Our most recent Throwback Sunday Big Date recommendations was way back in 2017, and since then, many more have come into the market. Here is an updated survey of six of the best Big Date watches.
Throwback Sundays: Six recommendations for a watch with a big date display. Updated.
Our first Throwback Sundays: Six Watch Recommendations with a Big Date Display, from Our Archives was published in 2017.
And here is our updated look at the same topic.
The genre, if there is one…well, if there isn’t an official genre, let’s create one, began with A. Lange & Söhne way back in 1994. Their now legendary launch event and rebirth on October 24, 1994 was marked by three watches which feature what they call “Outsized Date” viz the Lange 1, the Saxonia and the Arkade. The only exception was the Tourbillon Pour le Mérite which had no date display. The Lange 1 remains in their catalog today, though updated with a new and improved movement. The Saxonia is also retained, but have undergone extensive rework, and now a family identified by the bar indices on the dial. And the Arkade, a ladies model, once thought of to showcase that the large date was not possible using the conventional date wheel, has been dropped. What a pity, for it is a magnificently beautiful watch.
Under the instruction of supremo Günther Blümlein, the patent for the double digit date display which was held by Jaeger-LeCoultre was used exclusively for Lange. It was only after his death in 2001 that the patent was made available for other house brands. And finally, JLC was able to adopt it in their watches. As was IWC and other Richemont brands. Other brands followed suit. Interestingly, Glashütte Uhrenbetrieib (which became today’s Glashütte Original) too had shown a double date style display in one of their watches circa mid-1960s. But the panorama date, as GUB calls it, was not programmed. Meaning it went on from 31 to 32…all the way to 39 and before it cycled back to 1. One had to make a correction of 9 days for long months, and 10 days for short months and 11 or 12 days for February. But the principle of a double disc date display was demonstrated, and as GUB was in the German Democratic Republic then, no patent application was filed.
And here we go:
We begin at the beginning. The Lange 1 was the first watch with a large double date display. Lange calls this their “Outsized Date” and is the only date display they have ever used since. The latest 2021 crop of watches follow in the footsteps with the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar being a favourite. But our pick is for the Little Lange 1 Moonphase. A drop dead, stop your tracks gorgeous watch, if there ever was one.
The first Little Lange 1 Moon Phase was introduced in 2009 in limited numbers, and then reintroduced in 2017 as regular production with silver guilloche dial (still available) and an improved calibre L121.2. But it is the latest version of the Little Lange 1 Moonphase in white gold and goldstone dial which bowled us over. And the outsized date is as prominent as ever. Even in the smaller 36.8mm case size. Retail for Ref. 182.086 in white gold case is SGD 64,900.
Another German next. One of our favourites. The GO SeaQ Panorama Date is part of the Specialist Collection introduced in Time to Move 2019. Our pick is the two tone rose gold and stainless steel version.
The design, especially the box shaped sapphire crystal has a hint of vintage charm. But quickly topped up with the panorama date, and up to date movement. The Calibre 36-13 is beautifully built and finished and features a modern silicon hairspring. The overall package is great, and it manages to balance that leverages on its past and builds on the fundamentals to provide a modern interpretation of the original Spezimatic with refinement and quality finishing. The retail price of SGD 23,000 is rather reasonably as well.
For the 2020 season, Chopard released this perpetual calendar with a big date display, as a refresh on an existing watch. Available in either stainless steel or 18k rose gold, our pick is the the steel edition with a beautiful blue and silver dial. The case is nice size of 43 mm in diameter and a distinctive contemporary flavour. The dial side carries a lot of information, as do perpetual calendars, but the indications are clear and legible, and the important most calendar data – the date is carried by a big date sitting on prime real estate in the upper center of the dial.
Retailing at USD 24,700 the Perpetual Twin may be seen as a value for money perpetual calendar. The credentials of the L.U.C 96.22-L sets a very high entry bar in comparisons to others. The movement is beautifully finished, from the gorgeous winding mass, to the sharp outward anglage, the Calibre L.U.C 96.22-L is anointed with movement decoration typically found in much more expensive perpetual calendar wristwatches.
Another perpetual calendar. And perhaps the most advanced one in the market today. Launched in 2005 as the Perpetual 1, features the revolutionary perpetual calendar with an ultra clean dial design, and many outstanding technical innovations, like the flash calendar. Moser offers many variations in the Endeavour and Pioneer collection. It is interesting that Andreas Strehler designed movement more than 16 years ago, is still considered state of the art and innovative today. Our pick is the Endeavour with a Funky Blue dial in white gold.
The in-house movement, caliber HMC 341, is largely unchanged (how does one improve perfection?) and appears in the Endeavour Perpetual Calendar in a white gold case. Current retail is CHF 54,000 for this version in white gold.
Breguet’s Héritage series is a collection which reflects on its historical roots and pedigree. The case is tonneau shaped, purposefully curved and features the signature fluted coin edge sides. The dial is similarly curved, bombe style, and is endowed with yet another Breguet signature – the engine-turned dial. The guilloché features a different pattern on the outer ring, inner ring and seconds subdial. The outer ring features an italicised spiral guilloché, inner ring resembling a sliced cake with icing, and a simple radial pattern guilloché to finish off the seconds subdial. The seconds subdial is notably angled ever to slightly forward toward the wearer as well. Attention to detail is remarkable.
The movement is the in-house automatic calibre 516 GG with silicon balance spring. But the watch has a closed back, and the movement is not visible through the case back. The Breguet Ref. 5410 retails for SGD 39,800 in rose gold and is in the current catalog, seems to us to also be of a great value from a grand old maison.
Released in 2018, the Villeret Grande Date Jour Rétrograde is a beautiful dressy watch in steel. As its name in French suggests, it has a big date indicator, and a retrograde day pointer. The classic design is straightforward and the complication useful for everyday wear. The Calibre 6950GC in-house movement powers this watch, itself a derivative of the time tested caliber 1150. It has a power reserve of 72 hours with an instantaneously jumping date and day display (including the retrograde jump from Sun to Mon) at precisely midnight every day.
At SGD 19,000 the Villeret Grande Date Jour Rétrograde in steel is seen as reasonable value for the money. The watch is subtle and quiet. Very dressy and personifies the notion of an everyday watch. More importantly it is highly functional and efficient with the big date and day of week indicator.
The search for big dates is not quite as easy as we thought it would be when we embarked on the research for this article. But here are our picks for the updated top 6. We could have easily have filled all 6 with Lange watches with dates, for all of them are big dates, or as in Lange-speak “outsized date”. But that would have been less fun. Let us know what you would have picked. Did we miss out your favourites?