The present reference 3970 is an extremely rare and highly attractive example of the celebrated model. In fact it is believed to be the to date only known ref. 3970J featuring a gilt dial and applied gold Breguet numerals, made to special order for its first owner and confirmed by the Certificate of Origin and the Extract from the Archives.
Purchased by the present owner at Christie’s Hong Kong in November 2013 the watch has remained in his collection ever since and is now being offered only for the second time at auction. It has evidently never been used and is preserved in superb overall condition, the gilt dial combined with the much coveted Breguet numerals rendering it an extremely elegant appearance.
This “only second owner since new” timepiece, in near mint condition and with a special execution dial represents a rare trophy for the aficionado of unique watches.
In 1986, Patek Philippe launched a new generation of the perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch, designated reference 3970, replacing the hugely successful reference 2499 (see lot 128 in this auction) in production in four different series from 1951 to 1985. The main difference in the movement was the arrival of the new Lemania base ébauche which replaced the Valjoux movement used for the previous 50 years.
Starting with movement number 875'000, the first series of reference 3970 were produced with a solid snap on back, comprising approximately 100 examples. The second series introduced a solid screw back, designated reference 3970E (E for étanche, French for waterproof). A small number of watches from both series were also available with a sapphire crystal back, designated reference 3971E.
In 1989, a third series of ref. 3970 was launched, fitted with a solid screw back as well as an additional sapphire crystal display screw back.
Reference 3970 was discontinued in 2004 and replaced by reference 5970 (see lots 92 – 95 in this auction).
While production of the reference 3970/3971 may have ended only twelve years ago, these modern yet classic perpetual calendar chronographs have become a must-have for the discerning collector of complicated wristwatches.
Reference 3970 and calibre 27-70 Q are illustrated in Patek Philippe Wristwatches by Martin Huber & Alan Banbery, second edition, pp. 305 – 308, reference 3971 in Patek Philippe Museum - Patek Philippe Watches, Vol. II, p. 307.