up turning the crown for up to 10 minutes as you watch the moon revolve around the dial over 28 times and the moon phase change at a languid pace. Of course how long you’ll spend adjusting depends on how far off you are from the actual moon phase but the point is, the lack of a quick-set pusher – recessed or otherwise – makes this a drawn-out process. And here’s the real kicker: if you accidentally set the moon phase too far forward, you have to start the process all over again as you cannot go backwards. Fortunately, setting the sky chart is much quicker even though it involves a similar process. Is all this effort worth it? Actually, yes! It is an amazing feeling knowing that you have an incredibly accurate and correctly-set orbital moon phase and sky chart; it feels like you have the secrets of the heavens strapped onto your wrist, as cheesy as that may sound.
As far as astronomical watches go, the Sky Moon Celestial is perhaps the finest example there is. I have enjoyed every moment that it has been on my wrist. The pleasure I gain stems not just from being able to admire the watch and its craftsmanship up close, but also from being able to share such a fascinating horological specimen and its curious complications with my fellow enthusiasts. Here’s to hoping that Patek Philippe never stops dabbling in its whimsical Sky Moon Celestial series!