Which are the perpetual calendars that ruled this year’s Watches & Wonders?
One broke a world record and another has three patents pending – watchmakers this year are using the king of calendar complications to remind us why they represent the pinnacle of watchmaking.
The perpetual calendar, prized for its convenience and praised for its complexity, has become a hallmark of watchmaking proficiency. But even among the brands that are good enough to make them, there exist a handful that can still stir the hearts of even those who have grown used to such indulgent horology.
Whether it’s through technical innovation or smart design choices, these are the perpetual calendars that prove they’ve got what it takes to accompany you and your descendants till the year 2100.
A. LANGE & SOHNE LANGE 1 PERPETUAL CALENDAR
Believe it or not, this is actually the first Lange 1 to feature only a perpetual calendar; there are no tourbillons or chronographs here to share the precious real estate in the iconic Lange 1 layout. Still, purity like this required a thoughtful approach and an entirely new movement.
Based on the Lange 1 Daymatic’s L021.1, the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar’s calibre L021.3 is A. Lange & Sohne’s 67th manufacture movement, and comes with a power reserve of 50 hours.
The signature outsized date is still in its familiar place, while the day of the week is displayed using a retrograde hand (where the power reserve indicator is typically found on other models).
The months can be found in a peripheral ring created specially for this design; the leap year is placed in a small window at 6 o’clock; and the moon phase and day/night indicator occupy the seconds sub-dial.
There are two precious versions of the watch. One is in pink gold with a grey-coloured silver dial and a red-brown leather strap. The other might excite those who missed out on the 2019 Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon in white gold with a pink gold dial, as this combination returns now in 150 pieces with a dark brown leather strap.
BVLGARI OCTO FINISSIMO PERPETUAL CALENDAR
By this point, it would be more surprising if Bulgari didn’t break a world record this year than if it did.
For 2021, Bulgari presents its Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar and it is now – you guessed it – the world’s thinnest perpetual calendar, making it the brand’s seventh world record in seven years.
Somehow, 408 components have managed to squeeze into a 2.75mm thick BVL 305 movement, giving the case an overall height of just 5.8mm.
Like many of the models in the Octo Finissimo line, the dial design is modern and austere, featuring a retrograde date display in the top half of the dial, days and months in two sub-dials in the lower half, and retrograde leap years at 6 o’clock.
The date corrector can be found at 2 o’clock, the month corrector at 4 o’clock, and the day corrector between 8 o’clock and 9 o’clock. This model uses a micro-rotor and provides a respectable power reserve of 60 hours.
The 40mm wide watch comes in two versions: Sand-blasted titanium with a ceramic insert with titanium crown, dial and bracelet, or satin-brushed and polished platinum with a white gold crown, blue lacquered dial and blue alligator strap.
CHOPARD L.U.C PERPETUAL CHRONO
Chopard is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the year it decided to take watchmaking seriously with its L.U.C manufacture movements, and while there are indeed a number of stunning anniversary models, we would like to highlight a much stealthier novelty: The L.U.C Perpetual Chrono in titanium.
First launched in 2016 in Fairmined 18K white gold, this perpetual calendar and chronograph isn’t just coming in a new case material, but with refined looks, too. The most significant change is the replacement of the stylised Roman numerals with sharp and simple dauphine fusee-type ones.
This new sleekness pairs well with the slate grey dial (achieved by galvanic treatment on an 18K gold base) and sunburst guilloche. A hint of red at the quarter hours and the tips of the chronograph hands breaks the monotony, giving the otherwise elegant dress watch a whisper of sportiness.
It’s still the manual winding L.U.C 03.10-L in-house movement that powers it, giving the watch a date window at 12 o’clock, a moon phase at 6 o’clock and a flyback chronograph.
The rest of the calendar indications are split between two sub-dials at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock respectively. The beautifully finished movement bears the Hallmark of Geneva. Limited to 20 pieces.
IWC BIG PILOT PERPETUAL CALENDAR EDITION “MOJAVE DESERT”
Pilot’s watches are supposed to be extremely easy to read but what’s a little squinting when the colourway looks as good as it does in this sandy Big Pilot’s Watch?
The muted ceramic of the “Mojave Desert” theme first appeared in the Pilot’s Watch collection in 2019, and has finally made the jump to IWC’s Big Pilot’s Watch line alongside a simpler model with time and date.
Many perpetual calendar movements can only dream of the utility the automatic calibre 52615 offers, as it boasts a highly precise moon phase that only needs adjusting by one day after 577.5 years; a perpetual calendar that can be easily adjusted in either direction via a single crown; and a power reserve of seven days.
