Leap years are the watch's oldest enemy, but these annual calendars aren't winding down without a fight

 
Alex Doak

The ‘perpetual calendar’ keeps the perfect date, every day, without adjustment – even on leap years. It was invented 222 years ago, by Breguet.

On the other hand, the ‘annual calendar’ only takes into account the four 30-day months, so needs adjusting once a year at the end of February. This simpler, more cost-effective complication was invented… 21 years ago, by Patek Philippe. It might not be perpetual, but it’s proved just as alluring. Here are some of the best.

A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Annual Calendar

£30,800, alange-soehne.com
The annual calendar function isn’t new to ‘Germany’s answer to Patek’ – that was seven years ago – but this latest update from Lange is as clever and future-proof as we’ve come to expect from the Saxon meister of all things purist and classical. By consigning the date to a concentric analogue railway track around the day indicator at 9 o’clock, space is freed for Lange’s trademark ‘arc’ logo where once there was a large date, lending more circular symmetry and coherence to the dial as a whole. A button at 2 o’clock makes it possible to collectively advance all date indications – handy if, for instance, the watch has stood stopped for more than its 72 hours of autonomy.

Omega Constellation Globemaster Annual Calendar

£17,200, omegawatches.com
This beauty borrows its design cues from the Constellation watches of the 50s – especially that gorgeously faceted ‘pie pan’ dial – but the tradition stops there; the Globemaster is in fact a deceptive distillation of almost every innovation that’s been pioneered by Omega since the mega-brand patented its revolutionary Co-Axial escapement in 1999. Within lies the first Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology (METAS) certified “Master Chronometer” movement”, which functions properly when exposed to magnetic fields of up to 15,000 gauss. This year’s annual-calendar function only adds to the cleverness, all cased up by Omega’s in-house 18ct ‘Sedna’ gold, whose rosy glow will never fade.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sky-Dweller

£10,600, rolex.com
Despite its unmatched prestige and capabilities, the only permissable filigrees at Rolex have been ‘GMT’ time-zoners, stopwatch chronographs and regatta countdown timers – all stoically useful, never frivolous for the sake of it. So you can understand why everyone sat up like meerkats in 2012, when Rolex unveiled the magnificently named Sky-Dweller, combining a calendar with a second time-zone, now available in steel (with a bit of white gold) for the first time. With characteristic elegance, its ‘Saros’ annual calendar mechanism introduces just four additional gear wheels to the inner workings, and cleverly doubles-up the 12 hour markings as the 12 month indicators.

--

Watch This Space
Funny to think that a mere handful of years ago, the notion of dropping £20,000 on an Audemars Piguet at home via your laptop, rather than in Mayfair via a velvet-lined tray, was thought foolhardy and intrinsically anathema to the idea of ‘luxury’. Now of course, most brands have transactional websites, and every watch retailer sells its wares online.

The Watch Gallery – which operated the Wonder Room in Selfridges, Rolex One Hyde Park and branded boutiques in Westfield – was among the first to persuade us all that it’s all about the integrated multi-platform shopping experience, rather than a binary web-or-shop decision. Europe’s biggest watch retailer Bucherer – 130 years old with boutiques across the globe – loves the company so much it has bought it lock, stock and winding barrel. A full re-brand is imminent, but rest assured the innovative approach that distinguished The Watch Gallery will always remain.

thewatchgallery.com, bucherer.com

Related articles