2020 is a rather special year indeed. It is not just the start of a new decade, but it is notably a leap year as well. For the horology lovers, there is only one thing that comes to mind: Perpetual Calendars.
The Perpetual Calendar was invented by Thomas Mudge in 1762, where the watch is currently on display at the British Museum. The complication is a fascinating one, where it is able to identify the leap year and thus allowing the date display to adjust accordingly (the transition from either 28th/29th February to 1st March). In more recent times, Patek Philippe was credited for being the first to incorporate this complication into their wristwatches in the early 20th century.
Due to the nature and complexity of this function, the Perpetual Calendar is an elusive complication that is only reserved for the top echelon of watches. These pieces are typically priced upwards of S$30,000, although we have seen some rather more modestly priced offerings in the recent years. This makes the complication more accessible to the masses – which is something that was unheard of in the past.
Anyhow, to pay tribute to the leap year, we will be kickstarting the first Throwback Sunday column with some of our favourite perpetual calendar watches that is currently available in the market. What have we selected? Let’s find out!
Montblanc Heritage Perpetual Calendar
In the recent years, Montblanc has been offering collectors great watches at modest price points. The Heritage Perpetual Calendar is one such watch.
The piece, launched in SIHH 2019 with a stainless steel variant, is a great addition to the Heritage line-up. It is certainly a looker as compared to the brand’s first Perpetual Calendar watch, and its 40mm case is well-sized for today’s market.
Powering the watch is the in-house Caliber MB 29.22, a self-winding watch that has a power reserve of around 48 hours. The base movement is shared across all Richemont’s brands, and one outstanding feature is that the watch can be adjusted bi-directionally (inclusive of the date as well).
The Montblanc is priced at €15,000 (approximately S$22,595), and it is certainly one of the most affordable watches with the perpetual calendar function. To add the icing on the cake, it is a handsome timepiece as well.
Jaeger LeCoultre Master Ultra-thin Perpetual Calendar
For collectors who are big fans of Marvel’s Doctor Strange, the one thing in the movie that you might have spotted on Benedict Cumberbatch’s wrist is his timepiece. No, it was not just any ordinary watch. Benedict was wearing a Jaeger LeCoultre Master Ultra-thin Perpetual Calendar.
The MUT Perpetual Calendar has been one of the most popular pieces in the collection since its introduction in 2013. Before the likes of Montblanc and Frederique Constant launched their own versions of the affordable Perpetual Calendar watches, this JLC was already there with the MUT. The watch, which comes with three sub-dials (indicating the month, day, and date) and a moon phase display, is rather clean and legible as well.
In addition, the movement – JLC’s Calibre 868 – is excellent. The self-winding watch has 336 components, with a power reserve of around 38 hours. What is remarkable is that JLC had managed to keep the watch thin, at 9.2mm. Priced at S$28,000, the MUT Perpetual Calendar is a remarkable timepiece, with an equally splendid price point.
Ulysse Nardin Classic Perpetual Ludwig
When Ulysse Nardin launched the original Perpetual Ludwig in 1996, it was considered as a technological marvel. Not only does Ulysse Nardin allows the various indicators to be adjusted by a single crown, but what makes the watch even more special is the fact that all the indicators can be adjusted bidirectionally. That was certainly revolutionary back then.
In recent years, Ulysse Nardin had produced an updated version of the original Perpetual Ludwig. The new watch – named Classic Perpetual Ludwig – is largely based on the original model that debuted more than two decades back. It features the same dial layout, with a similar mechanism. However, there are differences as well, such as a larger case size (an increase of 2.5mm to 41mm) and a slight update to aesthetics of the dial.
The timepiece is powered by the Caliber UN-33, based on the ETA 2892. The finishing is great, especially with the winding rotor that features the anchor emblem that is surrounded by blue enamel. Overall, we feel that this is well-made and elegant timepiece. The price tag of the stainless steel variant is S$30,500, and we think that it offers great value for a such a significant and well-made timepiece.
H. Moser & Cie. Endeavour Perpetual Calendar
Touted as one of the cleanest perpetual calendar watches, the H. Moser & Cie. Endeavour Perpetual Calendar is an interesting take on one of the most complicated complications that is available on the market.
The award-winning timepiece is certainly unlike any others. The flash calendar function (which provides instantaneous date change even from 28th/29th/30th/31st to the 1st of the next month), as well as the use of an additional central arrow hand to indicate the month, are just some of the innovative features that led H. Moser & Cie. to win the prestigious Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix in 2006.
The in-house HMC341 also boasts a 7 day power reserve, as well as a modular system that allows the escapement to be removed independently for servicing. The finishing is top-notch with great execution – with special mention on the anglage and the combination of black-polished screw heads with gold chatons.
Priced at S$83,790, the 40.8mm Endeavour Perpetual Calendar is priced somewhat on the middle ground for watches with this complication. It is, however, a stunning and refreshing take – proving that complicated watches do not necessarily need to look complicated as well.
Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Ref. 5270
The Perpetual Calendar Chronograph (Ref. 5270), from Patek Philippe, is perhaps the most coveted and well-regarded timepiece in the world. Combining two highly complicated complications and stunning aesthetics, this is certainly a grail watch for many.
What sets the Ref. 5270 apart from its predecessors is the movement itself. Unlike the previous models, the Ref. 5270 is fitted with the Calibre CH 29-535 PS Q. It is the first perpetual calendar chronograph that uses a fully in-house designed and manufactured movement from Patek Philippe. All earlier iterations have been based on either the Valjoux or Lemania ebauches. While the ebauches are great in its own rights, a full in-house movement simply takes it to the next level. Some features of the manual-winding movement includes the Gyromax balance wheel, and the use of a lateral clutch system for the chronograph. In addition, the finishing of the watch is sublime – just like what you would expect from Patek Philippe.
Retailing at S$216,500, the Ref. 5270 is not for the faint-hearted. It may be out of reach for many of us, but if you are able to afford it, the 41mm is surely a must-have in any watch collection.
MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual
There are two lines of watches in MB&F’s collection, in which we will be focusing on one of the most complicated additions to the Legacy Machine (LM) family: LM Perpetual.
Prior to this, there were already three models in the LM collection. They were all time-only watches, although it varies in terms of the number of dials, as well as the amount of “open-concept” balance wheel that can be seen from the giant dome crystal on the watch face. However, MB&F had decided to up the ante, and produce something that is much more complicated. This is how we ended up with the LM Perpetual, in which it features a new perpetual calendar system that omits the grand levier. This allows the calendar to be adjusted quicker, and it also enables the designer to suspend the signature balance above the dial side. Please refer to our review article to find out more about MB&F’s perpetual calendar system.
The LM Perpetual (S$226,000, in red gold) is a totally different timepiece from its siblings in the collection – it appears to be an antithesis to the classy and simple watches that the series is synonymous with. But that does not reduce the appeal of the watch, and we think that MB&F had outdone themselves again with this timepiece.
With the advent of more modestly priced brands entering into the scene, the dream of owning a perpetual calendar watch might not be as distant as it seems. The likes of Frederique Constant and Montblanc are certainly doing a great job in this aspect.
On the other hand, this does not diminish the desirability of the complication too. High-end luxury watch manufacturers are still reserving the complication for the top-of-the-range pieces. This is perhaps seen in both Patek Philippe and MB&F, where the most entry-level models featuring the perpetual calendar function cost upwards of six-digits.
What are your thoughts on perpetual calendars? Is the complexity worth the premium, or would you rather settle for an annual calendar instead? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.