Our Predictions In The Calendar And Astronomy Category Of The 2021 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG): No Consensus Highlights The Strong Competition
Welcome to the 2021 edition of Quill & Pad’s early Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève predictions in which the team picks favorites and explains why.
The panelists are:
Elizabeth Doerr (ED), co-founder and editor-in-chief
Ian Skellern (IS), co-founder and technical director
Joshua Munchow (JM), resident nerd writer
GaryG (GG), resident collector
Martin Green (MG), resident gentleman
The Calendar and Astronomy category emphasizes men’s mechanical watches comprising at least one calendar and/or astronomical complication (e.g., date, annual calendar, perpetual calendar, equation of time, complex moon phase display, etc.). Additional indications and/or complications are admissible.
ED: Complication abounds here: two perpetual calendars – one of which is of world record-holding thinness – a complete calendar with chronograph, a clever day-date that you can’t help but smile at, a mind-blowingly beautiful moon phase watch, and the world’s smallest planetarium. That is what we must choose from this time around: picking my top two came fairly easily, but choosing between that duo was really tough.
IS: The six pre-selected 2021 GPHG Calendar and Astronomy watches are an excellent mix of styles and models, including three completely new watches (Arnold & Son, Breitling, and Bulgari), two cosmetic variations of existing models (IWC and Christiaan Van Der Klaauw), and one technical and cosmetic modification to an existing model (Konstantin Chaykin). There are a few here that I’d love to have on my own wrist, but unfortunately only one can be the winner, so here goes!
GG: I do love the astronomic complications! One of my earliest “nice” watch purchases was the Jules Audemars Equation of Time, a piece I still own, and astronomic and calendar watches have long made up a significant part of my collection.
This year’s crop of finalists in this category is solid but not mind-blowing. Of course, it’s too much to expect that every new piece will blow your socks off, but there’s nothing in this year’s group to rival my old Equation of Time.
JM: The Calendar and Astronomy category is one of my favorites because I love practical calendar complications mixed with the more poetic astronomical complications. Both are at the core of horology, but one has clearly lost much relevance to our everyday lives while maintaining its hold over our hearts. And I like when so much effort is put into something just for the love of it.
Interestingly, this category has a broad range of styles so in my mind there should be something for everyone, and I know which ones pique my interest!
Arnold & Son Luna Magna
JM: This is my favorite aesthetic of this category: pure beauty and sizzle with the massive marble moon and aventurine dial. The complication is awesome, and the movement is pretty darn gorgeous. The only downside of the watch is its size. At 44 millimeters in diameter and just under 16 millimeters in thickness, it is a big watch. No matter how beautiful a piece is, there will always be people that knock a watch for being too big, and I’m concerned that the Luna Magna may suffer from the jury for this given its competition.
I think it has a strong chance of winning and would be my runner-up (and the watch I want the most out of every piece), but I’m hesitant to say it will win for sure.
ED: Thanks to an enormous moon phase, this watch’s beauty outshines that of every other watch in this category. Nonetheless it is my runner-up because there is another watch here that is almost as beautiful from a visual standpoint – and far more astronomically complicated.
Nonetheless, I was so taken by the Luna Magna that I called a variation of it my “object of desire” in my Geneva Watch Days 2021 comments. I can’t think of a more intriguing and simply aesthetic moon phase watch on the market today – despite its size, the height of which is necessary to accommodate the enormous marble moon.
IS: For me, the downside of the Arnold & Son Luna Magna is its 44 mm case, which is too big for my wrist. But I can appreciate that that size is required to keep the proportions right with that huge three-dimensional moon. The upside is absolutely everything else: dial side is clean and uncluttered, the legibility of the time indications is superb, and that moon floating in an aventurine sky is sublime. Plus, the view of the movement through the display back (with another moon phase display) is a treat by itself.
The Arnold & Son Luna Magna is my hands-down pick to win this category.
GG: The Arnold & Son Luna Magna seems like quite a pretty watch in the photos, and in person I bet that the marble and aventurine moon really pops. I’m put off a bit by the brand’s claim of “largest rotating moon ever built into a wristwatch” as this sphere is apparently the same size as Konstantin Chaykin’s Lunokhod.
ED: Hmmm, that’s definitely something to look into, Gary. Thanks for the tip!
