So far, I have identified four of what I consider to be Patek Philippe all-time iconic watches. Representing the Nautilus – Ref. 3700. For perpetual calendar chronograph there is the Ref. 2499. For the classic Calatrava, the Ref.2526. And for the simple chronograph I take the Ref. 5070. This week, I will add a perpetual calendar to the list.
When it comes to heritage, I think it is a reasonable statement to say that Patek Philippe probably have greater association with the perpetual calendar than any other manufacturer. Patek Philippe made the very first perpetual calendar wristwatch in 1925. In 1941 it created the very first perpetual calendar in series – the Ref. 1526. In 1944 came the first ever sweep seconds perpetual calendar – the Ref. 1591. And in series with the Ref. 2497 in 1951.
In 1962, Patek Philippe created the first ever self-winding perpetual calendar with the Ref. 3448. It is this latter reference that, for me, represents one of their most iconic watches.
The Ref. 3448 has retained a freshness and coolness through six decades of existence.
The Ref. 3448 became the first ever self-winding perpetual calendar. To me, it speaks volumes of just how significant the horological achievement was given that it took other manufacturers 16 years before they produced a competitor. 16 years!! Made from 1962 to 1981 with a total of 586 examples. Most were made in yellow gold, about 100 or so in white gold. Two (after-market pieces) in platinum and, purportedly just two in rose gold.
The first ever self-winding perpetual calendar wristwatch. And it remained so for 16 years, before a competitor matched the feat.
The watch is nicknamed “Padellone” for its futuristic case style (designed by Antoine Gerlach). At the time of the launch in 1961, the watch’s style was quite revolutionary. Embraced by owners like Andy Warhol and Ringo Starr, the watch soon gained a reputation of avant-garde coolness. The dial emphasis is very much minimalist in approach. Yet, the resulting aesthetic is something that has endured the test of fashion over decades. Over almost 60 years, in fact.
Today, the watch looks as fresh and appealing as it did in 1962. In the same way that the Porsche 911 DNA pervades through time, the same can be said of the Ref. 3448. It has captured something quite unusual in being able to remain as fresh today as it was in the 1960s. Ironically, both the first Porsche 911 and the Patek Philippe 3448 were revealed to the world at almost exactly the same time.
The attention to detail is astonishing. Enamel moonphase adds enormously to the appeal of any perpetual calendar.
So why is the Reference 3448 so special? In an internal Patek Philippe newsletter from 1963 (Courtesy Nicholas Foulkes), it described the Reference 3448 automatic perpetual calendar as “The Watch that Thinks”. Further, such was the magnitude of the innovation at the time, it went on to describe the watch as “one of the most amazing personal timepieces ever designed. Automatically, with no need for the owner to correct it for long or short months, it shows the time, the day, the month, the date, and the phase of the moon.”
It concludes by describing the watch as “the wonder watch that thinks for itself.” Clearly, Patek Philippe believed that they had created an engineering marvel. They had.
Is the watch instantly recognisable? Does it represent something of historical importance to Patek Philippe? Is it a watch that can be readily worn? Is it rare? Does it have that something “extra”?
I have very little hesitation in adding the Ref. 3448 to my all-time Patek Philippe icon list. I have witnessed many people purchase this watch now. It is so often the case that when this watch is seen in the flesh, it casts a spell that captures….and endures.