36 – 38mm
Patek Philippe Beyer 3940
The relationship between Chronometrie Beyer Zurich and Patek Philippe is unlike any other, at times both dynasties competed despite the fierce competitive spirit, both giants also helped each other navigate through turbulent times. The Quartz Crisis nearly decimated the watch industry in the 1970-1980s, shortly after Philippe Stern doubled down on Patek Philippe’s complication heritage and subsequently introduced the ref. 3940 in 1985. At the time the economy was still recovering from a recession, the Beyer’s had experienced hardship in the past, and having successfully navigated through those periods, the institution was celebrating its 225th Anniversary. The first 25 pieces of the newly introduced reference were made exclusively for Beyer’s 225th Anniversary, each example signed Beyer and a dedicated serial number was engraved on the dial.
In light of Beyer’s international reach, watches number 1 to 15 were fitted with German calendar, whereas numbers 16 to 25 came with an English calendar. Number 1 was gifted to Theodor ‘Teddy’ Beyer by his friend Philippe Stern and Number 2 was sold to a prolific collector, Dr. Eugen Gschwind, this particular piece was bought back by Patek Philippe and is now displayed at their Museum. Number 6 was considered to be the personal watch of Theodor ‘Teddy’ Beyer, upon his death in 2002 it was sold via “The Private Collection of Theodor Beyer” and resurfaced at auction via Christie’s on 12th May 2008 selling for CHF 150’000.
For more information on The Story of Beyer, read this.
The Birth of the Ref. 3940
The introduction of reference 3940 proved to be a pivotal moment for Patek Philippe. To give you some insight in 1969 the introduction of the quartz Astron 35SQ by Seiko, rocked the Swiss watch industry to its core and nearly caused a mass extinction. It is believed that a jubilant Seiko went as far as advertising the Astron 35SQ with the slogan “One day all watches will be made in this way”. The situation was grave, many companies filed for bankruptcy, swiss watch exports plummeted at alarming rates. Historically important brands lost their sense of direction in the midst of this turmoil, most brands entered panic mode.
The Stern family, the owners of Patek Philippe since 1932, had experienced turmoil before and rode out this quartz wave too. Under Philippe Stern’s stewardship, reference 3940 was introduced to the market in 1985. Many consider the introduction of this particular reference as a turning point in the history of Patek Philippe, almost renaissance-like. The 3940 featured a perpetual calendar that would not need adjusting for over 100 years. The sister reference 3970 is a continuation of 2499 whereas the 3940 was a revelation of sorts. The design displayed a touch of modernity, for example, the stepped sub-dials allow the complication to seamlessly blend into the dial. The updated calibre 240Q also played a pivotal role in allowing this complication to be produced at levels never seen in a grand complication. The production of the 3940 spans from 1985 till 2007, a nod to Philippe Stern’s vision that the 3940 was ahead of its time.
This incredibly rare first-generation Beyer-Anniversary 18-carat gold Patek Philippe reference 3940 was originally sold in August 1985. The combination of a yellow gold case paired with a golden dial is reminiscent of past references such as the 1518 and 2499. This particular example features an English calendar, it is estimated that there are only 10 (numbers 16-25) examples with this calendar, the other 15 are in German (numbers 1-15).
All 25 examples feature the Beyer signature at 12 o’clock under the Patek Philippe – Genève. Each piece is number individually at 6 o’clock underneath the moon phase aperture, the prolonged N of No. is a tribute to pocket watches. Regardless of the monotone dial, the polished dauphine hands along with the facetted polished hour batons allow for the timekeeping measurement to be easily distinguished. The sunken sub-dials found at 3 and 9 o’clock are solely dedicated to the perpetual calendar. The sub-dial found at 3 o’clock displays the leap year and month and the sub-dial found at 9 o’clock displays the day, the date is found on the periphery of the moon phase indicator at 6 o’clock. The typography found on the sub-dials matches that of the PATEK PHILIPPE – GENÈVE BEYER.
The solid caseback is signed Patek Philippe No. 770XX, Fabriquée pour le 225 éme anniversaire de Beyer à Zürich 1760 – 1985. The last two numbers of the movement number correspond with the dial number. The case number is found on the underside of the top right lug, the engraving seems to be done by hand. A possible explanation could be that the case numbers were added once the watches were cased up. This is theory is supported by the original certificate of origin which is mainly printed apart from the case number this was handed written onto the document.
The movement found in this example is the venerable caliber 240Q. The clever engineering allows the 3940 to be one of the thinnest perpetual calendars made by Patek Philippe. The importance of this specific caliber cannot be understated, it is still in production today and powers references such as the Nautilus refs. 3712 and 5712, amongst many other references.
This particular example comes with its original box signed Beyer 1760-1985, pusher, original invoice from Beyer, original certificate of origin, and additional paperwork.
Brand: Patek Philippe
Model: Ref. 3940, Beyer Series
Case Diameter: 36mm
Box & Papers: Complete Set.