Today, as you surely know, is leap day – February 29th. You know this because that one guy in your life who spent his life’s savings on a perpetual calendar can’t stop talking about it. The perpetual calendar is an amazing complication – able to account for not only the varying lengths of your average 12 months – but also for leap years. The perpetual is, in my experience, the grand complication that gets the most people excited about what mechanical watchmaking can do and today, in honor of that, we’re going to look at a few of our favorite perpetuals currently on the market, and what makes them so special.
For The Classicist
1. Patek Philippe 5140 – Patek Philippe invented the serially produced perpetual calendar wristwatch, so it’s no mistake that the heir apparent to the most beautiful watches ever be included in this list. The 5140 is a round, 38mm perpetual calendar based on the legendary 240Q movement. While purists are quick to say it’s no 3940 – notice the larger bezel and enormous-for-Patek-Philippe-but-tiny-for-anyone-else font – there is no denying the pure, elegant excellence of the 5140. Oh, and you can still buy it brand new. More here.
2. Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Perpetual Calendar – If the 5140 doesn’t strike your fancy, Vacheron offers an excellent alternative in their patrimony perpetuals. The history here isn’t quite as lengthy, at least in wristwatch form, but VC was a famous innovator in calendar functions in early 20th pocket watches. This is just a wonderful watch. More here.
For The Modern Thinker
1. A. Lange & Sohne Langematik Perpetual – The Langematik, in particular in white gold with a black dial, is a much more modern feeling QP than those from either PP or VC, but has just the build quality and frankly, super legibility thanks to that outsize date. You can’t go wrong here. More here.
2. FP Journe Octa Quantième Perpétuel – Oft discussed, rarely seen, the Octa perpetual offers that wonderful Journe profile and attention to detail with a few technical tricks like instaneous jumps, big date displays, and a hidden corrector under the lug. More here.
For The Minimalist
1. H. Moser Endeavour Perpetual Calendar – One of the downright coolest perpetual calendars in the world, and one that we have immense respect for. This QP is the work of Mr. Andreas Strehler, and Moser has been subtly tweaking this modern classic for the past few years. Check it out here.
2. Ochs & Junior Annual Calendar – OK fine, this isn’t a perpetual calendar, but this annual calendar is so damn cool we had to include it. Not sure who Ochs & Junior is? Watch this, then read more here.
For The Weekend Warrior
1. Any IWC Perpetual Calendar, Really – The Kurt Klaus engineered perpetual calendar from IWC is a true modern classic, and was the first integrated QP to be able to be set via just the crown. It’s a little bulkier than some other QPs, and boy, if you go past the date you intended to, are you in for it, but this is a fantastic watch in no matter what case you chose. My favorite is the white gold portugese with blue dial but for something entirely different, you can also do it in a Big Pilot.
2. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual – Relaunched late last year, the Royal Oak perpetual is a classic and one of the most versatile really high end watches in the world. Read about it here, and extra points for anyone who rocks it in yellow gold.
For “That Guy”
1. The MB&F LM1 Perpetual – MB&F is loved by all, but when they showed this amazing perpetual calendar this fall, my hard-core, high-end friends seemed to say “Ok, now we not only do we love you, but we really, really respect you”. There isn’t a perpetual like this in the world, and come on, look at it.
2. JLC Master Grande Tradition Tourbillon Cylindrique à Quantieme Perpetual – Longest, most difficult to prounce name in the history of perpetual calendars, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad watch. In fact, it’s an amazing watch. This bad boy features a cylindrical tourbillon with full perpetual AND active zodiac sign display. More here.
For The QP Cognoscenti
1. Ulysse Nardin – the GMT +/- Perpetual. Ulysse Nardin’s justly famous for the Freak but it also produced, back in 1996, one of the most technically innovative of modern perpetual calendars. The Perpetual Ludwig, as it was called when it was launched, was nothing less than the first perpetual calendar that could be adjusted entirely from the crown either forwards or backwards, making it the most user-friendly perpetual ever made. The GMT +/- Perpetual combines the mechanism of the original Perpetual Ludwig with a GMT hand, which can be set forwards or backwards in one hour increments, with the perpetual calendar indications all remaining snychronized to show the correct date and time in your current time zone. An amazing technical achievement, available today in a wide range of designs and looks; check them all out, from Ulysse Nardin, here.
2. Cartier – the Astrocalendaire. The Cartier Astrocalendaire is one of the most unusual perpetual calendars out there. LIke the Perpetual Ludwig, it is one of the very, very few perpetual calendar watches that can be set either forwards or backwards, with all indications staying coordinated, using just the crown. To do this it uses a system of stacked wheels with moveable teeth that, while it’s got some conceptual similarities to the Perpetual Ludwig, also has a number of unique technical features. One of these is the calendar display, which consists of three nested circles at different levels, surrounding a central flying tourbillon. There’s really nothing else quite like it; check out our previous coverage of this watch right here, and see it online from Cartier for more details here.