Patek Philippe’s Calatrava is the final word in understated elegance, a pinnacle of three-handers. Since the ref. 96 of 1932, the Calatrava has always underpinned Patek’s entire collection. This 3796 carried the flag from 1982 until 1999. In doing so, it maintained the classic 30.5mm (or 31, depending on who you ask) case proportion but updated its movement in the form of a very thin manual calibre 215 PS. The philosophy of the Calatrava has always been that of the Bauhaus: ‘function dictates form’. Here, I’m not sure that form could’ve been more beautiful if they’d tried explicitly.
Hailing from one of the most increasingly collected eras of Patek, the 3796 is seeing a brighter spotlight of the last few years. This is not without merit. First, the details; I love that its case is polished on the upper and lower surfaces, but given a satin finish on its sides and caseback for contrast. Then, note the little sigma markings flanking SWISS at 6, this notation existed from 1973 to 2000 as a way of noting that precious metal was also in use on the dial and generally are quite desirable.
Its 215 PS (PS for petite seconde) movement beats at 28800 vph and updated the balance to a PP Gyromax. Moreover, it measures just 2.55mm in height and is finished within an inch of its life, the latter earning it a Geneva Seal. I particularly love Geneva Seal Patek movements, as something about the later Patek seal just feels a bit too much like asking your kid to grade their own homework.
This example is in a lovely state. Its tapered lugs are full, the dial is clear of any red flags, and even surface wear is minimal. It comes recently serviced with an extract, full set, and PP-signed WG buckle from a well-regarded Japanese retailer.
Find this 3796 here from Arbitro Japan for ~17000 USD.