Another Grand Complication released by Patek Philippe this year is the Ref. 5216R which combines perpetual calendar, retrograde date, and moon phase, minute repeater and tourbillon, complications. This Ref. 5216R is a a updated version of the Ref. 5016 launched in 1993. Like other updated watches it sports a larger case, this one at 39.5 mm, larger than the 36.8 mm span of its predecessor, the Ref. 5016. The case is made of Rose Gold, hence the R designation.
Ordinarily, a watch like this would be the flagship release of the year, however, it takes a back seat to the Ref 5208P, also announced by Patek Philippe at BaselWorld 2011. Some may disagree about the ranking though.
Grand Complication. There is a difference of opinion among horologist as to what constitutes a Grand Complication. Some define a grand complication as one having at least one complication from the three different groups: Timing, astronomical and striking complications. Other horologist claim that there are three grand complications, the Tourbillon, the Minute Repeater and the Perpetual Calendar. The Ref. 5216R easily qualifies under any of the divergent opinions.
Perpetual Calendar. Displaying a date on their dial is no difficult task, but making one which displays the correct date for a year or several years is. Most date complications simply change once per day for thirty-one days. But since some months have only thirty, twenty-nine or twenty-eight days, you need to adjust the date at least five time per year to adjust for the months with less than thirty-one days.
A perpetual calendar is a mechanism that automatically takes into account the varying number of days in each month as well as leap years so that the watch displays the correct date each month without the need of adjustment. A perpetual calendar watch will not need correction for more then a century.
Retrograde date display. The date on the Ref. 5216R is displayed by a red-tipped fourth hand, which runs from the 8 o'clock to the 4 o'clock position. This hand moves clockwise from the 8 o'clock to the 4 o'clock position, along a 270 degree arc, slowly over the period of one month, and than jumps back to the number 1 at the end of the month moving in the reverse direction. This is the retrograde complication.