The 6 best perpetual calendar watchesTom Austin
The perpetual calendar is one of the most fascinating and intricate complications the watch world has to offer. Often referred to as a QP, an abbreviation of quantième perpétuel, it was introduced in the mid-1700s by English horologist Thomas Mudge. The complication went on to finally find itself inside a wristwatch case around 136 years later, under Patek Philippe, who eventually managed to patent their compact design. The complication captures horology enthusiasts’ attention like no other, with its incredible ability to not only take the number of days of each month into account, but even every leap year in a century. Amazingly, if left wound, these pieces are designed to remain accurate until the year 2100. This unique feature, usually beautifully encased, makes these wristwatches amongst the most coveted items in horology.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Perpetual Calendar
Perpetual calendars can be relatively large watches, with everything going on inside the movement, it’s a huge challenge to produce one which is compact and slim. However, movement masters Jaeger-LeCoultre managed to do just this, and shoehorn the Calibre 868 movement into the Master Ultra Thin case line. The traditional 39mm case is the perfect size for most wrists, and the case thickness of 9.2mm means this is one of the more subtle heavy-hitting complication pieces. Currently available in both rose gold and stainless steel, the latter emerging as one of the best-value perpetual calendars on the market.
IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar
Now to the chunkier side of high complications, the IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar is much more of a statement piece, in solid 18-karat gold, 44.2mm in diameter and 14.9mm thick. The Portugieser has that large, yet timeless design, combined with the fully synchronised 52610 movement, accurate to one day in 577 years, and a whopping power reserve of 168 hours, operated fully by the crown. The dial is finished in a sunburst blue, with gold applied Arabic indices and hands. With all the important information of a perpetual calendar encompassed in four large circular sub-dials, legibility isn’t an issue due to the Portugieser’s large size.
H. Moser & Cie Streamliner Perpetual Calendar
Reminiscent of emerging technology in the 1920s and `30s, the Streamliner now has a foothold within modern watch design. The lug-less, cushion-shaped 42.3mm case is beautifully finished in stainless steel, and one of the few watches in this category with an integrated bracelet. The Streamliner ditches the typical busy dial creations usually reserved for information-heavy QPs, in favour of a silky, subtle dial layout which, at first glance looks like a simple three-handed date piece. Look a little closer, however, and you notice there are hidden features on the dial such as the tiny perpetual calendar hand in the centre, and the just-visible power reserve indicator. Flip the watch over, and you’re greeted by the hand-wound, HMC 812 calibre that features unique and intricate finishing details, usually reserved for watches of a much higher price point.
Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Perpetual Calendar
Even thinner than the JLC, the Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Perpetual Calendar houses a 4.05mm thick movement, resulting in the 41mm 18k rose gold case having an overall thickness of an astonishing 8.96mm. The movement itself is a thing of hand-finished wonder, making the complete package close to perfection. The calendar information is displayed on the dial in such a way that it looks simple, but the finishing is typical Vacheron Constantin, with each element being accomplished with amazing detail.
A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar
Some of the watches in this list are relatively understated – the Lange 1 is not one of them. It’s on the larger side at 42mm in diameter and 12.1mm in thickness, but it’s not just the size that makes it stand out. As always, the finishing is the star of the show with A. Lange & Söhne. Every element of this piece is hand-finished to perfection, from the starry night sky on the moonphase wheel, to the exceptional anglage and côtes de Genève seen through the exhibition caseback. The instantaneous perpetual calendar movement itself is exceptional, and along with the platinum-lined rotor, all details of fantastic craftsmanship. Overall, the watch is an outstanding piece which brings together contemporary themes and blends them effortlessly with classic design.
Patek Philippe 5270J Grand Complications
Finally, Patek Philippe. The heir to the throne left by the Patek Philippe Classic, the 5270J is the face of the Swiss maison’s more complicated pieces. It’s the epitome of balanced simplicity combined with elegant technicality, all housed within some of the finest finishing the company has to offer. Despite also being a chronograph with a tachymeter, the dial remains legible and clear, with all the information you would expect from a sophisticated QP, and now lacking the “chin” of the previous iterations where the calendar wheel awkwardly interrupted the tachymeter. The 5270J is available in a multitude of configurations, however none more suiting than the simple yellow gold and silver opaline dial, with the very typical Patek Philippe brown alligator strap.