Calendar Pre-Selected Watches: Round Table Discussion Of The Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2014
by Ian Skellern
From now until the end of October, we will bring you round table discussions on the pre-selected wristwatches in each category of the 2014 edition of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.
This will give you the chance to listen to well-known tastemakers and journalists in the world of horology talking about their favorites in each category and the watches’ chances. And please don’t hesitate to let us know if you agree or not: taste is subjective.
Note: each contributor is responsible for his or her own opinion, and it may not reflect the stance of Quill & Pad.
Quill & Pad editor-in-chief Elizabeth Doerr may not participate in these round tables as she is one of the judges for the 2014 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève and must retain neutrality. In today’s edition you will read the following participants:
IS Ian Skellern, co-founder of Quill & Pad
JM Joshua Munchow, resident “nerdwriter” for Quill & Pad
GG GaryG, resident collector for Quill & Pad
BW Bernard Werk, editor-in-chief of Watching
FS Felix Scholz, editor at Time+Tide Watches, Australia
It should be noted that our panel members did not discuss their final choices with each other beforehand and chose their predicted winning watches individually.
A valid calendar watch for this category is a mechanical timepiece comprising at least one calendar and/or astronomical complication (e.g., annual calendar, perpetual calendar, equation of time, complex moon-phase display, etc.). Additional indications and/or complications are admissible.
IS: Wow, this really is a vintage year for calendar watches; talk about spoilt for choice. My fellow panel members and I have been unanimous (Ladies, Ladies High-Mech), or near unanimous (Chronographs), three out of four times so far (Men’s being the exception), and I predict (perhaps foolishly) that, as strong as these pre-selected contenders are, we just might reach a consensus here as well.
FS: Without a doubt my favorite calendar in this lineup is the Breguet Classique Tourbillon Quantième Perpétuel. The traditional dial layout plus the finishing plus that skeletonized dial all add up to a watch that is “super-Breguet,” a really classically-styled piece that is just stunning. I don’t think it will make it over the line in this selection, but if you were to give me my pick of these six watches it’d be the Breguet all day, every day.
IS: I’m a big fan of skeleton dials too, Felix, because I love seeing the movement without having to turn a watch over. The movement from the dial side of the Breguet looks absolutely spectacular. And if that isn’t enough, the tourbillon adds even more visual interest (and the view through the display back is stunning as well). Those blued-steel Breguet hands make reading the indications relatively easy on what is quite a busy dial side.
Zenith is having a good Grand Prix: the Captain Winsor Annual Calendar is the brand’s second pre-selected watch here, while the El Primero 410 Chronograph is the other. Ex-MIH (Musée International d’Horlogerie in La Chaux-de-Fonds) director Ludwig Oechslin developed this innovative annual calendar mechanism for the MIH watch, and Zenith has used his technology to add real functionality to the brilliant El Primero chronograph. I love the clean legibility of all the indications, no easy task with a chronograph with day, date and month. And at a price below $10,000, the Captain Winsor is as accessible as it is superb.
I don’t think that the Zenith Captain Winsor will win this category (though it should be in the top three), but it is a watch I’d very much like to have on my wrist.
GG: In this category, I think it comes down to a fight among some of this year’s SIHH buzz watches: the Montblanc Meisterstück Heritage Perpetual Calendar; the van der Klaauw-designed Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Planetarium; and the massive A. Lange & Söhne flagship Richard Lange Terraluna.
IS: The Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Planetarium was one of my highlights from this year’s SIHH. Forget about having the world at your feet, the Midnight Planetarium puts the solar system on your wrist! When it comes to poetic complications, VC&A has no peer. While others offer traditional earthbound calendar complications, for Van Cleef & Arpels (in collaboration with Christiaan van der Klaauw), the sky is no longer the limit.
FS: For me it’s a three-way competition as well between the Lange, the Van Cleef and the Montblanc. The hard thing is that even though they’re in the same category they’re very different watches, which makes it difficult to pick. The Van Cleef & Arpels is so very poetic, and while it’s a very cool complication it’s perhaps a little too esoteric.
BW: If someone would have told me years ago that there would come a time that my vote for favorite watch in a Calendar category would go to a Van Cleef & Arpels timepiece, I would have had a laugh with him. Not because they make bad watches, not at all. The pieces made by Van Cleef & Arpels are stunning with great complications, but rather feminine and not completely to my taste.
But now, look at this! The combination of the astronomical complication, the beautiful aventurine dial and the very nice indication of your own special day in a year make it my choice.
And, yes of course, the fact that the astronomical complication is made by specialist Christiaan van der Klaauw from the Netherlands is the cherry on top of the cake.
IS: I also feel that Jaquet Droz has no competition when it comes to ultra-clean, high-legibility dials, and the Perpetual Calendar Eclipse Ivory Enamel doesn’t disappoint. The layout of the indications and rich enamel dial are simply stunning and the peak-a-boo moon phase is a nice, playful touch. This Jaquet Droz really is a perpetual calendar you would be happy to wear every day.
JM: The calendar category is a sleeper category to me, simply because I feel some people (not your average WIS, but the regular folks) forget how complicated calendar watches can get and how amazingly they can be displayed. There are some real gems in this category, but two stand out to me.
The first is my favorite for design and avant-garde reasons: the Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Planetarium. The Midnight Planetarium is an exquisite example of an old-school orrery for the wrist. Its tiny orbs of stones and precious metals slowly drift around the dial for the rest of your life, making for a permanently changing design. The mechanics of the Midnight Planetarium are also a treat and I revel in the pyramid of gears that create the slow traverse of the outer planets.
