PROPERTY FROM THE DESCENDANTS OF THE ORIGINAL OWNER
• yellow gold Ref. 3450 case
• additional Ref. 3448 dial, this one with applied yellow gold indexes
• yellow gold hour and minute hands, yellow gold subsidiary dial hand
• yellow gold crown bearing the Calatrava cross
• yellow gold Patek Philippe buckle
Also with the original cancelled check dated April 20th, 1966, from the Philadelphia National Bank to Patek Philippe & Co in the amount of $670, together with original instructions and 'Complicated Watches' manuals from Patek Philippe. Further accompanied by Henri Stern Watch Agency service paperwork from 1976 detailing the replacement of the dial at the client's request at no charge, 1979 for repairs, 1986 detailing the furnishing of the Ref. 3450 case and accompanying yellow gold parts for 3,705 CHF, and 1999 for repairs which refer to the watch as Ref. 3450/000J.
The Convertible Ref. 3448
The mere existence of such an offering is unheard-of. To encounter the Ref. 3450 yellow gold case, with its Patek Philippe sticker still retained to the case back, surrounded casually by its accompanying parts, makes one feel as though summoned into the casemaker's atelier. One feels transported 'behind the curtains', to the fabled drawer of valuable and rare longed-after parts within the Patek Philippe factory.
For the collector who has heard such tales, who has been warned against the 'marriage' of unrelated cases and movements, it feels almost illicit, to taste these forbidden pleasures. Yet in this unprecedented instance, this conversion is documented, sanctioned even, by the maison of Patek Philippe itself. It is an opportunity to celebrate, for it will surely not come to pass again. It represents the impossible dream of a new-old stock complicated -and, somewhat mind-bogglingly, convertible- vintage Patek Philippe ne plus ultra.
The timeline of events over a five-decade period is exceedingly well-documented, elucidating what would otherwise be an inexplicable mystery. The accompanying paperwork allows us to follow the watch's journey. In 1966, four years after the launch of the model, the original owner sent a check amounting to $670 to Patek Philippe, and the sale was completed on January 7th of the next year. In 1976, the owner visited the factory, and upon seeing the new dials furnished for Ref. 3448 watches, requested one during his scheduled service organized through Henri Stern Watch Agency.
In 1981, the Ref. 3450 was launched, the next evolution of the Ref. 3448, featuring a modified case design, most notably to the case back, and a dial displaying the leap year indication. Just after the Ref. 3450 was introduced, in 1982, the Ref. 3448 was discontinued. Ref. 3450 was made for just a few years after that, with production ceasing in 1985.
In 1986, twenty years after its birth, the present watch was transformed from an important watch to a veritable unicorn in the canon of Patek Philippe watches. At the owner's request, Patek Philippe's Geneva headquarters supplied a yellow gold Ref. 3450 case, along with a new Ref. 3448 dial with yellow gold indexes, and accompanying hands and crown. Movement 1119046 was granted permission to float freely between case 318947 (Ref. 3448G) and case 2788630 (Ref. 3450J). Indeed, upon its 1999 service, the HSWA paperwork refers to it as a Ref. 3450/000J, completing the transformation.
The Ref. 3448 bears the distinction of a singular case design, which is substantial in its size and strikingly angular in its shape. Over decades of wear and use, many of the cases are polished, causing the sharp edges of the bezel to wear down, and the lugs to become rounded and even to shorten from their original length. Examples such as the present two feature no such shortcomings. Though serviced over the years, work was done exclusively through Henri Stern Watch Agency and Patek Philippe Geneva, who were sure to retain the design of the cases exactly as they were conceived and created.
The iconic Ref. 3448 represents the bridge between vintage and modern wristwatches. It was launched in 1962 and production continued for about 20 years. The first example of the model bears movement number 1119000, and the present lot is movement number 1119046, relatively early in the production run.
At that time, it was the only automatic perpetual calendar wristwatch on the market, and Patek Philippe's first watch with those features. Only 586 pieces were made in total. Of those, it is estimated that fewer than one-quarter were made in white gold, such as the present lot.
For an example of Ref. 3448, see Huber, M. & Banbery, A., Patek Philippe Wristwatches, Vol. 2, pp. 288-289.
Ref. 3450 was produced for only four years, between 1981 and 1985. It is even rarer than its predecessor, with fewer than 250 examples made. In this fortuitous example, the case alone is an extremely rare commodity.
The present lot is being offered on behalf of the family of the original owner, an incredibly creative engineer, inventor and entrepreneur. An avid and academic admirer of the fine arts, he amassed an impressive collection of Old Master paintings and was an accomplished painter and photographer in his own right. His interest in fine and complicated watches was an embodiment of his passion for the aesthetic and the technical.
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