Much can change in a century. While our world has evolved greatly, there are some things that have remained refreshingly the same, like our need to nurture relationships, our sense of family duty, as well as our respect for values such as integrity and honesty.
These values, thankfully, will never go out of fashion, much like traditional horology that has largely stayed true to its principle roots. Of all the complications that have existed in watchmaking, none are as cherished in terms of foresight as the perpetual calendar.
In function, the mechanism provides one of horology’s most forethought solutions to keeping time. The perpetual calendar correctly displays the day of the week, the date, the month, the year, and the phases of the moon “perpetually”, taking into consideration the differing lengths of months as well as leap year cycles. Should a perpetual calendar be constantly wound and running, most would never have to be manually corrected till 2100.
Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe’s long-standing work with the mechanism stretches back to the mid-1800s. It was only in 1889 that the manufacture was granted its patent for the first perpetual calendar mechanism in a pocket watch. Patek Philippe had designed an immensely elaborate system that allowed for the simultaneous advancement of all time functions through a manner of levers and star-wheels for each function.
Through the years, the perpetual calendar mechanism has never truly changed and the basis of its method patented by Patek Philippe remains largely the same. At its heart, a cam works as a programmed function, dictating when the date wheel should skip the 29th, 30th or 31st depending on the month. The mechanism also follows a systemised pattern of skipping dates when necessary. This in turn affects another wheel for the leap year, where the watch “remembers” the extra day in February.
This year, Patek Philippe celebrates its long and storied history in the art of perpetual calendars. Its latest release, the Ref 5320G (pictured above) is its newest perpetual calendar that borrows design elements from two of its own past timepieces, Ref 2405 and Ref 1463. With an expansive cream lacquer dial with little clutter, the applied blackened gold Arabic numerals with Superluminova coating stand out. The sharp-tipped baton hands, also in blackened gold with luminescent treatment, are reminiscent of the same art deco vein that the watch is designed in. The watch features Patek Philippe’s calibre 324 S Q, an automatic perpetual calendar movement with the day and night indicator shown in a circle aperture between seven and eight o’clock.
The other perpetual calendar from Baselworld this year is the Ref 5940R‑001, a cushion-shaped timepiece, originally made in yellow gold five years ago. This year, Patek Philippe has released it in a brilliant rose gold case, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the ultra-thin Patek Philippe calibre 240 Q automatic movement. It is one of the manufacture’s thinnest base calibres, a mere 2.53mm thick, and has been used for several of the maison’s timepieces to obtain as slim a profile as possible. Its secret lies in the gold micro-rotor, which minimises space.
The complex perpetual calendar mechanism is, of course, not just limited to men. In 2012, Patek Philippe launched its first perpetual calendar, the Ref 7140, for women. It sees the classic round Calatrava case in rose gold framed by a diamond-set bezel.
The calibre 240 Q comes into play once again, providing the base calibre for the perpetual calendar module and allowing for a slim and elegant profile perfect for a lady’s wrist.
A century is in no way a fleeting moment, making the fact that Patek Philippe’s perpetual calendar requires adjustment in the year 2100 all that more impressive. We wonder: how much will the world change by then, and how much will remain the same?
We ask three mother‑child pairs about a memory that they hold close and what they wish stays the same, perpetuated across time.
Katherine and Nicholas Ng
Meals, especially those on family holidays, are some of Katherine and Nicholas Ng’s best cherished moments. It makes sense, given their family’s long history in the food industry, as well as Nicholas’ role as director of food distribution business FoodXervices and co‑founder of non‑profit organisation The Food Bank Singapore. The mother and son duo agree that family time is one of the biggest joys they derive from the present and hope that in a century, people will slow down and still savour that time. “I hope that people will treasure the time spent with their loved ones, and have good conversations rather than just using technology to replace all human touch,” Katherine shares. Nature is the other concern for the Ngs. As Nicholas puts it, “I wish the climate and temperature will steady or even improve. It’s bad enough as it is and I want my kids’ kids to know the beauty of having four seasons.”
Melissa and Susan Peh
For Susan and Melissa Peh, the kitchen is where family time is most cherished. The mother and daughter have spent many an hour cooking and baking, sometimes even through the night. Says the 27-year-old Melissa, “We love to experiment in the kitchen together. Whenever one of us has an idea for a dish, we come up with recipes together, source for ingredients and brainstorm how best to cook and plate it. The result doesn’t always turn out as expected, but the process is so much fun!” The legal eagles aren’t fazed by the future at all, and are optimistic that human progress will result in a world that’s more peaceful, more efficient, and more beautiful. Susan’s biggest hope is that in a century, unconditional love remains a mainstay of life. As she eloquently describes it, “True love is timeless. It always heals, forgives, builds up and connects people, and with that naturally comes peace, harmony and progress.”
Dominic Liew and Margarita Dolores Villanueva
His mother’s selflessness is what Dominic Liew may remember the most about her, but flip the question and Margarita Dolores Villanueva shares with us a funny anecdote of a young Dominic learning to walk. She quips, “He was tiptoeing most of the time so I thought he might grow up to be a ballet dancer!” The mother and son pair count talking about anything and everything, shopping, and dining together as some of their favourite activities, and hope that they will always be able to surround themselves with people they love. And while the future may hold many surprises, both Margarita and Dominic are optimistic about it. Dominic is certain the advancements in health and technology will help prolong and save the lives of humans. “I can only hope the future would be better than the present in many, many ways!” sums up Margarita.
Patek Philippe at The Hour Glass
- Ngee Ann City, tel: 6734 2420
- Tang Plaza, tel: 6235 7198
- Knightsbridge, tel: 6884 8484
- One Raffles Place, tel: 6534 5855