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Patek Philippe 3940, a Little Sleeping Giant

by The Horology Club 12 Jun 2022
I have always wanted a Patek Philippe Grand Complication. But for a long time, the hefty price tag prevented me from achieving this goal. When a good friend of mine introduced me to the 3940 perpetual calendar which traded at half the price of its current iteration, the 5327, I was tempted. However, like many potential buyers of the 3940, I was worried that the 36mm case might wear too small on the wrist. Unable to make my mind up, I started to read more about the historical significance of this reference. The more I read, the more I was amazed. It goes a little something like this…
It is the year of 1985. The Swiss watch industries were still suffering from the quartz crisis. Many were shrinking production or turning to the new technology in order to survive. But the audacious Philippe Stern, then president of Patek Philippe, asks “What quartz crisis?” and bam! He releases the 3940 and 3970, a pair of highly complicated watches, kick-starting the serial production of Grand Complications. This was his daring way of demonstrating the brand’s commitment to tradition and heritage, doubling-down on his beliefs under an era of uncertainty. Man has balls.
When my friend, who introduced me to the reference, found me a good deal on a 3rd series 3940J and convinced me that 36mm was the right size, I could no longer resist the temptation and pulled the trigger. I am glad I did so. It is perfect for my 6.5 inch wrist. The three sub-dials bring a lot of depth on its lightly brushed opaline dial, whereas the solidity of the blended lugs create volume. The combined effects make this piece wear larger than one might expect from a 36mm watch.

Turning the watch over, you will see one of the most attractive aspects of the watch - the beautiful 22k Micro Rotor. Thanks to which, one can admire the intricate 240Q movement without any obstruction. It also allows the case to be made as thin as 9mm, turning the watch into a stealthy little piece of art, hiding effortlessly under your cuff. I enjoy the fact that it does not draw as much attention in public as some of the more popular models from Patek, but when you meet fellow horological enthusiasts, it becomes a truly conversation piece.

It is no coincidence that Philippe Stern, former President of Patek Philippe, a man who could wear any watch as he pleased, chose to wear a 3940 every day.
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