The Industry at A Juncture
The reference 3940 was introduced by Patek Philippe in 1985, at a crucial juncture. The Swiss watch industry was still feeling the effects of not only the Quartz Crisis, but also a global economic downturn that resulted in massive downsizing for many watch brands, with some pivoting towards this new technology and some having to fold altogether.
However, rather than follow the wind, Philippe Stern, the CEO of Patek Philippe, decided instead to double down on the brand’s heritage by creating the reference 3940. Alongside its sister reference, the 3970, the model essentially kick-started the serial production of complicated Patek Philippe watches. Prior to this, perpetual calendars were extremely scarce.
The reference 3940 decided to abandon the aesthetics cemented by previous references. The dial layout was revamped, with the day and month aperture being replaced with three sub-dials. The sharp lines were substituted for a smoother, more modern design. Powered by a much thinner movement, it enabled an elegant, slim case that fits tightly to the wrist.
The Elusive 3941
Whilst at first glance this may appear like a reference 3940, it is in fact the more elusive reference 3941. When the reference 3940 was first released in 1985, it featured a solid caseback, as had nearly every Patek Philippe watch produced before it. However, Patek Philippe received feedback from clients who wanted to admire the micro-rotor movement through an open caseback. In response, the manufacture released an entirely new reference - the 3941 - which was produced alongside the 3940, but with a display caseback, instead of a closed one.
These were amongst the first Patek Philippe pieces to be delivered with an open caseback, making this decision all the more remarkable. In response to client demands, Patek Philippe began offering the reference 3940 with both solid and clear casebacks, and eventually discontinued the 3941 in 1990. Produced for a brief five year period, it is understood that the reference 3941 was available in yellow and white gold, with this being an example of the latter.
A Classic Design
The dial has three registers, with the various functions neatly laid out. The sub-dial at three o'clock shows the leap-year counter and the months, in English, in a slightly concave sub-register, giving depth to the lightly-brushed, opaline dial. In a similar fashion, the months and 24-hour indicators are placed at nine o'clock.
The silver moon and stars for the moon-phase are placed at six o'clock, with the days of the month around it. The 24-hour and weekday indicator at 9 o'clock mirror those at 3 o'clock, bringing a sense of balance and uniformity, to this relatively small but highly complicated dial. Despite the modest size, the 3941 remains legible and easy to use. The dauphine hands add a touch of sharpness to what only can be described as a wonderfully balanced design.
Evidence suggests that the dials for reference 3941 were produced by Stern Frères, who provided many dials to Patek Philippe during this period. As seen from the bevelled edges that hold the day and month indicators at three and nine o’clock, the absence of the grave accent in “GENEVE” and the slightly larger Patek Philippe signature, this is a second series dial. From the cross divider that can be seen within the leap year indicator, it is evident that this falls within the late second series, made around 1989-1990, right before the reference was discontinued.
Representing the best of Swiss design, the movement itself is no less a technical feat. Through the sapphire caseback, the fantastic hand-finishing speaks for itself, and the wearer is able to admire the Genevan coat of arms and stripes, as well as the off-center, 22k gold micro-rotor. The ultra-thin, self-winding 240 Q base movement has been used by Patek Philippe since the 1970s and continues to beat at the heart of their modern perpetual lines.
This Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Ref. 3941G is accompanied by a bespoke anthracite grained leather strap, a black alligator Patek Philippe strap, and the corresponding white gold tang buckle.
If sold within the United Kingdom, this Patek Philippe ref. 3941G will be subject to 20% VAT.