- An important and unique yellow gold automatic perpetual calendar wristwatch with leap year indication instead of moon-phases
1970-1975 ref 3448J mvt 1119137 case 325493
Extract from the Archives
The watch is accompanied by 2 Extracts from the Archives dating from 1999 and 2008. Both extracts confirm production of the wristwatch in 1970 and sale on September 22nd, the same year. The 1999 Extract confirms the watch as a unique piece and details that the conversion of the movement from a moon-phase to a leap year indication was carried out by Patek Philippe's master watch maker, Max Berney. The 2008 Extract confirms that this update was carried out in 1975.
Fully illustrated and detailed as a Unique Piece in Huber, M., Banbery, A., Patek Philippe, Wristwatches, Second Edition, p.288-289. Huber, M., Banbery, A., Patek Philippe, 1982, p.271.
The Unique Leap Year Indication Ref.3448
To fully appreciate the importance of the Unique Patek Philippe ref.3448 with leap year indication in the history of the company's production, it is necessary to see it in the context of the period in which it was made. With its bold angular case, the ref.3448 was a dramatic departure from previous complication models made by Patek Philippe. The 3448 was innovative on many levels but most importantly it was the first perpetual calendar with an automatic movement made by Patek Philippe or, indeed, by any company. Launched 21 years after Patek's first series produced perpetual calendar wristwatch, the clean lines and sharp edges of the 3448's case were a bold move away from the classic rounded styling of the model's 3 previous incarnations under references 1526, 2497 and 2438-1. But it is not just the innovative nature of the reference 3448 which is significant; manufactured between 1962 and 1982, historically the model's period of production falls during a pivotal period in the history of horology, a time when the development of the first electronic watches had created a seismic shift in the entire watch industry that threatened the very existence of the traditional watchmaker's art. In 1968, the Japanese introduced the quartz movement to the world and pressure was applied to all areas of the watch industry leading to a turbulent decade in the 1970s for the major historical watch brands. Patek Philippe's response was measured and ultimately highly successful. The firm decided to continue production of high quality mechanical watch movements since these were still highly prized by their clientele and collectors and that they would develop quartz calibres but use, as far as was practical, as many traditional techniques and methods from their mechanical heritage and only in an analogue format.
It is therefore highly significant that the Unique Reference 3448 Patek Philippe should have been made against this backdrop of uncertainty and change. In turbulent times, it demonstrated Patek Philippe's determination to stay true to both its heritage and that of the watchmaker's art as well as continuing to innovate in times of change without compromising on quality. Perhaps more so than any other perpetual calendar wristwatch manufactured by Patek Philippe in series, this Unique watch can be seen as a bridge between the complication models that preceded it and those that were to follow. This experimental wristwatch, offered for sale at auction for the first time, was the only reference 3448 model to feature a leap year indication on the dial. It was also the first referenced Patek Philippe to display leap years – a feature that was not introduced and available commercially from the watchmaker until the advent of the reference 3450 in 1981. Yet this feature was to be considered a display feature of such importance, that it has been available as standard on each of the perpetual calendar references from the 3450 onwards.
Reference 3448 was launched in 1962 at a time when Patek Philippe was still the only watchmaker offering a perpetual calendar wristwatch as a standard catalogue item. In total, 586 pieces were made until production ceased in 1982. It was the first perpetual calendar wristwatch made by Patek Philippe with an automatic movement and the company used a modified version of the legendary calibre 27-460 to power it. The calibre 27-460 is known for its efficiency and exceptional quality. To ensure that the watch is continually and smoothly wound when worn, a gold rotor is incorporated. The reason gold is chosen for the rotor is due to its gravity which is almost twice that of lead and which consequently moves easily around the circumference of the movement. The perpetual calendar work was added to the top plate of the movement and the calibre given the name 27-460Q (for Quantième Perpétuel or perpetual calendar).
As the successor to the 2497 and 2438-1, the 3448, with its more angular design, represented a departure from the classic rounded cases and lugs of previous complication references. This was a reflection of the change in wristwatch design more generally, which was altering during the 1960s and 1970s. Consequently, the 3448 forms a bridge between the vintage perpetual calendar wristwatches and the more modern examples that followed it. Today it is favoured amongst collectors for the clean sharp lines of the case.
The Unique Leap Year Dial
The current watch's original owner enjoyed a particularly close relationship with Patek Philippe and, as a consequence, in 1975, he was able to obtain his idealised version of the reference 3448 which would display leap year indication and become the current unique watch. To achieve this complex adjustment, Patek Philippe asked their master watchmaker, Max Berney, to modify the movement so that the leap year could be indicated upon the dial. Of course, having removed the indication for moon-phases, the dial also required modification and Patek's dial maker, Stern Frères, were asked to re-design the dial to provide a Unique subsidiary dial on which to display the leap year indication. The design of the dial is most interesting, it incorporates a combination of dial designs that Patek Philippe had used for the 3448. With a perlé outer track, the numerals are moved below the tracking and the inner edges of all the baton numerals are pointed – a detail not usually found on the 3448. Of course the major feature is the unique subsidiary dial which is strikingly calibrated in red and displays each of the four year cycles which lead up to and include the leap year. The simplicity of the dial layout results in exceptional clarity and creates a perfect symmetry of design. It epitomises Patek Philippe's perfection of the complication wristwatch where the external beauty and practicality of the watch masks the mechanical complexity of the watchmaker's art beneath. A comparison between the top plate of this watch and that of a standard 3448 is made in Huber, M., & Banbery, A., Patek Philippe Wristwatches, Second Edition, p.288-289.
The Leap Year Revolution
It is interesting that the unique 3448 with leap year indication did not act as a prototype for the future reference 3450, which would have the leap year indicated on the dial as standard. Patek Philippe chose to retain the moon-phases dial and push the leap year indicator to the small aperture between 3 and 4 o'clock. Interestingly there is another unique watch which is displayed in the Patek Philippe Museum, ref.3563 which was manufactured in 1981, the same year that the 3450 was officially launched. The 3563 which is stylistically similar to the 3450 and 3448, was made especially for Monsieur Philippe Stern, Président and Director General of Patek Philippe S.A., Geneva. That watch features centre seconds, leap year indication and a water-resistant type case. In 1989 the 3563 was donated to the Patek Philippe Museum. The watch is illustrated in Huber, M., & Banbery, A., Patek Philippe Wristwatches, Second Edition, p.291.
Please refer to the printed auction catalogue for further information, comparions and detailed photography.