Quick Facts Arnold & Son Luna Magna
Case: 44 x 15.9 mm, red gold
Movement: manually wound Caliber A&S1021, 90-hour power reserve, 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; moon phase
Limitation: 28 pieces
Price: CHF 47,300
Breitling Premier B25 Datora 42
MG: I feel that Breitling is getting back to its former glory days, even with vintage-inspired watches. The Premier offers the classic configuration of a full calendar with a chronograph that is somehow not as common as it once was. It gives this Breitling an undeniable appeal and also unlocks part of the brand that was hidden too long under bulky chronographs almost as thick as they were wide.
JM: The Breitling Premier B25 Datora is an awesome watch that will probably get a lot of love for being a full calendar watch with a chronograph that sports classic looks and a nice vintage appeal. Its biggest issue is similar to the Arnold & Son: it is mighty thick and may be too big for some. But it makes up for that with a relatively affordable price tag that could give it broad appeal. I think it will definitely have fans among the jury, but I think the competition in this category is still too impressive for it to take the top spot.
IS: For a relatively reasonably priced 22,500 Swiss francs, the Breitling Premier B25 Datora 42 sure packs a lot to offer: hours, minutes, seconds, date, day, month, moon phases, and chronograph, all in a 42 mm red gold case. I love the vintage-look dial and hands, but it’s all just too busy for my taste – I especially feel that that tachymeter scale around the dial periphery is too much information. It’s a great watch at an impressive price for those who like more on their dials rather than less, but it’s not a frontrunner for me.
GG: I think that Breitling is doing a great job with its revivals of classic references, and the Premier B25 Datora 42 is no exception: it looks like a quite wearable watch with a useful complete calendar and attractive moon phase in addition to its 30-minute chronograph. Another solid effort, but it doesn’t crack my top two this year.
ED: It didn’t crack my top two either, Gary, but only because I felt myself much more attracted to the actual astronomical forces in the category. Nonetheless, the Premier B25 Datora 42 is definitely a well-rounded and wearable watch with a chronometer-certified full calendar and chronograph.
This watch comes in two versions: the red gold case with cream dial seen here and a stainless steel version with a copper-colored dial exuding the currently sought-after salmon hue. I think both are wonderful watches, though the steel variation costs only half what the red gold variation does. That seems like quite a bargain to me.
MG: I feel that Breitling is getting back to its former glory days even if it is with vintage-inspired watches. The Premier B25 Datora 42 offers that classic configuration of complete calendar with a chronograph that somehow is not as common as it once was anymore. It gives this Breitling an undeniable appeal and also unlocks part of the brand that was hidden under bulky chronographs almost as thick as they were wide for too long.
Quick Facts Breitling Premier B25 Datora 42
Case: 42 x 15.3 mm, red gold
Movement: automatic Caliber Breitling B25 (Concepto column wheel chrono based on ETA Valjoux 7750), 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, 48-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, small seconds; day, date, month, moon phase, chronograph
Price: $25,650 / 22,500 Swiss francs
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar
GG: Well, Bulgari has done it again with the Octo Finissimo perpetual calendar, hasn’t it? Distinctive styling in the Octo tradition, clean and legible look, and of course ultra-thin construction. I also like the inclusion of retrograde indications for both the date and leap year. If I were in the jury room, I’d be very tempted to put this one at the top of my list.
MG: Can you get fatigued by certain watches? While the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar is very imposing from a technical point of view, the moment it was launched I felt that it was swallowed by the rest of the collection. In this case, the monochrome color scheme simply doesn’t work, although it makes for one of the most legible perpetual calendars out there. Fortunately, its blue-dialed sibling is that too and offers a more eye-catching contrast. But that version was not entered.
ED: I feel much the same way you do about these Octo Finissimo editions, Martin. However, there is no denying their extreme cleverness and popularity. This perpetual calendar, just 5.8 mm in height, represents the seventh world record in as many years and without doubt can be considered another pinnacle of engineering and slim thinking. It just doesn’t excite me as much as some others in this category.
JM: This watch has a great chance at winning based on the history of the Octo Finissimo at the GPHG, and the fact it is a world record-setting perpetual calendar watch. In this category, which is all about the calendar (and astronomical complications), it is hard to argue against the thinnest QP in the world, especially in a format that has drawn so much praise in the past.
All of the Octo Finissimo watches are fantastic to wear, and the movements are literally groundbreaking, so the only qualm someone could have about it is that they prefer a different aesthetic, and that’s okay. Still I’m going to predict that this watch is going to take the top spot, despite the awesome competition.
