The Galet Annual Calendar School Piece marks an important milestone in Laurent Ferrier’s career. As the fifth in-house calibre from the independent master watchmaker, this Galet model is also his first annual calendar complication. With its smooth, sensual surfaces and effortless handling, this annual calendar stole our hearts as one of the best watches presented at the SIHH 2018. Equipped with a manual-winding in-house movement and primed for user-friendliness, this watch managed to seduce the jury of the GPHG and took home the 2018 Men’s Complication watch prize. Interpreted in red and yellow gold as well as stainless steel, and with a wide range of dial colours, the model we had for our hands-on session was the “desert sand yellow gold” and silver dial version.
Editor’s note: this review of the Laurent Ferrier Annual Calendar School Piece is part 2 of a series of 3 articles where we will compare two of the most desirable high-end, hand-wound Annual Calendar watches currently on the market. Two watches with the same concept, but two different flavours. The third article, which will be published after our two separate reviews, will pit them side-by-side.
Annual calendars are pitched right between the simple full calendar and the complex yet fragile perpetual calendar, both in terms of functionality and price. The beauty of an annual calendar is the amount of information it can provide (day, month and date) and the practicality of only having to make one manual adjustment a year, at the end of February.
For his first annual calendar, Laurent Ferrier decided to focus on user-friendliness and instead of recessed pushers hidden in the case band, he has incorporated an easy-to-grip pusher at 10 o’clock to set the day of the week. In addition to winding the movement and setting the time, the crown has been given extra functionality and the date and month functions, for example, can be adjusted with ease, speed and security by turning the crown backwards and forwards. No tools are required for any of the adjustments and the system is simple and safe.
A trip down memory lane
The only aspect of the watch that was not entirely new was the shape of its case. The words “School Piece” featured in the name of the watch are a reference to the “school watch” that fledgeling watchmakers must produce to graduate from watchmaking school. Laurent Ferrier’s 1968 graduation watch from the Geneva Watchmaking School reflects his passion for the round, smooth shapes (the name Galet is a reference to river worn pebbles) and the clean lines of 19th-century pocket watches. In 2017, Laurent Ferrier indulged in a trip down memory lane and paid tribute to his own school watch with the Galet Micro-Rotor Montre École.
The 40mm Galet School Piece case was chosen to house the annual calendar complication and a delicious new gold alloy, described as “desert sand”, was the material of choice. The curvaceous case and onion-style crown are reminiscent of the plump, rounded contours of pocket watches of yesteryear. If you have ever handled a Laurent Ferrier watch, you will agree that the few watchmakers can pull off such wonderfully attractive cases that beg to be touched and admired.
With a height of 10.10mm (12.80mm if you add the sapphire crystal glass), the rotundity of the design and the brightly polished bezel elevate the case making it sit slightly higher on the wrist than the dimensions would indicate. However, the short lugs with cabochons on the tips curve down towards the wrist planting the caseback flush against your skin.
Paler and more subtle than yellow gold and cooler (temperature-wise) than red gold, the special alloy developed for this case evokes vintage/antique watch alloys like 1N gold. To achieve a paler tonality, the alloy contains a larger proportion of palladium. However, it must retain its 18k standard, meaning a minimum of 75% solid gold. Usually, pale yellow 1N gold alloys are 14k.
The alloy used by Laurent Ferrier could well be considered a sort of 1.5N gold, while still respecting the 18k requirement. Beyond the technical properties of this alloy, the sandy colour of this gold is sophisticated and classy beyond belief.
Legibility is Key
Another strategic directive during the development process was legibility and the annual calendar functions are arranged in an intuitive and easy-to-consult manner. Like triple calendar watches produced in the 1940s, the date is indicated on the periphery with a red central hand (pointer date) and the days of the week and the months are displayed in two rectangular bevelled apertures in the top half of the dial. The result is a serene, balanced and harmonious dial.
The finishes on the silver-tone dial, combining a vertically brushed central area, a circular-brushed hour ring and a snailed running seconds counter, play with the ambient light and create a spectacular sensation of depth. There are times when the hour ring seems to plunge into the centre of the dial. A thin cross traverses the dial and echoes the elegant lines of the famous gold Assegai or javelin-shaped hands.
The subtle incorporation of colour and the minimalist markings are in line with Laurent Ferrier’s elegant but low-key design philosophy. The peripheral date features blue vintage-style Arabic numerals with a dark red (burgundy) number 31. The same colour is echoed on the pointer hand for the date and on the quarter intervals of the small seconds. These might seem like a discreet design choice but goes a long way in consolidating the distinct personality of the watch.
The Galet Annual Calendar School Pieces relies on proprietary hand-wound movement with a traditional Swiss lever escapement and is fitted with a “long blade click-type ratchet”, a technical feature reminiscent of pocket watches and a feature of LF’s first manual-winding movement used in the tourbillon double hairspring. The movement oscillates at 3Hz and offers a robust 80-hour power reserve indicated on the reverse side by a circular wheel with a sunburst finish.
The decoration of calibre LF126.01 is decidedly contemporary and more technical than some of LF’s earlier models. The bridges are decorated with thick Geneva stripes and plated with dark ruthenium thus heightening the contrast with the steel and brass parts. As always, the bridges display hand-polished chamfers and jewel sinks.
Price and availability
The Laurent Ferrier Galet Annual Calendar School Piece comes with a beige calf leather strap with Alcantara lining and the choice of either a pin buckle or a double-blade folding clasp. The retail price of the yellow gold model with reference number LCF025 is EUR 55,000. The Annual Calendar School Piece is also available with steel case, at CHF 50,000.
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After this review and the review of the A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Annual Calendar, tomorrow we’ll be comparing these two annual calendar watches and pronounce our verdict on the winner. Stay tuned.