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Prepare for February 29th with 5 Perpetual Calendar Watches, From Accessible to Ultra-Exclusive

Because this only happens once every 4 years...

| By Brice Goulard | 6 min read |

In less than a week from now, it will be February 29th… Not a big deal, for sure. Unless you’re into watchmaking and want to see something mechanically fascinating. Indeed, watchmakers are sometimes a bit nerdy and imagined a complication that takes into account all the weird things of the Gregorian calendar. This means months with 30 or 31 days or even a month with 28 days. And, even rarer, once every 4 years, a longer version of February with 29 days. And as this specificity of our calendar will happen in a few days from now, we’ve listed 5 perpetual calendar watches for most tastes, from rather accessible to elegant, sporty or mechanically impressive.

The Accessible – Frederique Constant Slimline Perpetual Calendar

Being the most complex version of the calendar complication found in a mechanical watch, you would obviously expect a perpetual calendar to be expensive. Certainly, most of the QPs will require a nice 5-digit bank cheque – without any additional complications or cased in precious metals. One brand, on the other hand, wanted to make a statement and produced a truly accessible QP (relatively speaking) to comply with its “affordable luxury” motto. Known for its elegant and classic watches at reasonable prices, Frederique Constant launched the Slimline Perpetual Calendar, with an impressive price of just below €8K…

And don’t think it is a cheap version of the perpetual calendar; not only does it display the same indications as an apartment-priced QP, but it also features an in-house base automatic movement on top of which is another self-produced perpetual module, sized according to the watch’s diameter. And the design is classic, discreet and tasteful.

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Frederique Constant Slimline Perpetual Calendar Manufacture Grey Dial

Quick facts: 42mm diameter x 11.3mm height – steel or gold-plated steel – Calibre FC-775, in-house – automatic – perpetual calendar with moon – alligator strap – EUR 7,995 in steel, EUR 8,295 in gold-plated steel

The Sporty – IWC Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Chronograph

A perpetual calendar watch is often associated with an elegant, reasonably sized case in gold and a discreet dial. Being one of the most traditional complications, this is often true. What about enjoying a beautiful complication in a sports watch? And what about combining it with the sportiest of all complications? Well, IWC has an answer to that, in the name of the Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Chronograph.

Bold, large, complex, made to be worn and used, this sports/pilot perpetual calendar unites two worlds for the best. Visually, it has the ingredients of the brand’s pilot’s collection, as well as the iconic Kurt Klaus QP module on top, with moon and 4-digit year indication. But this time, the perpetual calendar function isn’t added on top of a big automatic movement, but on top of the brand’s in-house chronograph. Altogether, a surprising combination that proves that a perpetual calendar isn’t only reserved to slim, dress watches. Photographed here is the “Le Petit Prince” edition, with a red gold case, a blue dial and specific Arabic numerals.

Quick facts: 43mm diameter x 15.9mm height – 18k red gold – Calibre 89630, in-house – automatic chronograph with column wheel and flyback, perpetual calendar with moon – brown calf leather strap – ref. IW392202 – EUR 39,900

The elegant classic – Blancpain Villeret Quantieme Perpetuel

Just to contradict what we just said about the IWC, a perpetual calendar is also a very desirable complication that will look just at home in a discreet, well-balanced dress watch. And when it comes to such a watch, Blancpain knows its business. The brand recently refreshed its signature QP watch, from the Villeret collection, by adding a slightly modernized version – ref. 6656. The case is now 40mm in diameter (instead of 38mm) and the dial has been cleaned and made more legible. There’s even a stainless steel version available.

Even though the design has been updated, the Villeret Quantieme Perpetuel remains a very classic and elegant piece that will look great with business attire, and never go out of fashion. Mechanically, there’s the mandatory in-house automatic base movement, with a slim profile and a comfortable 3-day power reserve, but also some tricks that make this watch super-safe and easy to use. It comes with complete freedom to adjust every single indication at any time of the day without risk of damage. And it features unobtrusive correctors, hidden under the lugs, to let you perform the adjustments with your fingertip.

Quick facts: 40mm diameter x 10.70mm height – 18k red gold or stainless steel – Calibre 5954, in-house – automatic perpetual calendar with moon – metallic mesh bracelet or alligator strap – ref. 6656 – CHF 32,000 in steel/leather, CHF 42,000 in red gold/leather

The Super-Slim – Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin

If you’re looking for a luxury sports watch with a perpetual calendar, search no more. The Royal Oak Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin, previously known as the RD#2 concept, is the hit watch. Visually, no surprise. It has all the design codes of the classic “Jumbo” Royal Oak, in a reasonable size and with a brushed titanium case and bracelet illuminated with polished platinum elements (bezel and bracelet links).

What makes this watch special is its movement – so innovative that it won this watch the Aiguille d’Or at the GPHG 2019. It is the thinnest perpetual calendar ever made. Audemars Piguet demonstrates here its mastery of ultra-thin movements and of its signature complication, the perpetual calendar. By rethinking entirely the architecture of the movement, which isn’t a base and module anymore, but a one-layer calibre, the brand has achieved a watch that is thinner than most time-only watches, at only 6.3mm in height  – almost 2mm less than a time-and-date Royal Oak Jumbo. Now, the main issue will be to find one… as availability is close to zero.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin 26586IP.OO.1240IP.01

Quick facts: 41mm diameter x 6.3mm height – grade 5 titanium and 950 platinum case – Calibre 5133, in-house – automatic ultra-thin perpetual calendar – titanium and platinum bracelet – ref. 26586IP.OO.1240IP.01 – CHF 140,000

The Clever one – Vacheron Constantin Twin Beat Perpetual Calendar

Up to 65 days of power reserve, without exotic materials and out-of-space technology? Just clever, well-thought architecture. But why would you need such a long power reserve? Well, one of the main problems of perpetual calendar watches, set apart by the fact that they are one of the greatest examples of miniaturized mechanics, is that they are usually complex to adjust and fragile. Most damage occurs when adjusting the movement. Vacheron Constantin’s answer to this issue is not your typical protection mechanism. The Traditionnelle Twin Beat features a classic QP and a movement that, in “Active Mode”, runs at a high-beat 5Hz frequency. But…

There’s a pusher at 8 o’clock that disengages the main regulator and switches on “Storage Mode”. By activating this mode, the watch runs at a slower pace; its secondary gear train and regulator slow down to 1.2Hz, making sure the watch is ticking and keeping the QP indications in synch. And when doing so, the power reserve goes from 4 days to an astonishing 65 days. Best of all, the Traditionnelle Twin Beat is superbly crafted, modern but still relatively restrained, as a Vacheron should be. Impressive.

Quick facts: 42mm diameter x 12.3mm height – 950 platinum case – Calibre 3610 QP, in-house – hand-wound perpetual calendar with twin-beat technology – EUR 210,000

3 responses

  1. Great list. The AP really is impressive at that thinness, although I’d like to see it with a tapisserie dial.

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