This is an essentials-only guide to Patek Philippe perpetual calendar wristwatches made till the end of the 1990s. This does not include Patek Philippe’s perpetual calendar chronographs which warrant a separate summary. For more exhaustive coverage, read Wei Koh’s “Entire History of Patek Philippe’s Perpetual Calendars”, the link is at the bottom of this page.
All prices are approximate, in USD.
Patek Philippe: The crown jewel of Swiss watchmaking, in terms of history, innovation, craft and prestige.
Perpetual Calendar: Arguably the most useful complication in a mechanical timepiece, that accounts for the 30-31-day cycle of the months, and the number of days in February, including leap years!
Primacy in Perpetual Calendars: Patek Philippe was the first to…
• create a perpetual calendar wristwatch (1925)
• produce a perpetual calendar wristwatch in series (1941, ref. 1526)
• create a perpetual calendar chronograph in series (1941, ref. 1518)
• create a self-winding perpetual calendar, by 16 years (1962, ref. 3448)
1925: Ref. 97975 – the world’s first perpetual calendar
1937: Ref. 96 – first perpetual calendar with retrograde display
1943: Ref. 1527 – two pieces, with/without chronograph
1944: Ref. 1591 – first waterproof perpetual calendar
1961: Ref. 3449 – three pieces in different lug designs
1975: Ref. 3448 – factory customised with first display of leap year cycle
Series Production Perpetual Calendars (Pre-2000)
1941-1953: Ref. 1526, the world’s first perpetual calendar in serial production, 210 pieces
1951-1963: Ref. 2497 / Ref. 2438-1, first with central seconds, 179 pieces
1962-1981: Ref. 3448, the first self-winding perpetual calendar, 586 pieces
1981-1985: Ref. 3450, the first with aperture leap year display, 244 pieces
1985-2006: Ref. 3940, perpetual calendar with full display for leap year cycle
1992-2007: Ref. 5040, Patek’s first tonneau-shaped perpetual calendar
1993-2001: Ref. 5050, 1st in serial production with retrograde display
1995-2003: Ref. 5041, 2nd serially produced tonneau-shaped perpetual calendar
1999-2006: Ref. 5059, officer’s caseback
Custom Production: Rarest of the Rare
1925: Ref. 97975, First Perpetual Calendar Wristwatch
• Movement originally from women’s pendant watch dating back to 1898
• 34.4mm yellow gold case with hunter caseback, large fluted crown and hand-engraved lugs
1930: Perpetual Calendar Wristwatch in Cushion-shaped Case
• For the first time, date contained within 6 o’clock subdial with running seconds; day and month subdials a ‘9’ and ‘3’ respectively; moon phase at ’12’
• 13-ligne movement based on a Victorin Piguet ébauche
1937: Ref. 96, First Retrograde Perpetual Calendar Wristwatch
• First retrograde display perpetual calendar
• First Patek wristwatch to feature twin in-line apertures on the dial, on either side of the cannon pinion, for day and month
• 11-ligne movement based on a Victorin Piguet ébauche
1943: Ref. 1527, In Two Flavours
• Made between 1943 and 1944, as 2 watches, one with chronograph and one without
• 37.6mm case
In 2010, the chronograph version auctioned at Christie’s for $5.7 million.
1944: Ref. 1591, First Waterproof Perpetual Calendar, First Central Seconds
• Two watches made in 1944, one in stainless steel and another in yellow gold
• Sporty, the first perpetual calendars with waterproof cases, and the first to have centrally mounted seconds; luminous dials and hands
• Movement protected from magnetism with soft iron shield
• Movement based on manual-wind Victorin Piguet ebauche, designated 12 SC for “seconds centrale”
The steel version was sold by Christie’s in 2007 for $2.6 million.
