For this week’s Throwback Sunday article, we are still continuing with the theme of complications. This time, the annual calendar.
The complication that we are featuring this week is a little understated. It is none other than the annual calendar, a feature that displays the date, day, and month. While it may be seemingly complicated, it is often overshadowed by the more complicated sibling: the perpetual calendar.
The annual calendar, interestingly, was first featured on a wristwatch only in 1996. The honor for being first goes to Patek Philippe, and the Reference 5035. The first wristwatch to feature this complication. The annual calendar is programmed to determine if a month has 30 or 31 days, and it automatically adjusts the indicators when a new month begins. However, unlike its perpetual calendar cousin, it does not automatically correct for the transition from February to March. A manual adjustment is thus required on 1 March to advance the annual calendar by one day from either February 28 or 29. Hence a manual adjustment once a year, giving rise to its name.
Ever since its inception around two decades ago, many other watchmakers have adopted this mechanism. It offers a cheaper and less complicated alternative to the perpetual calendar, while offering a certain level of functionality and practicality at the same time. Some have flourished, while others did not really make the cut. In this week’s Throwback Sunday, we take a look at our archives to sieve out six stunning annual calendar timepieces worthy of your collection. Read on for our picks.
Patek Philippe 5960
First up, the Patek Philippe 5960/1A. For the aficionados, the “1A” suffix at the back of the reference number definitely brings out a certain level of excitement: it tells the tale that this watch is cased in stainless steel.
The Patek Philippe 5960/1A is from their Baselworld 2014 novelties. It follows from the discontinuation of the 5960P (Platinum) and the 5960R (Rose Gold). The 5960/1A, in our opinion, is definitely a more modern interpretation of the 5960 series. Some of the interesting touches include a highly-polished stainless steel bracelet, as well as the intriguing black accents that are found on the watch dial. Even the fonts used for the numbers on the chronograph counters look very contemporary as well. The overall effects make the watch looks much more stylish and definitely much more appealing to the younger clientele.
We were quite fond of the 5960/1A in our review, and we were even more excited by the 5960P. The latter exudes a quiet, discerning style and is much subtle than the stainless steel variant. The slate grey dial pairs beautifully with the platinum watch case.
Definitely a high recommendation.
A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Annual Calendar
Next, a counterpart from Germany: A. Lange & Söhne. Back in 2010, A. Lange & Söhne launched its first annual calendar timepiece in Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH). It was welcomed with a warm reception, especially since it offers collectors a relatively more affordable alternative to the much more complicated perpetual calendar.
One of our favorite things about the watch is how traditional and simple it looks. The Saxonia Annual Calendar measures only 38.5mm timepiece but the dial remains rather uncluttered and relatively legible to read.
As we discussed in our SIHH 2010 highlight article, the Saxonia Annual Calendar is not just a pretty face. Equipped with the then new C.085.1, the finishing of this Saxonia Annual Calendar is impeccable. We like the traditional Lange details like the engraved balance cock and the mesmerizing 18-carat gold winding rotor.
Another high recommendation.
Parmigiani Tonda Quator Retrograde Annual Calendar
Next, we have the Parmigiani Tonda Quator Retrograde Annual Calendar. When we first set our sights on this Parmigiani, we were pleasantly surprised. We like how the watchmaker manages to maintain a refined and simple outlook, despite its modern design cues. It is, in our opinion, a nice equilibrium between the keeping the watch design relevant in today’s age, and maintaining a classy and decorous facade at the same time.
The Tonda Quator Retrograde Annual Calendar is powered by Parmigiani’s PF339, a movement that is based on the ever-reliable PF332. This movement features a rather interesting touch: the retrograde date display. It adds an interesting interpretation to the traditional annual calendar complication, and it also simultaneously brings out the technical ingenuity of the engineers behind it. While the retrograde date display is not a particularly difficult feature to create, the addition of the annual calendar module brings this retrograde display onto a whole new level.
Another interesting feature the moonphase indicator which shows the moonphase in both the northern and the southern hemisphere simultaneously.
