|Year of production (circa)
Original platinum buckle
Original box & papers
Patek Philippe Ref. 3940
The 1980s were a time of turmoil for the Swiss watch industry. Although an answer to the emerging cheap quartz technology was found in an emphasis on high-end watchmaking, luxury and craftsmanship, the war was far from won.
Patek Philippe had already launched the Nautilus as its luxury steel sports watch in the decade before. Now, it was time to flex its haute horology muscles once more, to show the world that Patek Philippe was sticking to its heritage. In 1985 the fabled house presented a brand new perpetual calendar; the Ref. 3940.
The significance of this watch is not to be underestimated. It set the tone for what Patek Philippe was going to be in this new era. No wonder then, that these models have become highly sought-after and desirable.
History aside, the watch is already extremely desirable in its own right. From a technical perspective, Patek managed to fit an automatic perpetual calendar in a 36mm wrist watch measuring only 8mm in height. They did so by opting for a 22k gold micro-rotor to provide the required winding.
The platinum case is home to an opaline Sigma dial that is a masterclass in design. It is packed with a massive amount of information, yet remains understated, balanced and simple.
Different series have been produced of the Ref. 3940, with small variations between them. Our example is a so-called late second series specimen, with hallmarks in the case flank and a cross-hair in the sub dial at three o’clock.
This stunning and significant Patek Philippe Ref. 3940 comes complete with the original box, papers and tag. The box doubles as a winder, keeping your perpetual calendar right up to date.
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Patek Philippe has devoted itself to the manufacture of complicated watch movements from the get go. In 1889, the Swiss powerhouse was the first to patent a perpetual calendar pocket watch mechanism. Then in 1902, a patent was filed for the first double chronograph. In 1923, they introduced the first split-second chronograph wristwatch. The first perpetual calendar wristwatch would follow in 1925.
And if you are this good at something, it only makes sense you try and push it to the max. In 1989, Patek showcased its Caliber 89. A whopping 33 complications crammed into a 1.1kg movement with 24 hands. Sensibly, they opted for the pocket watch form-factor, as this beast would not fit on even the biggest of wrists. It would be twenty-seven years before Vacheron Constantin took over the record of the most complicated watch movement.
Patek Philippe is famous for its world time calibers as well as its perpetual calendar chronographs. An example of their first iteration of the latter, the Ref. 1518 from 1941, was sold at auction in 2017 for an eye-watering $11.14 million.
Complicated Pateks are grail watches for many fanatical aficionados. Whether in vintage or modern guise, these are some of the finest examples of watchmaking you will find. A combination of mechanical magic, finishing artistry and timeless design mesmerize even the most seasoned of collectors.
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