Vintage Eberhard & Co. Les Quantièmes: A Complete Calendar At A (Relatively) Affordable Price
by Martin Green
You go over the lineup of an upcoming auction and an attractive vintage perpetual calendar catches the eye. Does this sound like something that might happen to you, too?
The dials on these watches often feature names like Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, and Vacheron Constantin, and their price estimates are usually substantial enough for most people to pay off a significant part of their mortgage or even buy a house flat outright.
Unattainability is a large part of what elevates a desirable watch into a dream watch. And for the vast majority of us, a dream is what such a perpetual calendar will remain.
Currently, prices for vintage watches by these brands are only going up, and there isn’t really an alternative. Modern-day perpetual calendars still carry a steep price tag, and most are indeed too modern to have the same appeal that the vintage specimens have.
Annual calendars (as recently discussed in Annual Calendars Are Goldilocks Complications: Not Too Hot, Not Too Cold, Just Right) may be a worthy alternative, yet many brands opt for different styling to set them apart from their perpetual counterparts. I think that this is a smart move, yet for people in love with vintage perpetuals it is not going to work.
In this modern day and age, we almost forget that there is a third option: a “full” or “complete” calendar is in fact a non-perpetual calendar. Complete calendars — “complete” referring to a comprehensive range of displays that can include day, date, month, and moon phase — however, unlike annual or perpetual calendars, neither correct the different lengths of the months nor, in the case of perpetuals, show the leap year cycle.
Particularly in the 1990s, this type of watch was quite popular. But as the watch world further developed, designs and complications became more avant-garde, and the full calendar was left behind.
Man with a box
In all the years that I have been active in the watch world, I have grown very fond of a wide variety of brands. Among these is Eberhard & Co.
What I like about this brand is that it has established itself over the years as a very constant performer while remaining in touch with who it is. That approach has resulted in charismatic watches including models like the Tazio Nuvolari chronograph, Navymaster, Traversetolo, Chrono4 . . . and the Les Quantièmes complete calendar.
In all honesty, I had no idea that this last watch even existed before a good friend walked in with a dated box and the words, “You like Eberhard, don’t you?”
That box was more or less a time capsule with its charming complete calendar watch – and by charming I mean ticking all the boxes! A beautiful coin-edge case fitted with very slender lugs, a domed mineral crystal, and a very traditional-looking dial with three subdials and a moon phase indicator.
It has the look and feel of a vintage perpetual calendar without being one. The Les Quantièmes was part of the Eberhard collection during the 1980s and early 1990s, so it is nearly vintage, but its classic styling easily adds another 20 imaginary years.
So what do you get with an Eberhard & Co. Les Quantièmes?
The watch has a few remarkable and unexpected features. I suspected that the case was gold plated, which it is. But the base metal is not stainless steel, but rather sterling silver! This makes it silver-gilt, also known as vermeil.
A few watch brands used this, mainly in the 1980s, Cartier being the most well known of them, but it never caught on. There is not really an advantage over a stainless steel case with gold plating.
The crown is placed relatively low on the side of the case, which already reveals that this is a watch powered by an automatic movement with a module. This was to be expected, yet the base movement might come as a surprise as it is an ETA 2892-2: quite a high-end and dependable movement, adding to the appeal of the watch itself.
The white dial has baton hands and markers, which are easy to read yet also don’t distract from the three subdials. One indicates the date, the other two the day and month, which are actually in Italian, traditionally an important market for Eberhard.
And although I don’t speak or read Italian, have no Italian heritage or any other connection with the country, it is easy enough to figure out. This detail does go well with the watch.
The lower part of the dial features a traditional moon phase indicator: a cutout in the dial features half an arc cut out with a cloud motif, under which a disk revolves with a moon and some stars against a dark blue background. As charming as it is traditional.
The pros and cons of the Eberhard & Co. Les Quantièmes
The biggest “con” of the Eberhard & Co. Les Quantièmes complete calendar has to be its case size.