But I don’t think that one will win, and not for a lack of trying.
GG: Why would I not choose the van der Klaauw-based Van Cleef? Trust me, when I first heard of its existence at SIHH, I desperately wanted to love it. But for whatever reason it seems to me a less compelling implementation of the planetarium concept than some of Christiaan’s own-brand watches that are available at a fraction of the price.
IS: Unfortunately, there can only be one (predicted) winner, and my vote has to go to Montblanc’s Heritage Perpetual Calendar. This was one of the (and for many, THE) most talked-about watches from the 2014 SIHH. In my book it really put Montblanc on the haute horlogerie map.
While the movement is slightly small for the eminently-wearable 39 mm case, the dial looks nicely laid-out and at $21,000 for a perpetual calendar in a red gold case (a relatively mind-blowingly low $13,000 for stainless steel), Montblanc is offering unparalleled value for money. The Meisterstück Heritage Perpetual Calendar is not just a perpetual calendar you can wear every day, it’s a perpetual calendar many could afford to wear every day.
GG: I’m delighted to see the progress at Montblanc, and the 1/100-second chronograph is my personal GPHG 2014 choice in the Chronograph category. But the cross-eyed look of this particular calendar watch, with the sub-dials closing in toward the center of the watch, falls prey to one of my pet peeves.
FS: The Montblanc is a very traditionally-styled piece, but offered at an amazing price. While I understand the design choices, an exceptional price isn’t enough for me. I think that the Lange will win this year with its classic Lange styling up front, while it hides that lovely moon phase display on the case back. For me, the balance between sobriety and whimsy (or as whimsical as it’s possible for a Lange to get) is a winning combination.
IS: One interesting side point to note is that both the A. Lange & Söhne Terraluna and Breguet Classique Tourbillon Quantième Perpétuel are manual winding so, if only worn occasionally, they will either need a special crown winder or regular (and careful) resetting.
JM: The only reason I fear the Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Planetarium will take a backseat to the winner is because there is an A. Lange & Söhne in the mix.
And not just any Lange, but the Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar Terraluna. This piece is undoubtedly the finest in watchmaking available, and it contains a perpetual calendar, a gorgeous and unique moon phase display, a 14-day power reserve and a constant force escapement.
All of that is on top of the mathematically perfect proportions of an A. Lange & Söhne and the unmatched finishing of every single component. It is, without a doubt, one of the finest watches in the entire competition this year. And it takes this category in a big way. I love the Midnight Planetarium, but I dream of A. Lange & Söhne.
IS: The A. Lange & Söhne Terraluna has just about everything one could ask for in a calendar watch . . . and then some. Perpetual calendar: tick; large date: tick; moon phase: tick; long power reserve (an incredible 14 days): tick; impeccably hand-finished, in-house movement: check; power reserve indicator: check. And the icing on the Saxon cake: a constant force escapement. Check!
GG: At the end of the day I think that the Lange will take it. While some of our panel members may argue for the Montblanc on the basis of value for money and significance in signaling a new day for the Montblanc watch brand under Jérôme Lambert, in a straight shoot-out the Lange seems likely to prevail.
I’m sad to say that none of the pre-selected watches is really ringing my chimes, though. The Lange is interesting, and I’m a big lover of astronomic complications, but in person it makes the size of my Double Split looks like a child’s toy. When it comes to astronomy in watches, I remain a fan of Ulysse Nardin and Christiaan van der Klaauw.
So, I guess for me it’s going to be an ongoing wait for a mintish Ulysse Nardin Tellurium to come available, or for an unknown rich uncle to gift me the Greubel Forsey Perpetual Calendar with Equation of Time!
The results are in, and the panel’s decisions are:
Ian Skellern: Montblanc Meisterstück Heritage Perpetual Calendar
Joshua Munchow: A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar Terraluna
GaryG: A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar Terraluna
Felix Scholz: A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar Terraluna
Bernard Werk: Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Planetarium
So, our panel has voted 3 out of 5 for the A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar Terraluna.
For more information on the pre-selected Calendar watches:
Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar Terraluna
Meisterstück Heritage Perpetual Calendar
Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Planetarium
Breguet Classique Tourbillon Quantième Perpétuel
Zenith Captain Winsor Annual Calendar
Jaquet Droz Perpetual Calendar Eclipse Ivory Enamel
You can partake in the fun as well by checking out the competition and voting for your favorite in the Public Prize category. If you vote, you will be in the running for a Girard-Perregaux Vintage 1945 XXL Petite Seconde model worth more than 10,000 Swiss francs. Note: you only have one vote in total, not one vote per category, so choose wisely!
Click here to vote ww.gphg.org/watches/en/grand-prix-dhorlogerie-de-geneve/2014/PRE..
For more information on this year’s GPHG, please read New Jury And Categories At The 2014 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.
To read other GPHG round tables, please click:
Ladies’ Pre-Selected Watches: Round Table Discussion Of The Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2014.
Ladies’ High-Mech Pre-Selected Watches: Round Table Discussion Of The Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2014.
Men’s Pre-Selected Watches: Round Table Discussion Of The Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2014.
Chronograph Pre-Selected Watches: Round Table Discussion Of The Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2014.
Mechanical Exception Pre-Selected Watches: Round Table Discussion Of The Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2014.