Throughout the modern era of horology, the designs used by watchmakers from across the world have become all too known. With octagonal and rectangular cases commonplace and round ones par for the course, little is created by watchmakers that has not been seen before. However, this was certainly not always the case, literally and figuratively.
Launched in 1972 and produced for eight years until 1980, the Patek Philippe ref. 3580 is a watch unlike any the brand had created at the time, and certainly remarkably dissimilar to any modern watch that they produce today. Emerging from the creative design era that was the 1970s, the ref. 3580 spans borders Patek traditionally would not cross. Made of stainless steel, a rather unusual material for Patek to use, particularly at the time, the ref. 3580 explored new territory for the Genevan Giants by engaging in a design language that the brand had not yet explored.
Besides its construction material, what makes the ref. 3580's 35mm case so unusual for Patek was its distinctive shape. Oval at first glance, the ref. 3580's case is somewhat squared-off in its four corners, making it slightly more tonneau-shaped upon second inspection. While undoubtedly distinctive from the onset, the ref. 3580's shape is perfect on the wrist as the watch comfortably slots into the divot behind your hand. Aiding its ease of wear on the wrist and forming a core tenet of its aesthetic is the ref. 3580's physical continuity across the border of its case.
While the vast majority of timepieces feature cases with lugs that attach to their bracelets or straps and winding crowns with crown guards to protect them, the ref. 3580 is entirely unscathed by such norms. Instead, the ref. 3580 implements its strap attachments and winding stem from behind its case, thus allowing its tonneau-shaped case's border to be uninterrupted. A cosmetic choice by nature, this shift in design compounds upon the ref. 3580's unique and comfortable case size and shape, thus enabling the ref. 3580 to wear on the wrist, unlike nearly any other watch.
Inspired by the technological age that was setting upon watchmaking at the time of the ref. 3580's issuance, Patek wanted the ref. 3580 to look just like a battery-operated watch - unencumbered by tasks like winding or time-setting. As such, they fitted the ref. 3580 with the automatic back-wind cal. 350 movement (and the cal. 1350 later on in its production) with a winding crown that folds flat to the ref. 3580's caseback. A symbol of modernity, progress, and technical innovation, the ref. 3580 is a beautiful testament to Patek and their willingness to step out of their comfort zone and seek inspiration in some of the most unusual places - like battery-powered watches.
Already a rare watch just by virtue of its status as the only back-wind stainless steel Patek Philippe model, the ref. 3580 is even objectively rare too, with just 500 examples estimated to have been produced over the reference's 8-year lifetime. Sporting a simple silver dial with applied hour markers, the ref. 3580 is a watch that is perhaps one of Patek Philippe's most stylistically consistent designs ever. As such, it is immediately recognizable for its unique look on the wrist, and unique place within Patek Philippe's history books.