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Patek Philippe Ref. 3974


The Geneva Watch Auction: THREE, Lot 160


The reference 3974 was launched in 1989 to celebrate Patek Philippe’s 150th anniversary. A self-winding watch and featuring a minute repeater, a perpetual calendar, 24-hour indication and phases of the moon, it was the world’s most complicated wristwatch when launched.

The movement beating in the heart of this masterpiece is Patek’s caliber 27RQ comprised of 467 components and coming at in at a mere thickness of 6.80 mm. Another surprising feature is the micro-rotor not only providing an unobtrusive view into the superbly finished movement, but also making the reference 3974 the first automatic winding minute repeater ever made.

The movement of the first reference 3974 bore number 1’906’000, the present lot with movement number 1’906’014 is thus the 15th model to be produced. Not only is it a very early example, but the watch is made extraordinary thanks to the special and possibly unique dial it was born with.

Likely custom-ordered by a very important client, it is the only known version of this reference to feature the Calatrava cross under "Patek Philippe" at 12 o’clock. Other details, such as the black lacquer base of the dial, the italicized font used for the calendar indications, and the beautiful, applied gold Breguet numerals show extensive customization by Patek Philippe. Accordingly, the Certificate of Origin indicates the dial was made on special order, and fully describes the special features of the dial that make it unique.

Reference 3974 was discontinued in 2000 and its complexity was such that very few were made within the 11 years it was in production. It was a milestone in the history of Grand Complication timepieces, already rare and avidly sought after in any version. The uniqueness of the dial, its pristine state of preservation, and the presence of its original box, papers, and certificates of origin, make this one of the most important examples of the reference to ever appear on the market. The present reference 3974 can certainly be considered a true masterpiece for the world’s nest collections.

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