If there has been one most notable complication among the many new watches introduced throughout 2021 thus far, it has clearly been the Perpetual Calendar. First introduced commercially in a wristwatch in 1925 by Patek Philippe, a perpetual calendar movement can display the date, day, month, and year with precise accuracy and even account for leap years; many models also include other complications, such as a moon-phase or power-reserve indicator, and virtually all watches with this type of movement are produced with the most knowledgeable and well-heeled clients in mind.
Since its debut, the perpetual calendar (in French, quantième perpétuel, or QP) has held an esteemed place in the world of watchmaking, due both to the status associated with the complication, and to the technical prowess required in crafting it. Today, in an era of continued growth of the luxury side of the timepiece market, watch brands actively compete to produce watches with these uncommon complications, and to do so in a manner that sets them apart from their peers. The year 2021 gave rise to quite a few examples of this mission statement. You’ll find five of them below.
One of the most notable releases of the year, perpetual calendar or otherwise, has been the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar, which sets the brand’s seventh horological thinness record since 2014.
Like previous Octo Finissimo models, the watch features an ultra-thin 40 mm case, just 5.8 mm thick, available in either a monochromatic titanium or luxurious platinum. The overall look of the watch is quite distinct, with its perpetual calendar dial display’s being presented completely in analog fashion, including with a retrograde date indicator and leap year pointer in parallel at the top and bottom of the dial, respectively.
The record-setting perpetual calendar is powered by the Bulgari Caliber BVL 305, a finely decorated, micro-rotor-powered mechanism visible via a sapphire exhibition caseback. Like the watch it powers, the movement is also incredibly thin, featuring a thickness of just 2.75 mm. The Bulgari Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar is set for sale later this year, with the titanium edition marked at $59,000 and the platinum version priced at $89,000.
Third on our list is the latest perpetual calendar offering from Patek Philippe, the new Ref. 5236P-001 In-Line Perpetual Calendar. The watch was somewhat overshadowed by the release of the attention-grabbing green-dial Nautilus but the 5236P-001 shines in its own right with the very novel calendar indication it offers.
The watch hails from the classically elegant Calatrava collection, and is remarkable for being Patek’s first wristwatch with an “in-line” calendar display. What this means is that it features the day, date, and month on a single line in a long, horizontal aperture beneath 12 o’clock. This is a configuration that Patek Philippe has used throughout its history in pocketwatches, but never before on a wristwatch, dating back to its first, groundbreaking creation in 1925.
The watch’s uncommon dial configuration is made possible by the Patek Philippe Caliber 31-260 PS QL, a reworked version of 2011’s Caliber 31-260 REG QA, with the “PS” standing for “petite seconde” and “QL” for “quantième perpétuel en ligne,” or inline perpetual calendar. The in-house mechanism is wound via a platinum microrotor, exquisitely finished, and visible via a sapphire caseback, and features a frequency of 28,800 vph and a power reserve of 48 hours.
The Patek Philippe Ref. 5236P-001 In-Line Perpetual Calendar is delivered on a navy blue alligator strap with a platinum fold-over clasp and priced in the U.S. at $130,108.
Rounding out our list is one of the most surprisingly popular releases of 2021 thus far, IWC’s now-standard-production Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Blue Dial.
The new watch, which launched as part of the Watches & Wonders 2021 virtual event, represents the first time the Schaffhausen brand has added a standard-production version of its perpetual calendar to the flagship Big Pilot’s Watch series. Accompanying the model was a limited-edition “Mojave Desert” Top Gun edition of the watch (below).
The blue-dialed watches features a classical, 46.2-mm brushed steel case typical of the Big Pilot’s Watch collection, complete with an oversized diamond-style crown and secured to the wrist via a flieger-style, riveted leather strap. Beneath the sapphire crystal, the shiny sunray blue dial gives rise to a highly legible perpetual calendar configuration, all designed in accordance with classic Big Pilot style codes.
The self-winding caliber IWC 52615 beats inside the watch; its lack of a separate leap-year indication helps keep the face relatively clean and legible. As for its specs, the in-house-developed movement contains 54 jewels, beats at 28,800 vph, and maintains a seven-day (or 168-hour) power reserve; it is visible with its fine finishing behind a sapphire caseback.
Notably, the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Blue Dial is one of the most relatively cost-effective perpetual calendars on the market today, priced at $29,900, almost $30,000 less than the second-least expensive watch on this list, the titanium Bulgari.
Do you like lists like these? Check out our watch list focusing on another uncommon complication, the Altimeter, here!