By Arthur Touchot
This here is one of the all-time great Patek Philippe perpetual calendars. It's a Patek Philippe Reference 3448, which was the world's first serially produced self-winding perpetual calendar wristwatch, and it's one of only two cased in platinum. We're therefore very excited to be able to offer it during The Geneva Watch Auction: SEVEN and further explain this watch's incredible story.
Patek Philippe did not invent the perpetual calendar, though ironically the first perpetual calendar—an 18th-century pocket watch made by Thomas Mudge—currently resides in Geneva, with the company's Museum.
However, Patek Philippe is singularly responsible for bringing the complication into the 20th century, initially through the invention of the first perpetual calendar wristwatch — which, like so many 'firsts' in wristwatches, was simply the result of taking an existing movement and placing it in a wristwatch case — followed by determined efforts to produce models in series.
This second, more complex phase, is where Patek Philippe excelled. The lineage of the serially produced Patek Philippe perpetual calendar wristwatches begins in 1941, with two separate lines. The Reference 1518 introduced the perpetual calendar with chronograph, while the Reference 1526 introduced the straightforward perpetual calendar line.
This manually wound perpetual calendar, in production between 1941 and 1952, was followed by three more references (Ref. 2497, Ref. 2438-1 and the exceptionally rare Ref. 3449) before the revolutionary introduction of the Reference 3448. Launched in 1962, this was Patek Philippe's first serially produced self-winding perpetual calendar wristwatch and for sixteen years, it was the only self-winding perpetual calendar wristwatch available on the market.
Modeled after the legendary Reference 1526, the Reference 3448 presents a beautifully balanced dial layout with the day and month displayed at the top in small apertures, and the date indicated at 6 o'clock with a cut-out for the moon phase display. The most dramatic change happened inside, with the introduction of the calibre 27-460Q, an in-house automatic calibre featuring a patented Gyromax balance wheel oscillating at 19,800 bph, presented for the first time with a perpetual calendar.
Nicknamed the "Padellone" by Italian collectors, the reference is adored by collectors for its oversized, 37.5 mm diameter case and clean and almost futuristic angular lines, which were very different to the previous Patek Philippe perpetual calendar wristwatches.
Only 586 Reference 3448 examples were made, the series starting with movement number 1'119'000. The present watch is number 1'119'056, making it one of the earliest examples, and indeed, the Patek Philippe extract confirms it was made in 1966 — just four years after the model's introduction.
Platinum being the noblest of all metals, it seems like an absolutely appropriate choice for such a refined and complicated reference. But platinum was never offered during the model’s 20-year production cycle.
It only became an option in 1997 and only because Patek Philippe approved a special request for two Ref. 3448 to be assembled in platinum cases. There was only one problem. The reference itself had been discontinued for 16 years, so the only way to satisfy this request was to have cases made by a new casemaker.
With the blessing of the CEO, Philippe Stern, the manufacture turned to casemaker extraordinaire Jean-Pierre Hagmann to create two new cases in platinum, including the present case number 2'998'717 — the “JPH” hallmark is prominently stamped inside both casebacks today.
This watch returned to its original owner in South East Asia, where it remained in his private collection until 2001, when it made its auction debut. The following owner kept the watch for eight years, during which he had a second, virtually new old stock dial fitted to the piece. That dial has remained on the watch since, but the original was kept (you can see it below), and both were sold in 2009 to the watch’s current owner.
The watch has since made a few very public appearances, each time cementing its status as one of Patek Philippe's legendary watches. Quite simply, it’s everything the white gold Ref. 3448 offers — it even looks like one — but it's also way, way more, and only the person wearing it would know that, of course.
The present Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Reference 3448 in platinum is Lot 224 of The Geneva Watch Auction: SEVEN taking place on May 13 in Geneva, Switzerland. For more information on this watch, estimated between CHF 500,000 and CHF 1,000,000, please read the lot footnotes here.