Certainly one of the most attractive specimens of all reference 3939, the present watch has been consigned by an important private collector. Launched in 1993 and produced until 2009, the reference 3939 is one of the very few Patek Philippe models to feature an enamel dial with Breguet numerals. Crafted in 1999, the present watch is very special in being one of the very few examples to be enhanced by a special order dial. The black enamel dial with white gold Breguet numerals is quite likely to be unique and makes a wonderful classic contrast to the ‘white’ colour of the platinum case. This stunning aesthetic is the reason the ‘black and white’ combination was used for the unique stainless steel reference 3939 produced especially for ‘Only Watch in 2011, selling for 1.4 million Euros.
The reference 3939 is one of the most elegant and understated grand complication timepieces of recent times. Uniting the audible charms of a two-gong minute repeater with the gravity-defying precision of a tourbillon escapement. In keeping with its eternal style, reference 3939 ignores the contemporary trend for larger cases, measuring 33 mm. in diameter, an remarkable achievement for such a technically sophisticated timepiece.
Preserved in excellent overall condition with a case displaying clear hallmarks and no apparent signs of polishing, the mechanism provides a beautiful, clear and distinctive tone, particular to reference 3939 minute repeaters which are noted for their individual sonorous tones.
The Extract from the Archives accepts the ‘black dial, white gold Breguet numerals, dotted minute track’ and although the remark states ‘the above dial is not mentioned in our archives’ this is not necessarily unusual for watches of relatively recent manufacture.
The Donzé Enamel Dial
A close inspection of the dial reveals that the under 6 o’clock the Swiss has a triangle, or delta, on each side in black enamel. It is known that 3939 enamel dials from this period were made by Donzé Cadrans S.A. in Le Locle, Switzerland. The surprising element of this dial is that it is believed that Donzé placed the ‘Delta’ triangles on the dial as a sort of secret signature of his work, D for Delta for Donzé. These marks are easily mistaken for the APRIOR, or sigma marks, seen on dials made with gold elements. Interestingly, the 3939 dials were made with gold base plates but did not have the APRIOR mark.
Master Enameller Francis Donzé started his family company in 1972 and his niche business soon became a supplier of enamel dials to many of the most important watchmaking companies in the world, in particular Patek Philippe. In 1987, Mr. Donzé retired and his family continued the business of traditional enamel dial making. In 2012, Ulysse Nardin acquired Donzé Cadrans.
Made by Ateliers Réunis, Geneva Master case-maker whose mark is the key for Geneva, and 28 to identify Ateliers Réunis. Ateliers Réunis, formerly Marcel Pugin, was one the most important suppliers to Patek Philippe, so much so, that when the casemaker suffered during the crisis in the 1970s and 1980s, Patek and the Stern family supported them, eventually taking over the company.
Caliber RO 27 PS, made circa 1999. Rhodiumed brass, 28 jewels, 21’600 alternances, one-minute tourbillon with straight line lever escapement, Gyromax balance, Breguet curve balance spring, eight adjustments.
In the early 20th century, Patek Philippe started to deliver ‘miniature’ (small size, under 14’’’ or 32 mm) minute repeater mechanisms, especially for Tiffany & Co, and soon made the first wristwatches with this complication. Originally an attempt to improve accuracy, tourbillons are today produced for their mesmerizing visual appeal and as a fashion product, therefore most of the brands show it through the dial. Only Patek Philippe remained traditional and classic, not sacrificing quality or good time keeping for aesthetic, kept it visible only from the back through a transparent display back.
Officially launched in 1993 and remained in production until 2009, available in all three gold versions and in platinum. The present watch is reference 3939H. The ‘H’ for ‘Haute’, meaning that the half-round longer Cathedral gong makes the space needed higher.
One of the most elegant and understated of Patek Philippe’s Grand Complication timepieces of recent times, only 200 pieces were ever made and less than 20 examples in platinum are known to have returned to the market. Each watch of the series was tested for precision timekeeping before being awarded a C.O.S.C. certificate for superlative accuracy – a remarkable achievement in a complicated watch because any additional function in a watch, such as minute repeating, often adversely affects its timekeeping qualities. In keeping with its eternal style, reference 3939 ignores the contemporary trend for larger cases, measuring 34 mm. in diameter, it is a feat of technical excellence that makes it a watch of immense sophistication. As with all Patek Philippe minute repeaters, the present watch had to pass one final test before being handed over to its future owner - since Patek Philippe launched the production of these cherished timepieces in 1989, not a single one left the workshop before Philippe Stern, the company's president until 2009, now honorable president, had deemed the sound of its chiming worthy of the firm's exemplary standards. In the tranquility of his office, Mr. Stern listened to the sound of each watch to assure the inimitable richness of timbre that is one of the trademarks of Patek Philippe's minute repeating wristwatches.
Reference 3939 with movement no. 1'903'000 and calibre RTO 27 PS was never sold, given to the Patek Philippe Museum and is illustrated in Patek Philippe Wristwatches by Martin Huber & Alan Banbery, second edition, p. 330.