The watch lives up to its name thanks to a 46.5mm case, and comes with a rubber strap with textile inlays in the same beautifully muted shade. The best part? This isn’t a limited edition, though it will be a limited production of 150 pieces per year.
MONTBLANC HERITAGE MANUFACTURE PERPETUAL CALENDAR LIMITED EDITION 100
Vintage watches have a lovely charm that almost makes the inconvenience of maintaining and servicing them bearable. Vintage-inspired watches, on the other hand, have all the good looks and the modern concessions to make them hugely popular if done tastefully.
Montblanc, as it continually proves with its Heritage collection, has it down to a T, and its latest addition is no exception.
In 2019, the brand released its first manufacture perpetual calendar movement – the automatic calibre MB 29.22 with a patented system of wheels and cams (instead of levers) that allows the wearer to set the calendar indications bi-directionally via the crown.
It was set beneath a silvered dial in a case of stainless steel or rose gold, and it looked perfectly pleasant, if a little forgettable. But this year’s edition is a stunner thanks to a fresh new burnt caramel dial and an 18K rose gold case.
Inside the 40mm case is a domed and lacquered face decorated with three types of finishes: A sunray-brushed middle, snailed sub-dials, and a grained outer ring. The sfumato (smoky) brown dial is echoed by a brown alligator strap tanned to the same effect. Limited to 100 pieces.
PATEK PHILIPPE IN-LINE PERPETUAL CALENDAR REF. 5236P-001
Many believe the busyness of perpetual calendar dials are part of the appeal, but legibility has its fans too.
Patek Philippe has offered a variety of displays over the years that mix and match apertures, retrograde hands and sub-dials, but its latest creation is one of its cleanest yet.
Inspired by the brand’s Ref. 725/4 Lepine pocket from 1972, the new Ref. 5236P-001 borrowed the idea of an in-line calendar display – where the day, date and month are lined up in one neat aperture – and miniaturised it for the wrist for the first time.
It was a straightforward goal with a highly challenging execution.
If the Ref. 5236P-001 followed the original architecture of the watch, a single date disc with 31 dates wouldn’t fit into a wrist-sized case, but simply reducing the disc size would cause the date to be too small to read, and cause a difference in disc thickness.
Patek Philippe’s solution then was to split up the date into two discs – one for the tens and one for the units – so there would be a total of four discs to display the day, date and month, all of them perfectly embedded on the same plane.
The calibre 31-260 PS QL’s six-year journey has earned it three pending patents.
The first is for the calendar mechanism’s two coplanar double ball bearings that help to keep all the indications in one plane. The second is for a shock absorber mechanism that prevents disc bounce in the event of a jolt or when the date is being adjusted. The last one is for a mechanism that ensures the date unit remains in position when transitioning from the 31st to the 1st of the following month.
The movement was based on the existing 31-260 REG QA (found in the Ref. 5235 Annual Calendar) because of its slimness, and despite adding 118 extra parts to build the perpetual calendar module, the entire watch remains a svelte 11.07mm thick.
The 31-260 PS QL also features a spring barrel with 20 per cent more torque than its predecessor; a micro-rotor in platinum instead of 22K gold for extra winding power; and an increased frequency of 4Hz over 3.2Hz.
The three correctors for the calendar are recessed in the case flank between 8 o’clock and 2 o’clock, while the moon phase corrector is positioned at 8 o’clock. The power reserve is a standard 48 hours.
Presented in a 41.3mm platinum case with a blue dial with applied hours and baton hands in white gold, the Ref. 5236P-001 is a fine example of simplicity ruling over showmanship.
VACHERON CONSTANTIN OVERSEAS PERPETUAL CALENDAR ULTRA-THIN
If there’s one thing you can count on aside from death and taxes, it’s Vacheron Constantin’s annual watchmaking flex.
Once again, it presented some breathtakingly complicated and artistic watches at Watches & Wonders, but today we are focusing on something you can reasonably wear every day: The Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin in white gold.
This isn’t a brand new watch, but it is a memorable one. The skeletonised version was originally cased in pink gold, and won the Calendar and Astronomy Watch Prize at last year’s Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve (GPHG).
Now it is available for the first time in white gold, and its dark blue accents work to give the timepieces a more subdued presence. There is also a reference with a blue lacquered dial with a sunburst satin finish for an even more casual take. Both come with three easily interchangeable straps and bracelets.
Measuring 41.5mm wide and a mere 8.1mm tall, the pair are powered by the elaborately decorated 120 QPSQ/1 for the skeletonised model and the 1120 QP/1 (viewable through a sapphire crystal case back) with the same 40-hour power reserve and Hallmark of Geneva certification.