The Annual Calendar is often thought of as the less glamorous sibling to the more complicated perpetual calendar. Knowing how particular many watch enthusiasts are, this statement might ring true to some, but it’s not all doom and gloom for fans of this 23-year-old complication. In fact, there have been a number of releases over the past few years focused on innovative time displays and accessible price points that have made the concept of owning an annual calendar more enticing than ever before. If these six releases from 2018 are any indication, the annual calendar will be in strong standing moving forward and should attract former naysayers and longtime admirers alike.
Patek Philippe patented and released the first annual calendar only 23 years ago, in 1996. Placed in the middle ground between the common date and the potent – and pricey – perpetual calendar, the annual calendar seemed to promise new terrain for enthusiasts, one that would provide desired horological “cred” without breaking the bank. Since its introduction into the Patek portfolio, the annual calendar has been released in dozens of iterations but its most recent update, announced at Baselworld 2018, is perhaps its most appealing appearance so far. The 5205g-013 takes the recognizable dial layout of the 5205 series, with the day, date and month spread across apertures in the upper half of the dial, and adds a vibrant gradient blue dial to complement the white-gold case dressing with a slightly concave bezel and pierced strap lugs. In addition to the annual calendar functionality, there’s a moon-phase and 24-hour indicator set up in the 6 o’clock subdial. All of this is powered by the automatic Caliber 324 s QA LU 24h/206 with a 45-hour power reserve. Price $47,970.
Since the Longines Master Collection was launched in 2005, it could be considered the flagship of contemporary Longines. In the past, this has been the home for a variety of models including classically designed chronographs, retrograde styles, perpetual calendars, and moon-phase watches, but last year was the first time an annual calendar had been added. In fact, it was the first time Longines had introduced an annual calendar in its 186-year history. Featuring a 40-mm stainless-steel case, the watch is identifiable thanks to its dial with a stamped barleycorn motif and the date and month at 3 o’clock. There are four different versions available: two with a silver-finished dial and either Arabic numerals or diamond indexes, one with a black dial and Roman numerals and a single model with a sunray blue dial. The hands are either made from blued steel or are rhodium plated. Inside the watch is Caliber L897.2 (base ETA A31.L81) that is viewable through the exhibition caseback and has a 64-hour power reserve. It comes on either a stainless-steel bracelet or a black, brown or blue alligator leather strap with a triple-safety folding clasp. The Longines Master Collection Annual Calendar is priced at $2,425.
Blancpain’s legendary Fifty Fathoms, which more or less established the blueprint for the modern-day dive watch, is the gift that keeps on giving for the venerable Swiss brand. Now the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe, a retro-look version that debuted in 2013, is growing into a sub-collection of its own, with multiple new references debuting last year, including the Bathyscaphe Quantième annuel. The new model is the first annual calendar watch in the Fifty Fathoms range and features the new Caliber 6054-P with a 72-hour power reserve. As on other annual calendars in Blancpain’s portfolio, the dial’s layout for the calendar functions is unconventional, yet intuitive, with the day, date, and month displays grouped together from top to bottom. the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Quantième annuel is offered on a sail canvas strap, a Nato strap, or a steel bracelet, with prices of 24,500 to 26,900 Swiss francs.
Ochs & Junior is a small Lucerne-based brand that is fascinated with all things minimalist. This fascination translates into innovative timepieces that depict what were once typical complications in a new light. In the brand’s annual calendar, which was first released in 2012 and has seen a variety of updates since, the calendar functionality is displayed without any numerals in a series of dots and rings. The month is displayed via the smaller ring in the upper hemisphere of the dial through the 12 dots; the day of the week is seen through the smallest ring in the lower hemisphere through the seven dots; finally, the date is told through the largest ring of dots (31 in total) that runs along the periphery of the dial. It’s an intuitive display that contradicts our long-held notion of numeral-based timekeeping. This method even allows you to track time to the minute by using the date holes, which are spaced at two-minute intervals (holes mark even minutes and gaps odd minutes). The Ochs & Junior Annual Calendar uses an ETA 2824-2 movement with a proprietary module and is available in 36 mm, 39 mm, and 42 mm with a variety of case materials and finishes. You can even customize your own annual calendar using the configurator on Ochs & Junior website. Pricing starts at CHF 7,400.
IWC celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2018 with an expansive new collection that mostly focused on the classic design that has long defined the spirit of the Schaffhausen-based marque. Following that motif directly was the Big Pilot’s Watch Annual Calendar Edition “150 Years” (Ref. IW502708), which balanced IWC’s cherished pilot watch styling with the addition of an annual calendar complication to balance the dial’s appearance. IWC is no stranger to the annual calendar, having introduced it first in 2015 inside the Portugieser collection and slowly following it with various limited-edition releases in lines such as Le Petit Prince and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The first model to bear the Big Pilot name uses the same movement, Caliber 52850, as the previous annual calendar models, displaying the month, date and day in the American format at the top of the dial. The movement uses IWC’s trademark Pellaton winding system to offer a seven-day power reserve. It comes in a stainless-steel model with an attractive blue dial and measures in at 46.2 mm. It is limited to 100 total pieces and is priced at $19,700.
Those who watched the 2018 edition of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) may have recognized a familiar face walking away with the Men’s Complication prize at the end of the night. Laurent Ferrier, the septuagenarian Swiss watchmaker who was formerly the Technical Director of Patek Philippe, won the award for his 2018 novelty, the Galet Annual Calendar School Piece, that was inspired by his early years studying horology. This model, which is perhaps most notable for the introduction of the independent firm’s fifth manufacture caliber, the manual-winding LF.126.01, is imbued with the traditional joie de vivre we’ve come to expect from Laurent Ferrier’s work, with the date, month, and day of the week all highly legible and a dial layout that is both colorful and subdued. The date is apparent thanks to a bright red indicator hand, while the month and day of the week are placed underneath 12 o’clock in two separate apertures. The days of the week are updated by simply pressing the pusher integrated on the left side of the case. All other adjustments are made by pulling and turning the crown. The 40-mm timepiece comes in either a silver-toned or slate-gray dial, but both versions have the same vintage-inspired numerals painted on in a light blue. On the caseback, you’ll find a power-reserve indicator that displays how much of the 80-hour reserve is left. You have three choices for case material, either 18k rose gold, stainless steel, or, for the first time, 18k “pale” yellow gold. The steel model is priced at CHF 50,000; the gold versions at CHF 55,000.