IS: I’ve been a big fan of the Bulgari Octo Finissimo ever since the collection launched, and the Finissimo Perpetual Calendar doesn’t disappoint. While a perpetual calendar displaying retrograde date, day, month, and retrograde leap years is highly complicated in itself, packing it all into a case thinner than six mm is sheer genius. Plus, the dial looks clean and it’s easy to read all of the indications. The Finissimo Perpetual Calendar could easily win this category and it came very close to being my pick, but it’s my very close runner-up.
Quick Facts Bulgari Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar
Case: 40 x 5.8 mm, blasted titanium
Movement: automatic Caliber BVL 302, 60 hours power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz, ultra-thin 2.75 mm in height
Functions: hours, minutes; perpetual calendar with retrograde date, day, month, retrograde leap year indication
Price: $59,000 / 57,000 Swiss francs
Christiaan van der Klaauw Planetarium Eise Eisinga
MG: The Planetarium by Christiaan van der Klaauw is one of my favorite watches. Period. Even if it is not exactly a new creation. The Eise Eisinga version takes inspiration from the oldest, still working planetarium in the world. The dial now portrays the unique wooden ceiling that Eise Eisinga built in his planetarium, and while it may only be a new dial, it elevates the watch to such new heights that I consider it out of this universe! Yes, you may call me chauvinistic, but this is my winner in this category.
ED: This is the world’s smallest mechanical planetarium. If that can’t win a category at the GPHG, I sure as heck don’t know what could! And even though the mechanics are not “new” – this brand is famous for its miniaturized representation of the movement of our solar system’s planets – it has sadly never won at the GPHG as far as I am aware. This is my hands-down pick here as winner: it is about time.
JM: I have never made any attempt to hide my love for Christiaan Van Der Klaauw, and it is because of watches like this one that it remains one of my favorite brands of all time. A tiny planetarium on the wrist, where you won’t be alive to see more than a couple of complete revolutions of Saturn because it takes nearly 30 years for one.
This is astronomical beauty and precision, and the style of the dial for this limited edition developed to emulate the ceiling at the Royal Eise Eisinga Planetarium Museum is simply wonderful. The minimal month and date calendar is a great addition to the dial and fills out the watch with both practical and poetic complications. The only reason I don’t know if this will win is because it is an artistic version of a watch that has been around for quite a while, and this might hurt its chances. However, it hasn’t been seen in the GPHG competition in a while either, so the jury may look at it with fresh eyes and give it the nod. But I’m not confident it will make the cut.
IS: While many horological pundits, including myself, tend to emphasize the technical aspects of watches and watchmaking, design really cannot be overemphasized. None of us are immune to the attraction of a pretty face. In watches, few do design better than Christiaan Van Der Klaauw, and this is highlighted by the drop-dead gorgeous Planetarium Eise Eisinga, which takes its inspiration from a planetarium Mr. Eise Eisinga built on his living room ceiling 240 years ago. I’m not picking it here because it’s a variation on an existing model, but I love it.
GG: The Christiaan Van Der Klaauw CVDK Planetarium Eise Eisinga is an appealing presentation of CVDK’s well-known planetarium with a dial made to represent the paneled ceiling of early astronomer Eisinga’s memorial museum. Sadly, it falls prey to my “old watch, new clothes” disqualifier as we’ve seen this exact reference in different cosmetic presentations for many years now.
Quick Facts Christiaan van der Klaauw Planetarium Eise Eisinga
Case: 40 x 15 mm, pink gold
Dial: miniature oil painting of the ceiling of the Royal Eise Eisinga Planetarium
Movement: automatic Caliber CVDK7386, twin spring barrels, 96-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; date, month; world smallest mechanical planetarium with seven planets
Limitation: 6 pieces
Price: €58,450 / 59,950 Swiss francs
IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Edition Mojave Desert
JM: Barring its long and slightly ridiculous name, this watch is quite the horological object if the style is to your liking. A full perpetual calendar with year indication, a dual-hemisphere moon phase accurate to more than 577 years, a full seven-day (168-hour) power reserve with power reserve indication, all coming in at CHF 35,000: this is an extremely solid watch.
