Guide to Patek Philippe Ref. 3970

John Reardon discusses the ref. 3970 perpetual calendar chronograph and explains the specific details of each of the four production series

In the world of classic, collectible watches, nothing is quite like a Patek Philippe. In this video, Collectability’s John Reardon discusses the Patek Philippe ref. 3970 perpetual calendar chronograph – a sleeper in the world of Patek Philippe watches. Follow the story of the ref. 3970 and why it’s set to increase in value as John explains the specific details of each of the four production series.

The Beginning: Patek Philippe Ref. 3970 in the 1980’s

The ref. 3970 was first released in the mid-80’s. Though its look is understated, it’s anything but simple. However, for some reason the ref. 3970 wasn’t often considered one of the highly collectible models of classic Patek Philippe watches. Even as recently as 2018, people still had conflicting views on the timepiece. But just within the last couple of years, the ref. 3970 is having what John calls a renaissance of understanding.

When the first series of the ref. 3970 perpetual calendar chronograph was released in 1986, there were only 100 initially made. You can recognize the Series I of ref. 3970 from the sunken registers on the calendar – just one of the many details that make this watch the epitome of classic Patek Philippe design. In the same year, a sapphire-backed model ref. 3971 was released, which is even harder to find. Series I is the most desirable of the ref. 3970 series, and it’s also the most difficult to acquire, as watch collectors don’t want to part with them.

Patek Philippe released the second series of the ref. 3970 chronograph in 1987. It was only in production until 1990. The second series took the classic ref. 3970 watch up a notch with a screw back for water resistance and new fits for the apertures. Made in yellow gold, white gold, rose gold, and platinum, John predicts a sharp uptick in desirability, and subsequently, value, on the horizon, making Series 2 of the ref. 3970 a good investment piece for your Patek Philippe collection.

The Slow Build: Patek Philippe Ref. 3970 in the 1990’s

The third series of the ref. 3970 wristwatch, produced from 1990-1995, is where production of this classic Patek Philippe model starts to really take off. There are several design changes that make this series distinct from the previous two, including thicker hands and pointed batons. This third series is a promising investment in the Patek Philippe legacy as well, but for the best example, a ref. 3970 should be with its original box and papers, and unpolished.

The fourth and most recent series of the ref. 3970 emerged in the mid-90’s. It’s nearly indistinguishable from the third series, but nevertheless, still a work of art. The wearability of this watch, and the breadth of detail to admire, make it a great Patek Philippe watch for enthusiasts. This is also a great model for the discerning collector of Patek Philippe watches looking to expand their collection, as its speculative value will rise in the coming years.

As we look to the future of luxury watch collecting and the demand for pristine examples of vintage timepieces from watchmaking legends like Patek Philippe, the ref. 3970 remains one of our favorite Patek Philippe watches. We’re excited the world of watch collecting is learning to love it, too.

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