The perpetual calendar is one of the most innovative and romantic complications in all of horology. Because 2016 is a leap year, all but the most complicated calendar watches are going to require that extra step of work come the end of February — making the perpetual calendar (also called a QP, an abbreviation of the French term quantième perpétuel) the holy grail of timekeeping. From the small window in the dial displaying the day of the month to the day of the week, a QP seamlessly counts everything from seconds to leap-year cycles, plus it only needs to be adjusted once a century. Yes, we said once a century.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Perpetual
Purity is what this watch is all about. JLC’s stainless steel black dial perpetual packs the calendar function in an ultra-thin modular, the self-winding caliber 868 that measures just 4.72mm thick. It’s packaged in a 39mm case. It boasts three registers plus a moonphase display at 12 o’clock, and two additional notables: a year window at 7 o’clock and an aperture just above the axis point towards 12 o’clock that turns red as evening falls — an indication the wearer should not adjust the watch then, for risk of damaging the gears.
Price: $20,400; jaeger-lecoultre.com
Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Tourbillon QP
As rare as high complication watches get, this unique Traditionnelle boasts a tourbillon and perpetual calendar in platinum and with an atypical gray dial. Set within its 44mm case is Vacheron’s calibre 2253 movement, which, in addition to the QP function, includes the times of sunrise and sunset (which may be set to the wearer’s hometown), and equation of time. In addition, it has an exceptional power reserve of 14 days (or 336 hours). This piece is numbered in an edition of 10.
Price: $482,000; vacheron-constantin.com
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar
Powered by a new automatic calibre 5134 movement, the watch now comes in four versions, two in stainless steel, and two in rose gold with either a navy blue or silvered Grande Tapisserie dial. Thanks to an enlarged 41mm case size, the dial display — day, date, astronomical moon, month, and leap year — is more legible. Also of note: The 52 weeks of the year are displayed on an outer chapter ring via a third center-mounted hand.
Price: $60,900; audemarspiguet.com
F.P.Journe Quantième Perpétuel
Francois-Paul Journe kept things simple with this 42mm platinum beauty. On the Quantième Perpétuel’s mechanical side, the caliber 1300.3 movement is exceptionally complex, but it doesn’t try to do too much. Basic but essential calendar functions, cleverly adjustable via a three-position crown, are featured on the dial, with the leap year tucked away in the middle of the dial. Hours and minutes are shown on the outside ring of the dial (note, no seconds hand), while a 120-hour power reserve ensures accuracy.
Price: $78,200; fpjourne.com
Ulysse Nardin Marine Perpetual
The QP made its debut in the Ulysse Nardin family in 1996, the first of its kind to allow the forwards and backwards calendar setting over a single crown. The patented 3S setting pairs diamonds with rubber for a truly unique watch-wearing experience. The two-digit year sits at 6 o’clock and, at 2 o’clock, the big date mechanism is situated. Reinforcing its maritime history, every timepiece in this collection showcases a wave pattern on the face, the edge of the dial, and black rubber strap. On the face, its color corresponds with its stone.
Price: $29,800; ulysse-nardin.com
Hermès Slim Perpetual Calendar
This rose gold watch’s thinness begins inside with a specially made QP module build atop the Hermès caliber H1950 movement. With an airy outer dial set in a 39.5mm case, far less eyestrain is required to comprehend. The GMT subdial at 6 o’clock, the only blue hand on the dial, is larger than the others and easily adjustable with a pusher just below the crown. The months and years (including leap years), date, and moonphase are each displayed in their own subdial, and each can be adjusted via a micro-pusher set into the case adjacent to each subdial.
Price: $38,900; usa.hermes.com
A. Lange & Söhne 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar
Two perpetual calendars, each with a tourbillon, were introduced this year — but this one takes the cake. The white gold and gray dial combines the calendar with outsize date, plus a retrograde day-of-the-week and leap-year displays, and a peripheral month ring and tourbillon marking just beneath the 12. The mechanism has been designed in such a way that it must be advanced only by one day in the year 2100. And the moonphase display will even run true for 122.6 years before it needs to be corrected by one day.
Price: $350,000; alange-soehne.com
Patek Philippe Ref. 5496R
Thanks to its silvery opaline dial and unique layout, this rose gold Patek presents an eccentricity that watch purists love. A non-traditional sub-dial layout is just plain fun: The moonphase sits in the lower part of the dial; the QP is displayed in 3 apertures (day at 9, month at 3, and leap year at 12). The date is indicated by a retrograde hand that moves backward between 7 and 4 while time is displayed by “dauphine” hands in the center of the dial. The case is classic Calatrava, with its bevelled bezel and flat case-bands. This Patek has very reasonable dimensions (39.5mm in diameter and 11.19mm in height), which contribute to its dressier feel, as well as its everyday comfort.
Price: $85,100; patek.com
Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Perpetual Calendar Chronograph
First introduced in 2013, the Rotonde QP has since left quite an indelible impression on watch collectors. Powered by a 1904CH MC movement in its 42mm case, this QP is handsome (and hefty) to a fault, particularly in the rose gold and chocolate brown dial combination. It’s offset by the shaped blued steel hands, guilloche dial, and cabochon blue sapphire crown. In a rare feat of luxury, it allows the measurement and display of short periods of time (chronograph) with a mechanism that can track and compensate for the long period irregularities of Gregorian calendar, indicating days of the week at 6 o’clock.
Price: $74,000; cartier.us
IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Edition Top Gun
As part of the newly revamped pilot’s watch collection, IWC’s crown jewels remains this QP Top Gun edition. Its seven-day power reserve engages myriad of complications, including the aforementioned QP with four-digit year display together with day, date, and month displays, as well as a moonphase indicator. The case is fashioned from zirconium oxide and has a hardness that rivals that of sapphire and diamond, lending the watch its trademark “stealth” appearance. It’s rare to find a perpetual calendar watch that isn’t also a dress watch. But if you’re looking for a weekend watch, not to mention one that’s a whopping 48mm, keep this on the watch winder and enjoy.
Price: $36,000; iwc.com