The Top Gun Mojave Desert styling and somewhat massive size will be the possible sticking points for some people. It’s clearly an attractive watch with a specific target audience, but it might be too military inspired for some in going up against the Arnold & Son, Christiaan Van Der Klaauw, and the Breitling. I think it has a fair chance depending on the jury discussion, but I wouldn’t guess it will end up victorious this year.
IS: While the color of the IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Edition Mojave Desert does look like it pays faithful inspiration to a desert, I don’t think it works well as a watch design as the contrasts of the dial colors make reading the indications difficult. That said, the layout of the indications is good, though at 46.5 mm there’s no excuse for room to give everything plenty of space. I’m not a fan of the colors, but the main reason I’m not ranking the “Mojave Desert” higher is that it’s a cosmetic variation of a model introduced in 2006 and I’m after something fresher in a winner.
MG: The third Big Pilot in this edition of the GPHG is in my opinion also the best. I have always been a fan of the perpetual calendars of IWC, and the way that the brand incorporates them into the Big Pilot is very pleasing. The Mojave Desert edition adds to that a unique color combination that works very well on a military-inspired watch without compromising its readability.
ED: True. Yet somehow it leaves me a bit cold despite its mechanical brilliance. Could it be the military theme that is much more obvious in this color combination?
GG: Another “old watch, new clothes” victim is the IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Edition Mojave Desert. it wouldn’t have topped my list in any case but turning it brown doesn’t make it a new watch.
Quick Facts IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Edition Mojave Desert
Case: 46.5 x 15.6 mm, ceramic
Movement: automatic Caliber 52615 with Pellaton automatic winding system, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, 60-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; power reserve, perpetual calendar with date, day, month, year, and moon phase
Price: $34,000 / 35,000 Swiss francs
Konstantin Chaykin Wristmon Minotaur
IS: I once wrote a press release for the MB&F Sherman clock in which I said that it had a superpower in making people smile. Konstantin Chaykin’s Wristmons have that same power, and this Minotaur adds even more emotion to the face of the dial.
The dial is just perfect and features more than a different face as Chaykin has added a day indication (with two letters) in the nostrils of the bull. I love it and would love to own one, but I don’t think it’s complicated enough to win here. And it is likely to be too gimmicky for the jury.
GG: I give my vote here to the Konstantin Chaykin Minotaur, the independent watchmaker’s latest effort in his popular Wristmon series. On this piece we have the familiar hour and minute indications via the two “eyes” on the dial, but with the days of the week indicated by two letters in the Minotaur’s flared nostrils. Seeing the day up a creature’s nose might not be to everyone’s taste, but I think the whole thing is good fun. And it’s also good to see Chaykin confident enough in his finishing work to add a display back to this particular Wristmon.
Finally, while I’m not a super fan of bronze cases, Chaykin uses titanium for the case back here, which should avoid turning a bunch of wrists green.
JM: I love this watch and have always been a massive fan of Konstantin Chaykin: his creativity always brings a smile to my face and keeps me intrigued with what he will design next. The Minotaur is my favorite Joker variation to date, and the implementation of the large day-of-the-week display is super unique but also mechanically interesting.
My only concern for the watch is that some may not take it seriously against the competition (especially a world record-holder for thinnest perpetual calendar), so I fear it won’t take the prize in this category, even though it is truly a fantastically fun and interesting timepiece.
MG: Konstantin Chaykin is a man who knows how to have fun and incorporates this in a very clever way into his watches. His Minotaur is another delight that is fun, complex, but most of all, very well thought through. The shape of the case and the way the dial is crafted is nothing short of brilliant. It is one of those watches that prove that whimsical can be very high-end. My runner-up in this category.
ED: Another unbelievably clever watch from the mind of Konstantin Chaykin, and one that really puts a smile on my face. It just does not exude enough “astronomy” or “calendar” for my taste here considering the competition.
Quick Facts Konstantin Chaykin Wristmon Minotaur
Case: 42 x 13 mm, iron bronze
Movement: automatic Caliber K.08-1 (based on Vaucher Caliber VMF 3002), 50-hour power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, dual-disk weekday
Limitation: 8 pieces (sold out)
Price: €18,500 / 20,200 Swiss francs
Elizabeth: Christiaan van der Klaauw Planetarium Eise Eisinga
Martin: Christiaan van der Klaauw Planetarium Eise Eisinga
Ian: Arnold & Son Luna Magna
Joshua: Bulgari Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar
Gary: Konstantin Chaykin Wristmon Minotaur