5 New Perpetual Calendars Presented At Watches & Wonders 2021 From IWC, A. Lange & Söhne, Vacheron Constantin, Bulgari, And Hermès
by Martin Green
Along with the split-seconds chronograph, the perpetual calendar ranks among my favorite complications. The fact that so many tiny parts, some springing to life just once a year, can deal with the rigors of our complicated Gregorian calendar with its months of different days is mesmerizing to me.
While today there is less use for this complication than ever, other watch connoisseurs seem to share my passion for the perpetual calendar as it is still going strong. In fact, it is perhaps more popular than ever as many brands offer one (or more) in their collections – and especially in the last decade or two, the perpetual calendar is no longer exclusive to dress watches.
Here are five new perpetual calendars from Watches & Wonders 2021 that highlight the vitality and diversity of this fascinating complication.
IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar
IWC launched the Da Vinci perpetual calendar chronograph in 1985.
It was powered by a movement fitted with a module consisting of 85 parts developed by Kurt Klaus, at that time IWC’s head watchmaker. Powered by a Valjoux 7750 base movement, the ingenious perpetual calendar module could be adjusted by the crown, which was not possible until then for perpetual calendars.
Today that is still a hallmark of an IWC perpetual calendar, yet where the Da Vinci was a classic watch optima forma, the brand has since expanded its perpetual offerings into other collections, including the more casual Pilot’s line.
The Big Pilot, named for its generous diameter, was fitted with a perpetual calendar for the first time in 2006 – and quite successfully as more than three dozen different versions have been created since then.
This year, the Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar goes back to basics, or at least as basic as possible for such a complication. “Basic” here means a stainless steel case, which goes handsomely with the deep blue dial with sunburst motif.
With a diameter of 46.2 mm the Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar is so big it does true justice to its name, but also seems to be following a trend that is waning. Even though that may be, I very much think the Big Pilot will always be the watch to transcend any trends, continuing to be loved as it was created: big.
Its generous diameter does come with the advantage that there is plenty of space to arrange the multiple perpetual calendar displays. Another hallmark of Kurt Klaus’ module was that it showed the year in full, using four digits, just like on this modern Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar.
Modern IWC perpetual calendars are no longer powered by ETA Valjoux movements, but by the brand’s own manufacture calibers. Caliber 52615, introduced in 2015, has quite a few advantages, including its Pellaton automatic winding system and a seven-day power reserve thanks to two mainspring barrels.
Visible through the sapphire crystal case back, it is clear that the Big Pilot cannot be much smaller, as 38.2 mm of its diameter is needed for the movement itself.
For more information, please visit www.iwc.com/en/watch-collections/pilot-watches/iw503605-big-pilots-watch-perpetual-calendar.
IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar
Case: 46.2 x 15.4 mm, stainless steel case
Movement: automatic Caliber 52615 with Pellaton winding system, 7-day power reserve; 4Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; perpetual calendar with date, month, moon phases for both hemispheres, year indication
Price: CHF 31,000
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar
Bulgari has done it again, adding a seventh world record to its collection of world records with the Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar, the world’s thinnest perpetual calendar.
Are we getting tired of all these records? Not at all as the brand hasn’t forgotten its Italian roots and never lets technology, however great it may be, dominate design.
One of the most striking features of the Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar is its symmetry. It almost looks like architecture, the way the different displays are placed around the dial, breaking with the traditional subdial layout that so many perpetual calendars share.
This symmetry gives the watch an understated look and ensures that all the displays are easy to read. And, most importantly, the date on the upper half of the dial dominates. By making the date hand retrograde, Bulgari created more space for the numerals while adding a novel feature not many other perpetual calendars have.
The day and month displays at 8 and 4 o’clock respectively get less room because they don’t need that much. The leap year indicator – also a small retrograde hand – is tucked away at 6 o’clock, making perfect sense, as the information it provides is less important.