1961: Ref. 3449, varied lugs
• Three pieces made, individually numbered 799000, 799001 and 799002
• 23-300Q ultra-thin manual-wind movement
• 37mm yellow gold case with silvered dials
• Different lug designs on all three watches:
000: triple-stepped bezel and angular lugs
001: double-stepped bezel and angular lugs
002: triple-stepped bezel with straight lugs 1mm longer than the others
This reference has surfaced at auction in 2004, 2011 and 2014, selling for $2 million, $1.6 million and $1.4 million, respectively.
1975: Ref. 3448 (customised), displaying leap year in a subdial
• Gifted to Alan Banbery wrote the first officially sanctioned book on Patek Philippe and was a former director at the company.
• Customised Series 2 yellow gold watch (see Ref. 3448 entry below) from 1970, with moon phase subdial at ‘6’ swapped for a leap year indicator.
• Movement reworked to display leap year; unique dial fabricated by Stern Frères
• This leap year display format would later be used for the ref. 3940 and 3970.
In 2008, this watch emerged on auction at Sotheby’s. It was sold for $2.1 million and has not been seen since.
Series Production Perpetual Calendar Watches
1941-1953: Ref. 1526, the world’s first serially produced perpetual calendar
• Launched in 1941 and produced for 12 years, in 210 pieces
• 34mm case, majority in yellow gold, a small quantity in rose gold, one known piece in steel
• Manual-wind Victorin Piguet-based calibre 12-120 QP
• In-line apertures for day and month, just below ’12’
• First instance of date and moon phase combined in subdial at ‘6’ which also contains the small seconds
Significant price divide between the yellow gold models and rose gold ones. The latter comprises some 20 pieces, or a tenth of the entire production.
• Yellow Gold 1526: More than five years ago, these sold for more than $110k. In the last two years, prices have fallen to the $70k-$100k range.
• Rose Gold 1526: Between 2012 and 2016, a few pieces were auctioned in the $150k-$200k range. In 2017, two pieces auctioned by Phillips hit $453k and $347k, respectively.
• Steel 1526: The single piece 1526 in steel was auctioned by Christie’s in 2008, for $4.2 million. It now sits in the Patek Philippe Museum.
1951-1963: Ref. 2497 and Ref. 2438-1, first serially produced with central seconds
• In production for 12 years, with a total of 179 watches made between the two references
• The first serially produced perpetual calendars with central seconds hands
• Both references are the same watch, the ref. 2438-1 refers to versions with waterproof screw caseback
• 37mm case, manual wind movement
• Made in 2 series…
Series 1: alternating dot and Arabic hour markers with leaf-shaped hands
Series 2: hash marks for hours and sword-shaped hands
Because of the bigger size, more contemporary feel and greater rarity, the 2497/2438-1 watches sell for significant premiums over the 1526. In 2017, a yellow gold example auctioned for a little over $140k. An ultra rare piece in white gold — three pieces are known to exist — sold for $2.6 million.
1962: Ref. 3448, the first self-winding perpetual calendar
• Made from 1962 to 1981 with a total of 586 examples. Mostly in yellow gold; 100 were in white gold, and two in rose gold. • Two white gold watches were re-cased in platinum by special order in 1997, long after the model was discontinued.
• The first serially produced self-winding perpetual calendar wristwatch, ahead of the market by 16 years
calibre 27-460 Q
• Nicknamed “Padellone” for its 37.5mm diameter and relatively thin case
• The first watch with “Disco Volante” case was designed by Antoine Gerlach, featuring sharp futuristic lugs. The cases for the 1997 re-editions were made by Jean-Pierre Hagmann
• No running seconds
The 3448s can be further divided by their dials into four distinct series:
Series 1-3: grand feu enamel dials, short applied gold baton markers and sword-shaped
• Series 1: Made from 1962–66. medium-sized print for the numbers in the date ring. numbers from “11” to “23” are inverted to aid in visibility. Dials are marketed “Swiss” with no sigma symbol on either side of this hallmark.
