5 of the best annual calendar watchesTom Austin
I know not everyone loves a date window on their dial; to some, it’s a symmetry-stealing bone of contention, but to others, it’s essential. With a busy life and my lack of willingness to wear a smartwatch, the current date often escapes me, even more so the actual day of the week. There’s something special about these seemingly simple complications that, throughout the year, can save us on multiple occasions. A nifty reminder of that special anniversary or birthday, an appointment or even just a simple reality check that it is, in fact, Tuesday when you thought it was Wednesday.
In that sense, a mechanical watch that’s able to tell you the time, day of the week, date and month is a particularly handy thing indeed. Then there’s the packaging; laying out this information in such a way that is legible and clear while remaining thoughtful and beautiful is no mean feat. Many watches do it well, but here’s a list of some of the best and most interesting annual calendar watches that do it really well.
Longines Master Collection Annual Calendar Chronograph
Longines is on a hell of a run right now. Their latest releases are knocking it out of the park in terms of functionality, quality and, importantly, style. It feels like, as a brand, they are making it into more and more of these “best of” lists all the time – which is fantastic news, really. Interestingly, in many watch categories, you might hear the complaint, “Why can’t we have an affordable complicated Swiss watch?” and it’s actually right under your noses – it’s a Longines. The Master Collection, launched in 2005, is undergoing a marked refresh at the moment, and one piece that slipped under the radar is this moonphase chronograph with an annual calendar.
Firstly, the watch itself isn’t totally new: Longines has used the ETA calibre 7751 movement that features in this watch for a number of years, and with good reason. It’s been with us now since the mid-80s in its Valjoux form and is brilliantly capable at what it offers, with date, day and month displays, along with a chronograph and day/night indicators. Couple that with the 40mm smoothed-pebble style stainless steel case and simple unobtrusive pushers, and you have the makings for a great wristwatch. Finish it with this dial, and you have something even better. The scalloped dial is finished in brushed black satin, with contrasting pink gold appliqué Roman numeral hour markers. The dial information is pleasantly compacted, keeping most of the details within 3 sub-dials, leaving the chronograph and date hands to find their way around the edge, again all finished in pink gold.
The Longines isn’t a small watch at 40mm, however, it’s not too overbearing despite being 14.3mm thick. The movement is visible through the sapphire exhibition case back to match the sapphire crystal up front, finished with an anti-reflective coating. With this level of finishing and overall quality, it’s quite the deal considering some of the other watches that feature similar complications. Price: A$6,200.
Omega Constellation Globemaster Annual Calendar
Over the years, we’ve seen multiple attempts to do something different with a date/month display on a watch dial. When keeping things simple, brands often take the easy route and place the day or the month in a window or a straightforward number. Omega did something a little different with the Globemaster. Re-released in 2015 and closely followed by this annual calendar model, the watch was an instant hit but lately has become a bit of a hidden gem in the Omega catalogue. It’s a classically styled Omega that will ruffle the feathers of those who enjoy smaller watches, but even at 41mm, it’s not too big by any means.
Unlike other Omegas, the Globemaster is the only one to feature an almost Datejust-like fluted bezel, however, this one is in a much tougher tungsten carbide rather than delicate gold. That, and the stainless steel, industrial-looking case, show the watch’s intentions that it’s a tool watch at heart. Something to be used, not pampered, but retains the unguarded crown to maintain that classic appeal.
The movement, slightly obscured by a medallion with a Central Observatory engraving set in the sapphire crystal, is the Omega calibre 8922. It’s a self-winding master chronometer with an annual calendar, of course, but not a particularly glamorous one, and that’s the point. It features a usual date window at 6 o’clock and relies on a month hand, geared as such to only rotate once every 12 months, to give you a simple readout of the month on the dial.
The dial itself is a throwback, a “Pie Pan” design that you can find as far back as 1952 in Omega’s history books. There are numerous configurations, but our favourite is the sun-brushed grey with blue print. This compliments the blue hands and blue baton hour markers well and looks especially well finished on the matching blue leather strap. Of course, the dial is finished with the Constellation star at 6. Price: A$15,350.
Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Annual Calendar
Bringing the attention to a more niche brand, we have Parmigiani Fleurier with their Tonda PF Annual Calendar. This watch is all about the finely finished details; it’s all about the “if you know, you know” factor and Parmigiani Fleurier oozes with it. Available in either rose gold or stainless steel and platinum, the Tonda PF is a 42mm luxury sports watch, complete with an integrated bracelet, which is one of the best in its class. The case is well proportioned for a relatively large watch, 11.1mm thick, with long sweeping lugs blending into the bracelet, presented with a well-thought-out mix of polished and brushed surfaces. The coin-edged bezel, finished in platinum on the steel model, is pleasantly thin and not oversized like some watches fall for. Sapphire crystals appear both front and back and help offer the watch a 100-meter water resistance.
The business end is the dial, finished in a dark grey with a guilloché Grain d’orge texture, giving it a sporty yet luxurious look. The hands and dial appliques are rhodium-plated, offering a bright sheen. The movement inside is the in-house PF339 calibre, a retrograde annual calendar that is hand-beveled and decorated with Côtes de Genève. The details here are superb, and it’s where PF comes into its own. The stunning movement allows for a rather simple-looking dial layout with 3 sub-dials displaying retrograde date and the day, month and moon phases, all accurate to within 122 years.
Thankfully, there’s a 50-hour power reserve in case you’re away from your watch winder for a day or so. The Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Annual Calendar is a watch you might not think of straight away when you think of annual calendars, but it’s an understated piece that, if you don’t necessarily want to have the loudest-looking watch in the room, is a perfect choice that challenges others in its weight class well. Price: CHF 37,500.
F. P. Journe Octa Calendrier
Keeping with the niche brands (although FPJ is fairly mainstream these days), we have the F.P. Journe Octa Calendrier. Widely respected for being responsible for some of the highest finishing standards in contemporary watchmaking, F. P. Journe is now one of the go-to brands when you need something rather special. The Octa Calendrier is no different: available in finely polished platinum or pink gold, it was the first wristwatch to integrate annual calendar functionality with an oversized date, which advances automatically during months with 29, 30, and 31 days. Interestingly, unlike most watches in this category, it was available in both 38 and 40mm, making it extremely versatile for those who require more specificity with their watch dimensions.
At its heart, the Brevet EP 1 760 544 A1 movement powers the watch, offering an astonishing 160-hour power reserve, combined with a multitude of fine-precision components to enhance accuracy beyond expectations. This also allows for the movement to display FPJ’s characteristic off-centre dial features, such as the hours and minutes set over to the 3 o’clock side, with a small seconds dial hanging below. Centrally, there’s a large blued hand to display the retrograde date function, along with off-centred day and month windows. When all together, it makes for a simple and uncluttered look, and while the off-centre style may not be to everyone’s taste, it’s certainly clear and concise to read and understand what it is from a distance, too. Subtle details such as the fine knurling on the crown or the tiny guilloché finishing on the time dial set the watch apart in a way only an F. P. Journe can. Price: A$280,000.
Patek Philippe 5205G
As the King of Complications, this list would not be complete without Patek Philippe. There are so many to choose from in this category, but one that stands out to me is the 5205G with white gold. There is of course a gold version – however, that has a green dial and we’re so totally over green, right? Instantly recognisable with its 3-windowed display across the top of the dial, the watch manages to do complication without over-compensating and appearing busy and over-embellished. At 40mm wide and 11.36mm thick, it’s averagely sized amongst the rest and is just big enough to be able to feel the heft of the white gold, giving you the full Patek Philippe experience. The case shape is typical Patek, understated and exquisitely finished. allowing the dial and the movement to not be overshadowed.
The dial on this particular model is a blue sunburst, black gradated affair, presenting a stunning depth and highlighting the dial furniture brilliantly. All the dial applications are finished in white gold, along with the well-proportioned hands. Visible through the sapphire exhibition case back is the Caliber 324 S QA LU 24H/206 movement, an annual calendar featuring everything you need in the middle of the dial, such as a 24-hour indicator, moon phase display, and, of course, the day, date and month at the top in their characteristic apertures. It goes without saying that the movement itself is exceptionally finished, squeezing all of those features into a tiny, 5.78mm thick package. Power reserve suffers a little here, with only 45 hours. However, I suspect if you are lucky enough to own one of these, it probably gets a fair amount of wrist time. Price: A$87,900.