With the movement being only 2.75 mm high, Bulgari can keep the overall height of the watch to just 5.8 mm, making for one very slim timepiece. It is offered in two variations: one in sandblasted titanium on an exquisite titanium bracelet, which has been the standard for the Octo Finissimo collection since the start.
For those who want something more precious and enjoy a bit of heft on the wrist, the Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar is also available in platinum featuring a stunning blue dial and matching alligator leather strap.
For more information, please visit www.bulgari.com/en-int/watches-and-wonders.
Quick Facts Bulgari Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar
Case: 40 x 5.8 mm, titanium or 950 platinum
Movement: automatic Caliber BVL 305, 2.75 mm in height, 60-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes; perpetual calendar with date, month, leap year indication
Price: $59,000 (titanium with titanium bracelet); $89,000 (platinum on alligator strap)
Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton
Blue and thin are also highlights of two new perpetual calendars joining the Vacheron Constantin Overseas collection. Launched in 2020 in pink gold, this year sets the stage for white gold that creates an equally precious yet far more understated watch.
White gold particularly suits the character of the Overseas. While you can call it Vacheron Constantin’s sports watch, its noble pedigree is never far away, making this perhaps the perfect version of the brand’s Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin. Whether you prefer the skeleton version or the solid dial remains a matter of taste.
Unlike a chronograph, not much happens under the dial of a perpetual calendar – or, to be more precise, a lot happens but so slowly that the visual spectacle might disappoint.
However, there is another side to the coin as by using skeletonization Vacheron Constantin shows off its expertise in this field. And the back also gets the treatment, and with that surpasses its non-skeletonized sibling.
The Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton is more about being an understated, almost private, pleasure blending the best aspects of a sports watch with that of a dress watch. It looks equally good on an alligator skin or rubber strap, and switching between them takes seconds thanks to the quick-release system Vacheron Constantin has incorporated into the Overseas line.
The version with the white gold bracelet is actually the most understated with the links shaped as a subtle reference to the brand’s Maltese Cross. With a height of just 8.1 mm, it is slightly thicker than the Octo Finissimo, but you probably won’t notice much difference in reality.
That doesn’t take away from the appeal of the Bulgari, but rather confirms how well this Vacheron Constantin is designed and made. Measuring 4.05 mm in height, Caliber 1120 QP is among the supermodels of watchmaking: ultra slim and ultra good looking.
I am in particular fond of the shape of the oscillating weight – like a compass rose on the version with the solid dial and skeletonized with a Maltese Cross on the skeleton model. Due to its transparent nature, the latter also does a better job of showcasing why this movement is certified by the Geneva Seal as more parts are visible.
For more on 2020’s red gold version, see Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton (Video).
For more information, please visit www.vacheron-constantin.com/en2/watches/overseas/overseas-perpetual-calendar-ultra-thin-skeleton.
Quick Facts Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton
Case: 41.5 x 8.1 mm, white gold with soft iron inner case
Movement: automatic skeletonized Caliber 1120 QP; Geneva Seal, 2.75 Hz/19,800 vph frequency, 40-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes; perpetual calendar with date, month, moon phases, leap year indication
Price: on request
A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar
A perpetual calendar has been part of the iconic Lange 1 collection since 2012, but never as a standalone complication. Paired with a tourbillon, it has always been one of the highest-ranking members of the collection in terms of movement complexity.
By serving the perpetual calendar as the main dish on its own, A. Lange & Söhne has created quite a challenge for itself as the watch needs to be visually distinctive from the tourbillon perpetual calendar, yet also not look like one of the other moon phase calendar watches in the Lange 1 family.
A. Lange & Söhne solved this by placing the moon phase cutout with moon disk in the seconds subdial and integrating the day/night indicator into it. This results in a very clean dial that maintains three key brand hallmarks: the large date, a retrograde weekday indicator, and a ring showing the month around the perimeter of the dial.
The Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar is powered by Caliber L021.3, which is based on the movement of the Lange 1 Daymatic’s Caliber L021.1, now featuring a perpetual calendar and an updated winding system.
The Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar comes in two very different versions. The first is the unlimited model combining a pink gold case with a grey dial. And in combination with the chestnut brown alligator strap it is a very striking watch.
The same can be said of the white gold model, which is limited to 150 pieces. For this watch A. Lange & Söhne chose a pink gold dial. While some might call the color “salmon” based on the pictures, in real life the hue has more of a gold tone to it.
Collectors might find it challenging to choose between the two variations, all the more so because in a case measuring 41.9 mm in diameter, the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar offers comfort and wearability with a generous dash of complexity.
For more information, please visit www.alange-soehne.com/en/timepieces/lange-1-perpetual-calendar.
Quick Facts A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar
Case: 41.9 x 12.1 mm, pink or white gold
Movement: automatic Caliber L021.3, 8.8 mm total height; 50-hour power reserve, 3Hz/21,600 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; perpetual calendar with large date, day, month, moon phases with day/night indication, leap year indication
Limitation: 150 pieces (white gold model)
Price: $104,500 (pink gold); $116,000 (white gold)
Hermès Slim d’Hermès Perpetual Calendar
With Hermès, elegance always has a twist. While the brand usually remains very restrained in its design, it always oozes a certain timeless elegance that has become its hallmark.
This has also been the case with the Slim d’Hermès Perpetual Calendar, which was originally launched in 2015 at Baselworld in an 18-karat red gold case.
Hermès has expanded the collection in 2021 with two new models that lend this already unique perpetual calendar another twist.
The first main difference to its predecessors is that the case is made of Grade 5 titanium with a bezel in either platinum or pink gold. This introduces another level of dynamism that each of these two watches display differently.
As the platinum bezel is polished, the contrast between it and the titanium is mainly one of finishing rather than material. The model with pink gold bezel adds another layer to this as it offers a contrast in color as well. To me, this makes it slightly more desirable as it adds more zest into the creation.
One of the other things I always enjoy about Hermès is that it never takes itself too seriously. This often gives its creations an unexpected playfulness and offers a casual touch.
With the Slim d’Hermès Perpetual Calendar, this is especially visible in the subdial for the second time zone located at 6 o’clock, which was lifted right from the Slim d’Hermès GMT.
Not only does it have a contrasting color, but the numerals are not set evenly, rather seemingly at random. This adds an off-beat element to the watch, but surprisingly also makes the display quite easy to read.
French graphic designer Philippe Apeloig created the font used throughout the watch. An eye for detail has always been key to any Hermès product, and that’s something we also see throughout this watch. Take, for example, the moon phase display, where aventurine glass represents the night sky while the moon is crafted in white mother-of-pearl.
There is very little to complain about the movement, yet I am not a big fan of its finishing style. Decorated throughout with the Hermès logo, I find it doesn’t allow the micro rotor stand out enough. It also takes away from more subtle finishes such like the hand-beveled bridges. Would this be a reason not to buy the watch? No, I wouldn’t go that far.
The Slim d’Hermès Perpetual Calendar’s base movement is Caliber H1950 made by Vaucher, the movement manufacture in Fleurier, Switzerland partially owned by Hermès. The module for the perpetual calendar and second time zone was developed by Agenhor.
An interesting thing about Hermès is that it is also always proud of its collaborations and openly names the partners in the industry it works with. This is another way in which the Slim d’Hermès Perpetual Calendar is a breath of fresh air.
For more information, please visit www.hermes.com/uk/en/product/slim-d-hermes-quantieme-perpetuel-watch-39.5mm.
Quick Facts Hermès Slim d’Hermès Perpetual Calendar
Case: 39.5 x 9.06 mm, bead-blasted grade 5 titanium case with pink gold or 950 platinum bezel
Movement: automatic Caliber H1950 with Agenhor perpetual calendar module, ultra-flat at 4 mm total height including module; micro rotor; 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; perpetual calendar with date and month, day/night indication, moon phases, leap year indication; second time zone