In general, the watches to buy are the ones overlooked by the mainstream and forsaken by hype. While countless sheep fret over same six or seven overexposed models from roughly four brands, great opportunities exist just off the beaten path. Patek Philippe is known for its Nautilus and Aquanaut sports watches – especially when rendered in stainless steel – but selective attention to these model lines masks unheralded gems like the 5975.

The Patek Philippe 5975 “Multi-Scale Chronograph” is unique among modern Patek Philippe complications. At face value, the seconds-only chronograph is quirky enough, but the no-date dial with triple measurement scales offers a novel proposition unavailable on the Nautilus. Patek broke the mold when it launched the 575. This offbeat 40mm instrument is Patek Philippe’s most distinctive chronograph of modern times.

Many sports chronographs include tachymeter scales. These enable an observer to gauge the speed of an object when used in tandem with the chronograph. Less often, pulsometer scales are included – often on watches marketed to medical personnel – in order to facilitate rapid reading of human heart rates. Least common of all is the telemeter scale; it was developed to gauge the distance of artillery impacts. All three scales appear on the dial of the 5975, and all three can be used despite the lack of minute and hour registers.

Patek’s 5975 case is compact but visually striking. The 10.25mm thickness plays well with a tight shirt cuff, but the fluted lugs and a stepped bezel project strength and nuance. Since Patek Philippe manufactures the case as well as the movement of the 5975, the complexity of its form speaks to how far Patek Philippe case manufacturing has advanced since its first halting steps into this realm during the 1980s. The manufacture completes its anniversary package with a flourish; even the deployant buckle of the 5975 includes a custom reference to 175 years of Patek watchmaking.

From a mechanical standpoint, the 5975 includes the same basic hardware as all other automatic Patek Philippe chronographs. The caliber 28-520 base, which first launched on the 5960 in 2006, includes a power reserve of up to 55 hours, a flyback function for the chronograph, and the premium tandem of a column wheel function selector with a vertical clutch. Additional refinements include Patek’s Gyromax free sprung balance and Spiromax antimagnetic silicon hairspring

As part of Patek Philippe’s 2014 175th anniversary collection, the 5975 is a rare watch in all forms. 400 examples of each gold – yellow, rose, and white – were built; 100 pieces in platinum were offered with distinctive black dials.

Case geometry is a highlight of the 5975. There’s no obvious standalone historical reference, but it’s clear that Patek Philippe intended for the triple scale chronograph to have presence. If the contemporary 175th anniversary 5575G World Time Moon were to be described, terms such as “fluid,” “organic,” or “soft” would do justice to that classical beauty. In contrast, the 5975 is mechanical, jarring, and hard; this watch projects strength within its compact dimensions.

Despite a 40m diameter, the 5975 looks larger on the wrist. Lugs are dramatically stepped out from the case band, and all of the angular facets boast severe breaks from other planes of the surface. While “Art Deco” style comparisons are inevitable, the sheer tension in the lines of this chronograph also evoke the earlier Italian Futurist movement; architect and Futurist Antonio Saint’Elia’s conceptual art exudes the same raw power and overtly mechanized aesthetic as the multi-scale chronograph.

Where does the 5975 stand in the pantheon of collectible Patek Philippe watches?

At the moment, the four models serve different purposes to the collector community. The yellow gold is the most traditional; the rose is the most contemporary and youthful; the white gold model is the most versatile as it can mix naturally with casual attire; the platinum model is a recognized collectible already.

The last of those models is the one to put in the vault, so to speak. While the distinction between platinum extra-white and warmer while gold is evident only when compared together, the clear advantage of the platinum model is its black lacquered dial. The other three 5975s use galvanized “opaline” matte surfacing that lacks the gloss drama of the 5975P. And with only 100 pieces offered, the PT950 multi-scale chronograph’s relevance to serious watch collectors is self-evident.

Given 1300 examples of all descriptions in circulation, there is no reason to compromise when seeking to add a Patek Philippe 5975 to your collection. Insist on full boxes, papers, and – given the newness of the model – retailer-level documents like receipts and bills of sale from the first purchase. The latter adds considerably to the documentation and provenance of any watch when assessing its collector appeal.

All servicing should be documented and provided through Patek Philippe or its designees. A 5975 with service receipts from a local watchmaker should be avoided like the plague unless Philippe Dufour’s name is on the invoice. Don’t compromise on case condition, and insist on a watch that has never seen a refinisher’s wheel – even if Patek did the work. Unpolished watches are worth more, and polishing quickly robs the 5975 of its distinctive character.

Why collect the Patek Philippe 5975? Because it looks like no other Patek watch. The same can’t be said of most Calatrava, Nautilus, Aquanaut, and world time models. Many of the annual calendars also look nearly identical. And if the 5975’s striking – and strikingly unique – appearance isn’t compelling enough, name another Patek automatic chronograph with no date and three hands? As with its mold-breaking style and dial, the Patek 5975 stands alone.