Patek Phillipe’s most hallowed and desirable of timepieces is, no doubt, its venerable lineage of perpetual calendar chronographs. But for the collector who abides more by the idea of “less is more”, their choice of desirable calendar Pateks mostly probably lie within the realms of the maison’s dedicated perpetual calendar watches.
For Patek, its perpetual calendar wristwatches bear great significance to the maison, because while it is English watchmaker, Thomas Mudge who is largely attributed as the inventor of the complication, it is Patek Phillipe who gave the world its first perpetual calendar wristwatch in 1925. Since then Patek has produced no less that 30 references of the calendar complication, and this without even considering the chronographs and other super complications with integrated perpetual calendar functions.
Over the course of this development, Patek’s had to come up with ever new technical innovations that help realize the compilation more effectively and creative ways in which to display information on the dial side, such that the watch can be read by the wearer with the greater ease.
Therein, maybe, the best thing that Patek might’ve given us is the liner day and month apertures that first appeared on a creation of Patek’s in 1937. Although, here Patek had placed the two apertures on either side of the central hour and minutes hands. The watch also had a central retrograde date display, which we continue to see in certain contemporary references from the maison. The staple that the 1937 piece manages to establish is the 6 o’clock placement of the moonphase indicator, which we see ubiquitously used in many vintage and modern day Patek references.
It is with the next generation of Patek’s perpetual calendar, the ref. 1526 of 1941 that we see a timeless design take shape with the day and month apertures placed side by side, just under the 12 o’clock hour marker. The date indicator, now a subdial placed around the moonphase indicator. This subdial also served as the watch’s small running seconds.
Patek, of course, well aware of the strength of the 1526’s dial design, went on to produce 8 further references all of which followed this basic layout. The only deviations were the style of the hour markers, the minute-track around the perimeter of the dial and the presence of a central seconds hand. Ultimately, it would seem, that the pinnacle execution was one of the simplest of the design’s iterations, initially seen in the 1961 ref. 3449. Elegant baton hour markers, simple minute markers on the perimeter of the dial, no running seconds of any kind with the all familiar perpetual calendar layout taking center stage. The 3449 was in production for just a year. It is understood now that no more than three were produced in that time, making it one of the rarest of references.
With the reference 3448, announced in 1962, Patek seemed to have really nailed and perfected the perpetual calendar layout. With the 3448, it’s as if everything that needs to be there, is there. Nothing to add, subtract or move from here. Patek also chose to debut its first self-winding perpetual calendar movement with the 3448, the calibre 27-460Q. Even the case of the 3448 was something to take note of. It moved away from Patek’s rounded cases to sharper edges and angled straight lugs. All in all, a very forward-looking watch geared more towards modern minimalism.
Auction house Phillips Watches’ research suggests that there were 586 examples made of the reference, mostly in yellow gold, the white gold version being the next most abundant; just two rose gold pieces known to the public auction market and two platinum pieces that were born as white gold instances, later upon the approval of Mr Stern, re-cased with platinum cases. An instance of a platinum piece sold with Phillips at their May 2018 Geneva auction for well over USD 1 million.
It is also suggested that the 3448 was produced over time with four dial variations, presenting four series. The dates of production of the four series and the details on the dials that differentiate them don’t seem to have the greatest of agreements across the board. Except to say that the early dials were hard enamel and the later dials were printed. Tough to discuss the series definitively with this much conflicting details out there. Which then calls for a future deep dive into the 3448 with a further look into unique pieces such as the platinum pieces and even a yellow gold piece with a blue dial.
The 3448 was eventually retired for the ref. 3450 and the 3563, both of which brought a leap indicator onto the dial. The 3563 in particular had a central seconds hand. But both references were in production for a mere 4 years, when in 1985 Patek introduced the fabled Calibre 240 Q and the ref. 3940, which took on subdials at 3 and 9 o’clock for the calendar indications.
In the meantime, the soul of the 3448 and its perpetual calendar layout lived on solely through Patek’s perpetual calendar chronographs, that is until in 2017, when the maison gave us the incredibly well received ref. 5320. But for those in search of the elegance, clarity and near perfection of the 3448, only a 3448 will do.
Great thing is, because the 3448 was produced for close to 20 years — the longest ever for a Patek perpetual calendar reference — they’re not exactly rare. Auction catalogs typically have a few examples listed within a year. But every so often you get a piece that comes fresh to market. And given the pedigree of collectors who are drawn towards the 3448, the pieces typically come to auction in great condition.
Consider Lot 834 (pictured here), at Phillips Hong Kong Watch Auction: SEVEN: a pristine, fresh to market ref. 3448 in white gold, consigned by the previous owner’s family, based in Tokyo. Hard enamel dial suggests this is from one of the earlier series. Phillips’ even managed to secure extracts from Patek’s archives, confirming the watch’s date of production and sale. There’s yet another great little detail that’s sure to get the most severe Patek collector weak in the knees: the large inverted date numerals around the moon.
The last time a similar example was offered with Phillips for auction was at their inaugural New York sale last year, where the watch sold for USD 471,000. Lot 834 in Hong Kong for their November 2018 sale is marked at an estimate of USD 205,000-410,000. And here’s where we see the premium there is on the white gold versions: Lot 1058, a yellow gold version with the same hard enamel dial and large inverted date numerals around the moon. Surprisingly, the estimate on this one’s a very conservative USD 89,700-154,000.
If you miss out on the ones in Hong Kong, there’s another yellow gold piece up for sale at Phillips’ New York sale on December 5th: Lot 106. No inverted date ring in this instance, but a superb example sporting the later series dials that were printed. Estimate for this one’s at USD 80,000-120,000.
Just before we end, if you’re already a 3448 owner and would like to consider a perpetual calendar from earlier on in the lineage, then Lot 975, at Hong Kong, and Lot 80, in New York, are for you: the ref. 2497. Safe to say that this is a reference you don’t see often at auctions. That’s probably because, as suggested by experts, only 179 examples were made of the 2497 and 2438/1, its waterproof companion piece.
Both lots are a first series example with Arabic and dot indices. Different from the second series, which further subdivides into A and B, no longer with Arabic numerals, the A series having faceted rectangular markers, and the B series faceted pointed rectangular markers. The watch in Hong Kong is from 1953 — the later one of the two, marked with an estimate of USD 154,000-308,000. The one in New York is from 1951, marked with an estimate of USD 250,000-350,000.
Hong Kong Watch Auction: SEVEN
27 November 12pm HKT
Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong
5 Connaught Road, Central, Hong Kong (map)
New York Auction: STYLED. Timeless Watches & How to Wear Them
5 December 6pm EST
450 Park Avenue, New York (map)
Viewing 30 November – 5 December