The ref. 3449 is uncommon enough that it is not especially well known, particularly in comparison to its closest equivalents, the refs. 3448 and 3450. Each of the three ref. 3449s made has been sold at auction in the last two decades (more than once for two examples), consistently achieving well over US$1m – it is a watch a small number of people will pay a large sum of money for.
Beyond its scarcity, the ref. 3449 is intriguing because it represents an aesthetic cul-de-sac for Patek Philippe replica watches. It’s a beautiful design that went nowhere. Distinct from other Patek Philippe perpetual calendars with its unusual case, the 3449 was made in 1961, just as production of the earlier ref. 2497 perpetual calendar was ending. Its case is 37mm in diameter, with straight lugs and a thin profile, thanks to the smallish manual-wind cal. 23-300Q movement inside (its contemporaries were powered by wider and thicker automatic movements).
Described by Christie’s in 2014 as “produced [at the] special request of Henri Stern, wishing to test the demand for a large size but very flat perpetual calendar wristwatch”, the ref. 3449 probably met with a lukewarm response; the ref. 3449 pictured here was produced in 1961 and only sold in May 1965. A year after the ref. 3449’s brief tenure, the ref. 3448 was unveiled and went on to enjoy nearly 20 years in the catalogue, becoming the definitive Patek Philippe perpetual calendar for the period.
Despite being exceedingly uncommon, the ref. 3449 has been thoroughly documented. Sequentially numbered on their movements 799000, 799001 and 799002, the three examples of the ref. 3449 all have yellow gold cases and silvered dials.
But intriguingly, and perhaps proving the thesis that they were experimental watches, each of them has a slightly different case. According to Christie’s Patek Philippe 175 catalogue, “no. 791’000 is fitted with a triple-stepped bezel and angular lugs; the second, no. 791’001, with a double-stepped bezel and angular lugs; the third, the present no. 791’002, with triple-stepped bezel and elongated straight lugs, at least 1 mm. longer than those of its predecessors.”
The second of the series, movement number 799001, was sold for almost SFr300,000 in 1989 at The Art of Patek Philippe thematic sale marking the company’s 150th anniversary. The buyer was the Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar fake watches Museum, which has had the watch on display since. And the example with movement 799000 was last sold publicly in 2011 for SFr1.43m at Christie’s in Geneva, and is now owned by an important collector.
And then there is movement number 799002, which is inside the watch pictured here. Having changed hands at auction thrice in the last two decades, this ref. 3449 was sold November 2014 at Christie’s Patek Philippe 175 auction, where it went for SFr1.21m. And not too long ago, the Patek Philippe copy watches were acquired by the current owner, a collector who, to put it mildly, knows what he’s doing.