In my pursuit of the rarest, the most unusual and the funkiest along with the best value watches out there I came across rarefied Patek Philippe models that were rarely seen in their time on the western continent. The same can be said of similar Audemars Piguet of the era but I believe those were found also in Europe. The case for Patek Philippe is much more interesting.
Many of these Patek Philippe are in steel and most follow a certain late1960s to 1970s aesthetic, falling between Golden Ellipse and Tonneau shapes there seems to be a certain specific vibe catering to the disco era Asian market.
The first reference that comes to my mind is the 3580, with it’s ovaloid shape and backwinding bumper movement. I’ve had a few through the years (two rare ones on bracelet in stock right now!) and all of them came from Japanese original owner.
Another reference that I recently sold that follows completely suit is the Patek Philippe 3418 with the mesh bracelet, the one I just had in fact had Japanese Patek Philippe warranty! Seems like steel metal and plain or blue dials were the Japanese preference of the time.
Form follows function in these Patek Philippe’s, luxurious in it’s construction yet understated in it’s colors and materials, so Japanese minimalist!
Below another reference that often comes from the Japanese estate market reference 3563 with it’s backwinder movement and integrated bracelet, many of them come in mint conditions. I guess bought (or gifted) but not really worn.
The most iconic reference of these esoteric series of watches has to be the 3579, with it’s futuristic shape reminiscent of the forthcoming Aquanaut along with it’s mechanical manual wind movement and screw back case it really embodies the design language I am trying to elucidate on. I’ve had a bunch through the years and they always sell in a flash!
Doubling down on the Tonneau fest another iconic and deep down the rabbit hole reference 3574 I believe also exclusively found in the Asian secondary market with blue or silver dial (which seems to be the ongoing Nipponic option)
Blue or silver dials, tonneau shaped cases and automatic bumper movement or screw back case manual wind caliber seem to be the ingredients of these obscure references.
I really enjoy hunting them besides for the value they bring (a rare Patek Philippe which is in steel typically below $15k is quite a find) but also for this design language that really resonates with me. Utilitarian but luxurious giving me sorta vintage Leica camera vibe!
Honorable mention goes to the fabled reference 3770, which isn’t a “japanese market” watch but certainly fits the bill in terms of design and vibe. I’ve been chasing this reference through the years and I was lucky I believe twice.
The 3770 Nautellipse or Ellipsilus is the hybrid child of the Golden Ellipse and the Nautilus, featuring a Quartz movement (super rich in it’s time) .
I hope you enjoyed this little overview of obscure 1970s Patek Philippe’s as much as I enjoyed showing you!