Originally introduced in 1981, the 3800 was only available to clients from the following year. Wulf Schütz, founder of the Swiss vintage watch dealership Rare & Fine Vintage Watches, shared with us archival Patek Philippe price lists from the period. While a price list from September 1981 does not feature the 3800, it does appear from 1982 onwards.
A 1982 price list from Germany shows a few interesting details. Firstly, rather surprisingly, a 3800 in steel was actually more expensive than a steel 3700. Indeed, the price of a Jumbo 3700/11A was 7,100DM ($2,840), whereas the price of the 3800/1 A was 7,500DM ($3,000). Though it is unclear exactly why, Schütz speculates that this price difference may have been due to the fact that the 3800 integrated a centre second or that it was a newly introduced model. This seems rather surprising today, when the market value of a 3700 is several multiples of that of a 3800.
Secondly, the retail price for the different configurations of the 3800, and how they relate to current market value, are also interesting to note. As mentioned, the 3800/1A (with A standing for “acier”, which is French for steel) was 7,500DM ($3,000). By comparison, the 3800/1J (with the J standing for “jaune”, which is French for yellow, referring to yellow gold) was 29,950DM ($11,980). In contrast, a two-tone example, known as the 3800/1AJ, was priced at 15,150DM ($6,060). Quite logically, gold was the most expensive, with two-tone being about half as expensive, and steel also being half as expensive as two-tone. The cost of materials, as well as the perceived value of gold, would no doubt have driven this rationale.