3569 Patek Philippe Backwind Calatrava
Patek’s Calatrava always reminds me a quote from Charles de Gaulle, when asked by journalist how he might go about uniting France in wartime he replied, ‘How can you govern a country which has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?’ Patek’s Calatrava has seen hundreds, if not thousands of varieties. It’s a fundamentally delicious thing which has endured the inevitable slide toward decadence through proliferation. But the 3569, produced 1969-’86, is one of the most innovative, experimental, and differentiated three-handers out there.
First there’s the obvious: its finish. The yellow gold dial is decorated with a hand-hammered texture that could easily be mistaken for a modern Grand Seiko technique. Except this was the 70s, there was nothing else like it at the time. Even its white gold 35.5mm case was given similar attention, decorated in the same finish with a tighter grouping to the hammering, radially applied. If you look really closely, you’ll even note that indices and handset are inlaid with not tritium, but blue enamel. And if you have a very keen eye amongst all these details, you’ll notice there is no crown.
Well, there is, but this is a back wind. Not only that, but to capitalize on that winding style it’s one of the earliest peripheral rotor automatics ever. Patek was first to patent a peripheral rotor movement in 1965 and this is a continuation of that first calibre, the I-350. The combination of a back wind and peripheral rotor allowed a considerably thinner case profile. Unfortunately, it also proved to be a place for moisture to get trapped from the wrist and enter the movement. This proved too problematic and was the achilles heel of an excellent try, the idea was scrapped after this reference by ’85. It was a whole lot of effort in engineering and development which didn’t quite work out. But that’s what’s required to be the world’s preeminent watchmaker, you have to be audacious enough to get it wrong once in awhile. And if you’re going to be wrong, at least look good doing it. This definitely does the latter.
Thankfully, this example seems to have been little worn, as its dial and movement show little to no moisture damage. It is running well and every detail appears in spec, gorgeous. There’s no tritium to age but some of the deeper portions of the dials texture appear to have oxidized slightly, leading to a beautifully varied finish. I really love these, and good ones are hard to come by. It comes from a well-regarded Singaporean retailer.