With Patek Philippe Certificat d'Origine et de Garantie stamped by Patek Philippe Japan and coded for 1974, Patek Philippe Japan guarantee card dated 1977, brochures, folder and original presentation box. Furthermore delivered with the Extract from the Archives confirming production of this watch in 18K white gold in 1973 and its subsequent sale on 26 April 1974.
Consigned by its original owner, this reference 3448 has never been offered in public before. The combination of freshness to the market, excellent, original overall condition, the possibly unique dial layout and the original documents render it a highlight for the collector of rare timepieces.
Launched in 1962, reference 3448 was the first automatic perpetual calendar wristwatch serially produced by any manufacturer. It was made primarily in yellow gold in very few numbers: estimates put the total production, all case metals, at around 500 units. A minority was cased in white gold (around 150 pieces), one example in pink gold and one in platinum are known from the market.
This model is the perfect embodiment of a very peculiar period in the evolution of watchmaking design. Wristwatches had moved from the flamboyant cases and multi-tone sector dials of the 1920s and 1930s, to the military-flavoured creations of the 1940s, with telemetre and tachymetre railroad scales. With the 1950s and 60s a new trend takes shape: the technological advances of the time inspired, in all fields of design, futuristic shapes and cleaner looks. This watch perfectly epitomizes such trend: the dial is clean to the extreme, a remarkable feat of design considered that, after all, this is still a perpetual calendar with moon phases and as such the amount of information that the dial has to report is quite abundant. The case, made by Geneva-based casemaker Antoine Gerlach, is a triumph of clean looks and sharp edges: the circular polished case with flat satin-finished band and generous sloped blank bezel looks decades away from the construction of previous models. The design of reference 3448 is so futuristic that Italian collectors nicknamed it "Disco Volante", Flying Saucer.
Reference 3448 is powered by what is considered the best automatic movement of the time: cal. 27-460. Patek Philippe's watchmaker upgraded it with a perpetual calendar with moon phase module under the dial to become cal. 27-460 Q, for Quantième Perpétuel (perpetual calendar).
Arguably the most unusual perpetual calendar designed by Patek Philippe, reference 3448 (together with its sister reference 3450) is a remarkable and unique study on clean case shapes and sharp lines: this iconic case design will not be used again on any other timepiece. Furthermore, it is the only vintage automatic perpetual calendar made by the firm. This combination of technical and aesthetical unique traits, together with the remarkable rarity of the model, propelled it to the top of the wish lists of collectors worldwide.
The present piece is not only the very rare white gold version of this revered model, of which only some 50 examples are known from the market. It also features the most unusual dial layout which can possibly be found on this reference.
Indeed, reference 3448 was available with four different dial styles:
-with enamelled small baton minute divisions (1962 to circa 1965);
-with beady minute divisions and small date ring (1965 to circa 1973);
-with beady minute divisions and large date ring (1971 to circa 1978);
-with printed (not enamelled) small baton minute divisions after 1978
The present watch is one of the very last beady minute divisions and small date ring dial examples ever made, in 1973. It furthermore features an astoundingly rare detail: a reversed date ring, with the numerals on the lower half upside down. Such reversed date rings were used for a very short period of time at the beginning of the seventies. Five examples of large reversed date rings are known from the market, the latest one sold in this room in May 2015 for 449’000 CHF (movement no. 1'119'205: only 80 numbers apart from the present watch). Small reversed date ring dials appear to be even rarer.
On top of this, the present dial is also one of the very first "Aprior" dials, that is bearing the "Sigma Swiss Sigma" designation, which identifies gold numerals on the dial. By rule, all dials produced from 1971 feature this designation. However, before using these new "Sigma Swiss Sigma" dials, Patek Philippe had to deplete the stock of dials made before 1971. Consequently, "Aprior" dials were consistently used only from 1973: exactly the year of production of this watch. Furthermore, 1973 is the last year we can find ref. 3448 mounting a dial with the small date ring: the present watch features one of the exceedingly few dials with both reversed small date ring and "Aprior" designation. It is a safe assumption that such dials were only ever produced between 1971 and 1972, making their last appearance on finished pieces in 1973.
Extensive research failed to identify another reference 3448 with this dial configuration, rendering the present example unique.