With Patek Philippe Extract from the Archives confirming production of the present watch with silvered satinated dial, applied white gold indexes and leap-year indicator in 1981 and its subsequent sale on 7 November 1981. Furthermore delivered with Patek Philippe fitted box and outer packaging.
Such is the case here with the spectacular discovery of a white gold reference 3448 featuring a leap year indication which has commonly been accepted as the signature design element of the succeeding reference 3450. Our in-depth research reveals that the present watch, in many elements unique, is of historical significance and an extremely valuable source of new information surrounding the histories of references 3448 and 3450.
Wristwatches by Patek Philippe with calendar and perpetual calendar indication have been in production since the 1920s but have for over half a century never featured a leap year indication. We understand that the first Patek Philippe wristwatch doing so is a reference 3448 made originally in 1970 and then later upgraded, following the request of a senior Director of Patek Philippe in 1975. This indication was placed inside the date ring and required to sacrifice the moon phase indication. The second recorded Patek Philippe wristwatch with the indication for leap years is a unique reference 3563, originally requested and designed for Philippe Stern, then President and CEO of Patek Philippe. This unique watch was made in 1981 and later graciously donated to the Patek Philippe Museum. Interestingly, this historical watch featured a caliber 1-350 with centre seconds and solved successfully the dilemma of the earlier mentioned reference 3448 by adding an additional aperture for the leap year indication.
The present watch, also manufactured in 1981, is consequently most probably the first ever made perpetual calendar wristwatch with leap year indication by Patek Philippe intended for sale. Featuring the basic caliber 27-460 Q, known and successfully used for nearly 20 years of reference 3448 production, it boasts, as a first, a circular aperture for the leap year indication. Interestingly, the leap year cycle is indicated with Arabic numbers, 1, 2, 3 and the leap year is beautifully highlighted by a red dot. Interestingly the watch with the consecutive movement and case number (movement 1'119'581, case 332'621) features the same indication. The latter however was converted at an early stage and fitted with an integrated white gold bracelet.
Shortly after the manufacturing of the present white gold reference 3448 with leap year, its successor reference 3450 was introduced to the market. Not only was the upgraded caliber 27-460 QB featuring a leap year indication but the case was also upgraded in many ways. Most notably, the case back was smaller in diameter but featured an applied tong for more comfortable and secure opening and also a more massive and raised bezel incorporating a sapphire crystal. Literature suggests that 244 examples of reference 3450 were made. This model is only known to have been cased in yellow gold with the exception of two examples finished in white gold. Both appeared at auction some 20 years ago and are today the most cherished trophies in two of the world's most prestigious private collections.
These two watches are from the second generation of reference 3450, featuring roman numerals for the leap year indication and omitting the red dot for the leap years. They are the following two watches, both sold at Christie's New York:
-Movement no. 1'119'729 - Fine Watches, Wristwatches and Clocks - New York - 29 October 1989, lot 262
-Movement no. 1'119'799 - Fine Clocks and Watches - New York - 24 June 1993, lot 153
Consequently, only four white gold perpetual calendar wristwatches with leap year indication are known to have changed hands in the last thirty years of auctions. This extremely small number furthermore underlines the rarity and importance of the present timepiece.
The present white gold reference 3448 is not only and extremely rare gem in terms of its function and case material, but also in regards to its provenance, history and condition. Acquired in 1981 by its first owner, an avid watch connoisseur and faithful client of Patek Philippe, this watch was always the proud property of the same family. In fact, it was also the original owner's specific desire, which Patek Philippe kindly granted, to have all white gold hour markers and hands surface coated with black varnish for better contrast and legibility. He also required that the discs indicating the week day and month are to be in Italian - the language spoken at their home. Despite the watch having been made according to the owner's will, it never saw any wear other than sporadically on special family occasions. Consequently, the watch presents itself in incredibly beautiful, crisp and most likely factory finish condition. Since 1981, the watch has always been in the possession of the original owner's family and was never shown or offered for sale in public.
Since the fabulous appearance of the so far only known example of a reference 3448 cased in rose gold at Christie's Geneva in 2011, the world of watch collector's appreciates the historical importance of reference 3448 and attributes value to unique examples of this series in line with other mythical references, selling for over 2 million Swiss francs.
The rule defining the importance of a collector's watch being composed of manufacture's name, mechanical complexity, rarity, condition and provenance makes it evident that the present white gold "red dot" reference 3448 is one of the most beautiful, desirable and valuable new discoveries to the world of wristwatch collecting. In fact, no one can doubt that this treasure does not qualify for a top score in each of the previously mentioned criteria.
Reference 3448 is illustrated in Patek Philippe Wristwatches by Martin Huber & Alan Banbery, second edition, p. 288 and in Ore d'Oro by Jader Barracca, Giampiero Negretti and Franco Nencini, p. 45.