The Patek Philippe Amagnetic Reference 3417

The Patek Philippe Amagnetic Reference 3417

| 06.06.24

Imagine, if you will, the scientific landscape of the late 1950s.

The atomic bomb is old news, as is the mainframe computer. The first nuclear submarine, the U.S.S. Nautilus, had recently launched in 1954, and Sputnik captured the world’s imagination in 1957, igniting the Space Race. The International Geophysical Year, a worldwide scientific collaboration, would last through 1958. 

CERN's Synchrocyclotron accelerator - (Image by CERN)

It was against this backdrop of vast technological progress that various Swiss watch companies — among them Rolex, Omega, and IWC — began experimenting with anti-magnetic timepieces. In 1956, Rolex debuted the Milgauss Ref. 6541 — tested by scientists at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Meyrin, Switzerland, it could resist magnetic fields of up to 1,000 Gauss. A year later, Omega debuted its Railmaster. Both watches used soft inner iron cages to protect their movements, whose componentry was otherwise susceptible to the magnetic fields generated by various types of scientific equipment. 

Patek Philippe Ref. 3417 and 2570/1 ad - (Image by Deployant)

Patek Philippe, historically a maker of elegant dress watches and complicated calendar pieces, entered the anti-magnetic arena in 1958 with a watch whose simple aesthetics belied a highly considered design. The Reference 3417, measuring 35mm in stainless steel, was already notable upon its birth for its shunning of precious metal. Furthermore, a screw-down caseback in place of the typical snap-back variety signaled behind-the-scenes goings-on that differentiated this reference from its contemporary brethren. 

Patek Philippe Amagnetic - IN THE SHOP

The manually-wound Calibre 12’’’400 AM, launched in 1949, features an inner iron cover designed to resist magnetic fields up to 450 oersteds. Similar in construction to the preceding Calibre 12’’’200 used in several Calatrava references, it boasts a shock-resistant balance wheel suspension. In 1960, it was upgraded with beryllium and duo-chrome componentry as well as a Gyromax balance wheel, and dubbed the Calibre 27-AM-400. Period literature boasts that the steel 3417 (as well as the gold 2750/1) “have been created especially for X-ray technicians, atomic physicists, and engineers.”  

 The manually-wound Patek Philippe Calibre 12’’’400 AM

The 3417’s silver dial is a picture of Art Deco-inspired elegance — a far cry from the technically-driven engineering powering its innards: An outer, printed minute track is accented by extra-long, applied white gold baton indices, which are interrupted by a single numerical index at 12 o’clock in a similarly elongated typography. Thin, white gold pencil hands keep the design clean, while a large sub-seconds display at 6 o’clock with a printed seconds track smacks more of classical watchmaking than contemporary tool watch design. Patek Philippe’s signature below 12 o’clock is joined by the word “Amagnetic,” the maison’s designation for such anti-magnetic references, which is executed in an elegant cursive.

Finished with straight lugs, a signed crown, and an acrylic crystal, the Reference 3417 is a strange mix of unassuming tool watch practicality and the refined elegance inherent in every Patek Philippe design. Produced until the late 1960s, this model is a reflection of a time in which watchmaking strove to provide utility to professionals of all stripes who were experimenting with new technologies, from SCUBA apparatus to nuclear reactors. The romanticism with which modern collectors associate this period — which was otherwise overshadowed by the uncertainty and fear of the Cold War — has no doubt contributed to the dizzying heights of popularity and unparalleled auction results for the 3417 in the 2010s and 2020s.

 Patek Philippe Amagnetic - IN THE SHOP

Produced in 1962, the Reference 3417A for sale at Analog:Shift is a stunningly preserved example of this important model. Accompanied by an extract from the Patek Philippe archives and paired to a signed, black alligator leather strap with a signed pin buckle, it’s a virtual time capsule from the 1960s — one of the most elegant periods of horological design. And while virtually any stainless steel Patek carries a premium, the 3417, by virtue of its rarity and special remit, operates on an entirely different plane. 

Contact us to view and purchase this unique watch in our NYC boutique today!