For the SIHH 2018, Laurent Ferrier had quite a lot of novelties up his sleeve and his latest watch features a new movement and an unprecedented complication for the brand: an annual calendar. Housed in the sleek, round Montre Ecole (School Piece) case, the Laurent Ferrier Galet Annual Calendar already impressed us just by looking at photos… And then came the surprise of Ferrier’s new movement housed in a great looking new gold alloy. Clearly, one of the most elegant and desirable watches of the SIHH 2018.
Maybe you’ve already had a peek of this new Galet Annual Calendar School Piece thanks to our live coverage of the Geneva Watch Fair, when we sat down with Vanessa Monestel, CEO of the brand, to discuss the 2018 collection, or when our founder Frank Geelen manifested his crush on this watch in our “Best of Show” video. Now it’s time to look at this watch in full resolution and dive into details. Not just a new watch in the collection, this Laurent Ferrier Galet Annual Calendar represents a huge step forward for the brand – remember that LF is a small independent brand and thus can’t afford to create entirely new watches every year.
An annual calendar complication
The annual calendar represents the best compromise between a complex QP and a simple Full Calendar.
As said, this Galet Annual Calendar is entirely new, with the exception of its case – or at least the shape of its case. All the rest – movement, materials, complications, display – is new and quite simply superb. First of all, Laurent Ferrier has developed a new complication, an annual calendar. Why an annual calendar? Why not a complete calendar or a perpetual calendar? Well, in the words of Laurent himself – and we fully agree with him here – the annual calendar represents the best compromise between the beauty of a complex mechanism, the practicality of not having to adjust a watch, the security during adjustments and the simplicity of assembly.
What is an annual calendar?
The concept of the annual calendar was patented by Patek in 1996 as an intermediate and practical type of calendar display, right between the simple full calendar and the complex and fragile perpetual calendar. A complete calendar offers the display of the date, day and month, but requires an adjustment at the end of all months with less than 31 days (in short, 5 times a year). A perpetual calendar, on the other hand, takes into account the exact length of all months, including February – whether 28 or 29 days. Yet, they are fragile and complex to assemble. The annual calendar is a great compromise as it takes into account the months with 30 or 31 days, automatically jumping to the correct date. The only thing an annual calendar doesn’t do is to self-adjust at the end of February. Thus, it requires one manual adjustment a year.
In the context of the Laurent Ferrier Galet Annual Calendar School Piece, we have a combination of a classical layout, reminiscent of the 1940s full calendar watches (windows at 12 o’clock and date indicated by hand on the periphery) with the modern and technical approach brought by the annual calendar. Not only is this annual calendar mechanically satisfying and practical on a daily basis (with only one adjustment a year required) but it is also well-conceived. All operations are done by the crown or thanks to a single pusher (at 10 o’clock). No ugly recessed pushers in the case band here. The user-friendly mechanism allows for setting the days of the week by simply pushing the button at 10 o’clock, while the other adjustments are made by pulling and turning the crown, with a fast adjustment of the date with the central hand. By turning the crown forwards and backwards, the month is automatically updated. Simple and safe.
A pristine, vintage design
The display is pleasant, clean and perfectly balanced. All indications are aligned on the 12-to-6 axle, a traditional style for calendar watches, which perfectly befits the vintage and classic look of Laurent Ferrier watches. Yet, the style has slightly evolved here, with the addition of reliefs and colours. The day and month windows are framed by large, chamfered apertures and the date is indicated by a bright-red hand with blue numerals on the periphery. Nothing too loud however and a nice evolution of LF’s design.
The Laurent Ferrier Galet Annual Calendar School Piece remains true to the “Montre Ecole” collection, with its round central case with straight lugs. The “bassiné” case, full of curves and convex surfaces, is enlightened by two brushed lines on the sides. The same goes for the lugs, with cabochons on the tips. The dial also remains faithful to the other watches of the Montre Ecole collection, with a silver-toned background and the combination of a vertically-brushed central area and a circular-brushed hour ring. As always, this dial is full of details, lively and plays with ambient light. Time is indicated by the superbly finished Assegai-shaped hands.
A new “pale” yellow gold case
For this Laurent Ferrier Galet Annual Calendar School Piece (a limited edition of 50 pieces), collectors will have the choice between several materials, including steel and white gold. Yet, the most striking version and a novelty in the collection is the yellow gold edition… But not any kind of yellow gold. When it comes to gold colours, brands usually rely on 2N (yellow), 4N (pink) or 5N (red). This Galet Annual Calendar introduces a new “pale” or “sand” gold, which intends to recall vintage alloys – antique golds or 1N gold. To achieve a paler colour, the alloy needs to contain a larger proportion of white metals (in this case, palladium). However, it must retain its 18-carat nomenclature, meaning a minimum of 75% solid gold. Usually, pale yellow 1N gold alloys are 14-carat. The alloy used by Laurent Ferrier could well be considered a sort of 1.5N gold, while still being 18k.
To complement the vintage look and display, Laurent Ferrier has created a new pale yellow gold alloy.
In the metal, this new gold alloy has a superb colour, elegant and subtler than most of the modern yellow gold alloys used these days – which are relatively bright and shiny. This adds to the unique charm of this watch and to the vintage appeal achieved by the display, the shape of the case and the two-tone dial. If other versions of this Galet Annual Calendar School Piece are appealing, our favourite is definitely this pale/sand gold version. On the wrist, the 40mm case is well sized, even if the additional annual calendar complication implies a thicker 12.80mm case, which is nevertheless well balanced and doesn’t feel too prominent.
A new in-house movement
Last but not least, this Laurent Ferrier Galet Annual Calendar comes with a brand-new movement – the 5th in-house calibre of the brand, after the Tourbillon Double Hairspring, the Natural Escapement Micro-Rotor, the Micro-Rotor Dual-Time and the School Regulator. When we say new, it is indeed different from all the other movements, both in terms of decoration and technical solutions. The base remains quite close to the tourbillon – for the energy storage and transmission – but with a completely new regulating organ.
The Galet Annual Calendar School Piece relies on a hand-wound movement with a traditional Swiss Lever Escapement – no double-hairspring tourbillon or natural escapement with silicon wheels here, just a good old escapement with metallic parts and a screwed balance. Laurent Ferrier has deliberately chosen to use a more standard and reliable solution for the regulation and to focus on the calendar functions instead. The movement stores up to 80 hours of power reserve and features a “power reserve area indicator” on the back side (visible on the circular wheel above the balance wheel). It is fitted with a long “blade” click ratchet, a technical feature reminiscent of pocket watches and known for its pleasant “winding feel”.
The decoration of this calibre LF126.01 is also different from what the brand used to do in the past – which doesn’t mean it is done with less attention to detail. The bridges, adorned with large and hand-applied Geneva stripes, are now plated with dark ruthenium, offering a great contrast with the steel and brass parts, as well as with the gold colour of the case. As always, the bridges have superb hand-polished chamfers and jewel sinks, as well as sharp angles. Overall, the movement of the Galet Annual Calendar looks more technical, more modern, but not less pleasant.
All in all, Laurent Ferrier creates another highly traditional, highly elegant and highly desirable piece with this Galet Annual Calendar School Piece. Whether we talk style or mechanics, this watch ticks all the boxes. At CHF 55,000, it isn’t what could be considered an affordable watch, yet looking at the three-hand School Piece in gold and its stainless steel sibling priced at CHF 45,000, this annual calendar could almost feel like a competitive offer. Definitely, one of the best surprises of this SIHH 2018.
More details on laurentferrier.ch.