Usually the word “complication” doesn’t have a positive connotation. However, in the world of (mechanical) watches, a complication means that the watch is capable of doing – or showing – something extraordinary. A date display is already considered a complication, but the most common and sought-after complication is probably the chronograph. Its status as the most common and most sought-after complication doesn’t mean the chronograph isn’t a complex mechanism, on the contrary. However, there are also complications that are less common, yet still highly regarded, such as a minute repeaters, annual calendars, or perpetual calendars.
Annual calendars are capable of advancing the date at the end of the month from the 30th to 1st, or 31st to 1st, depending on the month. The only manual interference with an annual calendar is in the month of February, where you have to advance the date from the 28th to 1st, or from the 29th to 1st. A perpetual calendar, as the name suggests, is a calendar that doesn’t need this manual correction in February (or rather in March).
A perpetual calendar mechanism is ‘programmed’ to follow the Gregorian calendar. Most perpetual calendar watches available are able to run until 2199 without correction, and then after a small replacement, they will run until 2499. Let’s hope there will still be traditional watchmakers around in 2199 who can do a proper job. A perpetual calendar watch does not come cheap. Jaeger-LeCoultre just announced the release of their new Master Perpetual Calendar watch in stainless steel, which will run just under €20,000. Price figures can easily double, or even triple, if you’re looking at perpetual calendar pieces by Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet in precious metal.
In the pre-owned market you may find a perpetual calendar for under €10,000, but it will probably be a watch that is rather unpopular due to its shape, small size, or odd-looking dial. However, if you love the technique behind the perpetual calendar and don’t mind your watch looking outdated, you might find some interesting watches for interesting prices.
Below are ten perpetual calendars that we think are beautiful and special. Many come with a dial displaying lots of information: day, date, week, month, year, moon phase etc., and others only have a date aperture and leap year indicator. Although the perpetual calendar is quite a hefty complication, there is a piece available for everyone’s taste.
Patek Philippe Grand Complication reference 5140
This watch has a very classic, Calatrava-esque case in gold or platinum with day, date, month, leap year, 24 hour, and moon phase indicators. It is a relatively small watch with a 37.2 mm diameter case, but it’s very elegant. Patek Philippe‘s caliber 240Q movement is used for this reference 5140G.
IWC Schaffhausen Portuguese Perpetual Calendar
The IWC Portuguese Perpetual Calendar is one of the most popular perpetual calendars on Chrono24. It has a 44.2 mm diameter case featuring day, date, month, four-digit year, and moon phase indicators. We find the year indication is especially well done. The famous automatic movement from IWC has a power reserve of 7 days.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar reference 25820ST.OO.0944ST.05
This reference has a successor in 41 mm, but we love the 39 mm version. It corresponds with the size of the original Royal Oak (5402A) from 1972. This stainless steel perpetual calendar watch has a dial with day, date, month, leap year, and moon phase indicators. Audemars Piguet‘s famous caliber 2120 has been modified to a 2120/2802 to become a perpetual calendar.
A. Lange & Söhne Langematik Perpetual Calendar
This perpetual calendar from A. Lange & Söhne‘s Langematik collection offers a German countervailing force to the list. The watch also features day, date, month, leap year, 24-hour, and moon phase indicators. However, the date of this caliber L922.1 movement is in ‘big date’ format. The Langematik Perpetual Calendar is housed in a very modest 38.5 mm case.
Glashütte Original Senator Perpetual Calendar
This stainless steel watch with a perpetual calendar complication has a relatively friendly list price of approximately €18,000. The caliber 100-02 from Glashütte Original is capable of showing the day, date, month, and moon phase on a clean, crisp dial. Blue hands against a white dial may sound classic, but the layout is quite special and the watch comes in a modern case size of 42 mm. The ‘big date’ is realized in a very smart way.
Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Perpetual Calendar reference 43175/000R-9687
The Vacheron Constantin Patrimony with its classic, simple, round case in rose gold is already a beautifully timeless piece, but the perpetual calendar edition is simply amazing. Day, date, month, leap year, and moon phase indicators are perfectly arranged on the dial. Inside the case is Vacheron Constantin’s legendary caliber 1120QP movement, which was also reintroduced in the Overseas collection this year.
Ulysse Nardin GMT Perpetual reference 322-66
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – that’s all we’ll say about this bold perpetual calendar made by Ulysse Nardin in Le Locle, Switzerland. This 42 mm timepiece may just appeal to a certain taste, but it houses a beautiful caliber UN-32 movement with day, date, month, and two-digit year indicators on the dial. It’s also one of the rare perpetual calendars that can be adjusted forwards and backwards in time.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Eight Days Perpetual Calendar reference 1618420
This Jaeger-LeCoultre is best described as an elegant and complex timepiece. It has a 40 mm stainless steel case that comes with the beautiful handwound caliber 876-440b movement. Furthermore, it has a power reserve of 8 days! In addition to the calendar indicators, it has a power reserve and AM/PM indicator.
Breguet Perpetual Calendar reference 5327BB/1E/986
Breguet is the pride of the Swatch Group. One could say that former Swatch CEO Hayek Sr. single-handedly saved Breguet from going bankrupt with the money he earned from his brilliant plastic watches. Breguet’s Perpetual Calendar reference 5327BB/1E/986 is a beautiful 39 mm white gold timepiece with the brand’s typical hand-guilloché dial. Breguet‘s caliber 502.3.DRP is a perpetual calendar movement capable of indicating day, date, month, leap year, power reserve, and moon phase. The hand-engraved movement deserves credit in its own right, it is just as stunning to look at as the dial.
H.Moser & Cie. Endeavour Perpetual Calendar reference 1341-0300
Our top 10 list ends with an interesting fellow: the H. Moser & Cie. Endeavour Perpetual Calendar. It doesn’t look like your average perpetual calendar by any means. Its clean-looking dial doesn’t give any indicator that it is a perpetual calendar. The window at 3 o’clock shows the date, the small, pointy hand indicates the month, and a leap year indicator is visible on the hand-wound calibre HMC 341 movement. This low-profile perpetual calendar is easy on the eyes, and may be a solution for those who don’t like cluttered dials, but do want this complication.
By Robert-Jan Broer