One of the bedrocks of the Patek Philippe collection is its classic dress watch- the Calatrava. A necessary foundation piece for any Haute Horlogerie brand, the dress watch archetype is a must and with the Calatrava, Patek Philippe continues to build on its rich tradition to this day.
For a bit of historical context, we go back to the ’30s when Charles and Henri Stern purchased the Patek Philippe brand. To revamp the manufacture, the first model they produced is, of course, the Calatrava. The Ref. 96 came in 1932, at a time when wristwatches were beginning to take over pocket watches and it was a move that cemented their status as one of the eminent watch brands of the world. To this day, the Stern family still owns Patek Philippe and you can tell that the Calatrava, and in particular this first reference, is very important to them.
In the 1980s, under the helm of Philippe Stern, the brand introduced the Ref. 3796, which is what you see here today. What many do not realise, is that the Ref. 3796 is nearly a one-to-one recreation of the original Calatrava. From its case size to its coin-edged bezel, it wears the same. Personally, I see it as a tribute and a nod to the family heritage of both Patek and the Sterns and a historically important reference.
What we have here today is an exceptional variant of the Ref. 3796, presented in a rose-on-rose configuration. This essentially entails a rose gold dial that blends seamlessly into a rose gold case. With the Ref. 3796R, the combination just clicks. It imparts a distinctly classical and vintage aura evoking the traditional aesthetic codes of the Art Deco era—an unmistakable old-world charm if you will. With its 31mm case seemingly on the small side by today’s standards, its long lugs ensure that it wears larger than its diameter suggests.
The rose gold dial of the Ref. 3796R showcases a vertical satin-brushed texture, complemented by finely crafted rose gold dauphine hands and appliqué baton indexes. Positioned at 6 o'clock, a small-seconds sub-dial is discreetly incorporated, and if you look even closer, beneath this sub-dial you will find a “σ SWISS MADE σ” signature. Here, the sigma symbol is intentionally used to signify the use of precious metal on the dial, underscoring and emphasizing its inherent value.
From within, the Ref. 3796R is powered by an 18-jewelled, 10-ligne, manual-winding Cal. 215 PS (which stands for petite seconde), which was the very first caliber to house Patek Philippe's patented Gyromax balance wheel operating at a frequency of 28,800 vph.
The Calatrava is widely regarded as the epitome of the ideal dress watch, a sentiment I wholeheartedly share and agree with. The Ref. 3796R is arguably the final iteration of the Calatrava series that closely mirrors the original Ref. 96, it is as pure as it gets. With perfect proportions and elegance, this Ref. 3796R is a great dress watch and one that remains understated, until someone who knows notices.