• Series 2: Made from 1965–73. Smaller, lighter printed numerals on the date ring. Numbers from 11 to 23 can appear either inverted or un-inverted. The Swiss hallmark can have the sigma symbol on each side (usually for post-1970 dials), referring to the use of gold indexes on the dial.
• Series 3: Made from 1971–78. Distinctly larger numbers than earlier series watches. It can have an inverted or un-inverted date ring. Swiss hallmark with sigma symbols.
• Series 4: Made from 1978 to circa 1981. Modern brass dials, printed. Minute markers are no longer applied pearls but small printed hash marks. Swiss hallmark with sigma symbols.
Yellow gold models sell for below $200k: in 2017, two examples sold for $120k and $170k at Phillips and Christie’s, respectively. A platinum 3448 was sold for $1.1 million by Phillips in 2018. A white gold 3448 sold for $470k in 2017; another white gold 3448 without moon phase sold for $1.1 million that same year.
1981: Ref. 3450, first with aperture leap year display
• Made from 1981 to 85 with a total of 244 examples; two with white gold cases, the rest in yellow gold.
• Self-winding calibre 27-460 QB, based on the first automatic perpetual calendar movement launched in 1962, updated with leap year display
• Largely identical to 4th series 3448, except for round aperture at 3:30 for leap year
• Earlier watches used Arabic numbers 1-3 for the run-up to the leap year, with the latter indicated in solid red.
Yellow gold version with Roman numeral leap year indication can sell for under $200k; those with red dot leap year indicator have a higher ceiling of under $300k. A white gold version was sold in 2015 by Phillips for $1.5 million.
1985-2006: Ref. 3940, perpetual calendar with full display for leap year cycle
• Made from 1985 to 2006
• The first perpetual calendar watch with leap-year and 24-hour indicators in subdials
• 36mm case with sapphire display caseback
• Self-winding calibre 240 with micro-rotor
Considered a relatively common watch and as such, prices hover around the $50k mark for all case materials, making it the ideal first complicated Patek Philippe for a burgeoning collector.
1992-?: Ref. 5040, Patek’s first tonneau-shaped perpetual calendar
• Patek’s first tonneau-shaped perpetual calendar, and also the first to use Breguet numerals
• 35mm case
• Calibre 240 Q
This is one of the most overlooked references in Patek Philippe’s history, with prices around $30k for yellow gold and rose gold versions, slightly higher for white gold; and around $50k for those in platinum.
1993: Ref. 5050, 1st in serial production with retrograde display
• Made from 1993 to 2002
• The first serially produced perpetual calendar with retrograde date based on the Patek pièce unique ref. 96 from 1937.
• 35mm case with display caseback
• Full-rotor calibre 315 S QR self-winding movement with central seconds
• Many dial versions
Today, these watches represent a strong value proposition with auction prices in the last three years hovering around $40k for gold versions, and above $50k for platinum.
1995: Ref. 5041, 2nd serially produced tonneau-shaped perpetual calendar
• Introduced in 1995, made in no more than 30 to 50 examples
• Patek’s second serially produced tonneau-shaped perpetual calendar
• 35mm by 43mm by 9mm white gold case
• Black lacquered dial and white-gold applied Breguet numerals with applied dot minute track
• Calibre 240 with micro-rotor.
Very rare modern Patek Philippe perpetual calendar. In 2007, at a Christie’s auction, one of these watches was already hitting the price of $185k. Today, the prices of the 5041 have come down significantly to the $60k range.
1999: Ref. 5059, officer’s caseback
• 315 S QR
• 36mm with hinged caseback to display the movement
• very long straight lugs
Prices for the 5059 are slightly soft at the moment, with yellow gold versions selling around $30k; white and pink gold versions around $40k; and platinum versions around $50k.
For more comprehensive coverage about Patek Philippe’s perpetual calendar wristwatches, read Wei Koh’s “Entire History of Patek Philippe’s Perpetual Calendars”, here.