As any watchmaker or designer knows, simplicity is devilishly complex. And when it comes to simplifying a complication like an annual calendar, this exercise requires great ingenuity. If there is one figure on the current watchmaking scene capable of pulling off an annual calendar of such radical minimalism, inventiveness and intuitiveness, it is Dr Ludwig Oechslin. The annual calendar complication, known as the ochs line anno, is not a novelty, but it now moves from the limited, customisable department to a serial production piece, like the settimana raw and the mese. Translated, that means that there will be more anno-annual calendars on the market, and even better, the price drops from around CHF 8,000 to just above CHF 5,000 for a serially produced model. Available in two coloured options and an almost all-black model, the new ochs und junior anno comes in 42mm titanium cases.
Elementary, my dear Ludwig
Ludwig Oechslin (1952), former curator of the Musée international d’horlogerie (MIH) in La Chaux-de-Fonds, studied archaeology as an undergraduate and obtained a PhD in Philosophy – with a scholarship to study theoretical physics and astronomy. He also managed to study watchmaking on the side and became a Swiss master watchmaker in 1983.
They say that philosophers are much in demand these days because of their more versatile and multi-disciplinary approach to solving problems, which probably explains Oechslin’s fascinating mindset when it comes to designing watches.
Having restored the Farnese clock in the Vatican and constructed a replica of the Antikythera, Oechslin gained a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for his Astrolabium Galileo Galilei watch. Following his time at Ulysse Nardin and his work on the Freak, in 2006 Oechslin founded his own company – ochs und junior – with marketing genius Beat Weinmann, who left the company in 2019.
The overriding philosophy at ochs und junior is to find simpler solutions to big problems, often by radically reducing the number of parts. The reasoning is that fewer parts are more reliable and easier to service but, in turn, require a great deal more design headaches. In short, it took Oechslin three years of R&D to confect the annual calendar comprised of just three additional moving parts. Capable of computing months with 30 or 31 days, annual calendars require one manual adjustment per year on 1 March.
A distinguishing factor between Oechslin’s annual calendar and most conventional calendars is the lack of text and numbers to indicate the date, month and day of the week. Instead, the brass milled dial features a series of cut-out holes or perforations that are indicated by a contrasting colour in a lower level to highlight the functions.
The 30 + 1 holes on the perimeter of the dial display the date with ten-minute markers as reference points; the 30-minute marker, for example, is aligned with the 15th day of the month, allowing for intuitive readings.
To consult the day of the week, there are seven holes in a circle in the lower half of the dial with a counterclockwise display, and the months, also counterclockwise, are indicated by 12 holes directly above the weekday wheel. Where things get really clever, though, is the way you can consult the exact minute and second using the perforated date holes. Spaced at 2-minute intervals, the holes mark even minutes, and the gaps mark odd minutes. If you have trouble visualising the format, there is a very useful interactive model online that you can fiddle with to see how the annual calendar functions are displayed.
Again, the case is unconventional. Most cases are made of three parts – middle case, bezel and caseback. In his quest for simplification, Oeschlin’s case has just two parts, The caseback holds the movement in place, and the bezel closes the case and supports the crystal. The serially produced models come in 42mm grade 5 titanium cases with a height of 11mm (incl. the crystal) and weigh just 70g (incl. leather strap and buckle)! The large screw-down crown ensures the 100m water-resistance of the case, and like other models, the cases show traces of machining and milling imperfections adding to their charm.
There are three non-customisable options of the anno. The anno oj blue and brass model has an oj blue dial, brass indices and hour and minute hands coated in beige Super-LumiNova with an oj blue central seconds hand and Super-LumiNova applied to the date dot, month dot and day of the week dot. The second is the anno oj blue and orange model with an oj blue dial with orange Super-LumiNova accents on the indices, hands and dots. The third version is the anno black and white with a black dial and white Super-LumiNova accents as described above. All three models come with Ecopell leather straps and a handmade leather pouch made by Sabina Brägger.
Unlike conventional annual calendars packed with countless parts and delicate levers and springs, the anno-annual calendar relies on a gear system using custom-designed parts. Not only is it a simpler solution (fewer parts that can break or malfunction), but rotating gears mean less wear and tear and less friction on the movement, which can influence the chronometry. And with an ‘engine’ like the automatic ETA 2824-2 with a 38h power reserve, which ochs und junior still use, there’s not much that can go wrong. Another advantage is that all the functions can be adjusted via the crown. Incidentally, the customisable version of the annual calendar is still available in three case sizes and countless bespoke options.
Availability & Price
All three serially produced versions of the ochs line anno can be ordered online at ochsundjunior.swiss. After you have deposited a 50% prepayment, the model will be delivered in 12-20 weeks. The retail price is CHF 5,077 (excl. tax).