With Patek Philippe Extract from the Archives confirming production of the present watch with silvered dial and applied gold Breguet numerals in 1937 and its subsequent sale on 17 October 1940.
While reference 96 is best known for its simplicity and the absence of any further functions, the present watch is a historical and probably unique example featuring a full calendar. The weekdays and months are shown digitally in rectangular apertures next to the centre of the dial, the date on an outer scale indicated by a blued steel hand and the phases of the moon at the twelve o'clock position.
Additionally fitted with the highly popular Breguet numerals, fully confirmed by Patek Philippe's Extract from the Archives, this watch must be considered one of the most exclusive and historically significant collector's watches offered at auction in recent years.
Made at a time when the production of complicated wristwatches was still in its beginnings, it is an important witness for the development of modern watchmaking. Until around 1940, watches featuring calendar functions were either unique or produced in extremely small series only, sometimes special orders made at a client's request. Such timepieces were easily recognizable by the half-moon-shaped display of the moon phases as opposed to the individual subsidiary dial of later versions.
The full calendar "Calatrava" offered here for sale is a paramount example for one of these extraordinarily rare horological masterworks. Sold in 1940 to Tiffany in New York with applied gold Breguet numerals, English calendar indications and moon phases facing upwards, it is one of only two yellow gold reference 96 wristwatches with full calendar known to exist to date. Its peer, sold in this saleroom on 10 May 2010, featured a hard enamel "Roulette" dial with applied gold Arabic numerals, Italian calendar indications and the moon phase aperture facing downwards. Interestingly, the movement and case numbers of the latter, 860'232 and 295'339, are only two digits apart from those of the present watch.
Research has resulted in the discovery of five other references 96 with calendar - all cased in platinum, two of them on permanent exhibit at the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva. The present watch, besides being the only full calendar yellow gold reference 96 with applied gold Breguet numerals, is one of only two of these seven references 96 with the moon aperture facing upwards.
Introduced in 1932, reference 96 is undeniably Patek Philippe's most legendary design, its timeless case proportions as modern today as at the time of its creation. Incorporating elements of Bauhaus, late Art Deco and modernism, it is the perfect 1930s effigy. Amongst connoisseurs, reference 96 is better known as Calatrava, a name which stands for avant-garde philosophy thanks to its subtle, elegant lines - clearly Patek Philippe's signature piece.
The ébauche for this unusual watch was commissioned by Patek Philippe and made by Victorin Piguet of Le Sentier. During the 1920s the company made most of the ébauches for complicated movements, including single button and split seconds chronographs, mainly for prestigious firms like Patek Philippe.