With a diameter of 33 mm, it is quite small by today’s standards. It is however almost all dial, which is also white, making it wear like a 36 mm watch.
For some, this is simply too small. Yet especially considering that coin edge, the size also gives this Eberhard a vintage appeal. The same can be said for the mineral crystal. While it scratches easier, it also breaks the light differently than a sapphire crystal, giving the dial a softer look. It’s a detail, but it is one that matters.
While some might prefer a full gold case, I think that the vermeil works nicely here. It is rare to find a watch case made of this material that seems so precious; the silver is coated with 20 microns of gold, which is quite thick so it won’t wear off easily.
Sterling silver is of course much softer than stainless steel. I am not too worried about that regarding the case, but it might make the slender lugs more prone to damage.
An ETA 2892-2 is, of course, a formidable movement, so no worries about precision and overall performance.
The straightforward calendar module has the advantage of four correctors in the side of the case, which allow me to set the displays at any time I desire and quite easily.
When I compare this to a perpetual calendar, some of which are quite difficult and tricky to set, I feel a bit of relief. And it makes the Eberhard Les Quantièmes much more easygoing.
It is also a watch that I can put aside for a while and set quite easily when I decide to wear it again.
There is another big advantage that this ETA-based movement offers and that is the affordability of its service, which will allow me to enjoy this watch for years to come for a relatively little amount of money.
Does the Eberhard Les Quantièmes fill the void left by not owning a perpetual calendar?
Does this Eberhard fill the vintage perpetual calendar void? I think that this all boils down to its size. If you can live with its 33 mm diameter case, you get a formidable watch that has a lot of wrist presence, is easy to live with (much easier than some perpetual calendars), and won’t break the bank – neither when you purchase it nor when you have to service it.
There are plenty of details that capture your attention and will do so for quite some time, while the overall readability of the complications of this watch is also on par.
It does not offer the technical complexity of a perpetual calendar, but while you don’t have the advantages of this watch style, you don’t have the disadvantages of it either, making it a good alternative for those who don’t have the money, or are not willing to spend it, on a perpetual calendar.
What’s an Eberhard Les Quantièmes worth?
When it comes to vintage and pre-owned watches, I am still amazed at how some brands and models have skyrocketed in value/price while others are so inexpensive.
Of course, many different factors play an important role in this. How well known and desired is the watch? How many are on the market? Et cetera.
While it can be a bit of a challenge to find a Les Quantièmes complete calendar, the ones that are out there (or were out there) usually fetch around €1,000. In my book, this is a steal given what the watch offers. And in relation to a perpetual calendar . . . most brands usually charge twice this amount to service their perpetual calendars.
Touch of irony
What is quite ironic is that when Eberhard made this complete calendar version of the Les Quantièmes, its collection also contained a perpetual calendar. This watch was the same size and case shape, yet crafted in 18-karat yellow gold with a nearly identical dial that only additionally displays the leap years. It was based on exactly the same movement as the full calendar, but with a different module.
Eberhard made an interesting choice to release two watches that looked so similar back in the day, yet were light years apart technically.
To me, this even further strengthens the choice for the complete calendar model as a fitting alternative for those who secretly desire a perpetual calendar.
Quick Facts Eberhard & Co. Les Quantièmes
Case: 33 mm, vermeil (sterling silver with a 20-micron 18-karat yellow gold coating)
Movement: ETA 2892-2 base movement with complete calendar module
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; day, date, month; moon phase
Average pre-owned price: around €1,000 for one in excellent condition
You might also enjoy:
Annual Calendars Are Goldilocks Complications: Not Too Hot, Not Too Cold, Just Right
Graff MasterGraff Perpetual Calendar: Technically Fabulous Even Without The Sparkles
Extremely Funky Minimalism: H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Perpetual Calendar Concept
Also published on Medium.