In a nutshell, the Parmigiani Tonda Quator Retrograde Annual Calendar is a very pleasant timepiece. We like how Parmigiani manages to give this complication a nice modern touch, without making it too cluttered or outrageous. One advantage, like what we have raved about in an article on this timepiece previously, is the watch’s legibility. Parmigiani had done a great job here by using the retrograde date display (instead of having another subdial), and by simplifying and enlarging the present subdials at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions. The overall result, in our opinion, makes this watch much more charming and delightful to the eyes. This watch definitely gives many other annual calendar watches a run for its money.
Vacheron Constantin Quai de l’Ile Annual Calendar
Up next, we have something that is rather unique and extraordinary. Some years back, Vacheron Constantin launched a rather novel and intriguing concept: the Quai de l’Ile. The concept allows clients to customize his or her own Quai de l’Ile timepiece with an options list that is provided by Vacheron Constantin.
One of the base models for the Quai de l’Ile collection is the Annual Calendar, and we reckon it is quite an alluring timepiece to behold. Similar to the Parmigiani and the Patek Philippe that we have highlighted, the Quai de l’Ile Annual Calendar features several modern design cues. It also features a retrograde display that we have seen in the Parmagiani earlier. We also like the rather avant garde case design.
The Quai de l’Ile Annual Calendar features Vacheron Constantin’s Calibre 2460 QRA, an automatic movement that features a power reserve of approximately 40 hours. As with many of their timepieces, the Quai de l’Ile Annual Calendar also features the prestigious “Hallmark of Geneva”.
Overall, the Quai de l’Ile Annual Calendar is pretty fascinating. We like the idea of having the flexibility to customize our own watch, although there are some perimeters in which we have to follow. Barring that, we thought that it is a fairly fresh concept. This is definitely an annual calendar timepiece that one should look out for, especially if one wishes to own something that is customized to suit their own tastes and preferences.
IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar
After the Vacheron Constantin, we take a look at IWC’s offering: the Portugieser Annual Calendar. Launched in this year’s SIHH, this particular Portugieser is the first watch in IWC’s repertoire to feature the annual calendar complication.
Similar to the Patek Philippe 5960, the Portugieser Annual Calendar had its date, day, and month indicators placed at the 12 o’clock position of the watch. This allows the power reserve indicator and the sub-seconds display to be placed at the 3 o’clock and the 9 o’clock position respectively, similar to the popular Portugieser Automatic (Ref. 5007). It also features an impressive 7 days power reserve, achieved by having a twin barrel system. More details and specification can be found on this introduction article that we have done on this timepiece earlier this year.
Our favorite bit of the timepiece would actually be its dial. We love blue watch dials, and this Portugieser is no exception. The blue sunburst dial compliments the stainless steel casing and indices very beautifully, and it provides a nice contrast for the watch.
The IWC Portugieser Annual Calendar is one of the more affordable pieces in our selection today, but it is no slouch. We feel this is a splendid timepiece for a collector, offering both good value for money.
Saving the best for the last, we have the uber-cool Urwerk UR1001. Known as the Zeit Device, the UR1001 is one of the most outrageous timepieces that money can buy. It is not surprising, as this is a culmination of Urwerk’s work since its inception nearly 2 decades ago.
The UR1001, measures some 106mm x 62mm x 23mm. Yes, a behemoth. Originally conceived as a pocket watch and sold with a massive chain, in BaselWorld 2015, a new reiteration of the UR 1001 Titan was created. The UR1001 Titan came with a strap, in which it features a two piece construction to hold the 450g device in place securely.
Besides its size, the UR1001 is actually a rather fascinating timepiece. It features the usual Urwerk DNA, such as the revolving satellite indicators for both the calendar and time display. Other complications also include the day/ night indicator, the power reserve indicator, as well as the “service indicator” that can be found at the back of the timepiece.
If one wishes to own an outrageous timepiece with a great wrist presence, then one should look no further. The Urwerk UR1001, particularly the Titan, is one of the most fanciful timepiece that money can buy. Simply mind-blowing.
Our selection for this week’s Throwback Sunday covered a wider spectrum of annual calendar watches, ranging from the more traditional ones like the Saxonia Annual Calendar to the ultra-modern Urwerk UR1001. While the designs have changed, the principle remains: the job of the annual calendar is to provide a more affordable and less complicated alternative to the much more elaborate and classical perpetual calendar.
So, what are some of your favorite annual calendar watches that you have seen or owned over the years? Please share with us via the “comments” section below, and do have a great week ahead!