Annual Vs. Perpetual Calendars, And Their Finest Examples This Year


June 6, 2018 | BY Brian Cheong

If a watch with a simple date function seems unexciting, consider one with an annual or a perpetual calendar complication. Here, we briefly list their differences and recommend a few of 2018's top picks for your perusal

The simplest form of calendar on a watch is the date displayed via an aperture. Sometimes watchmakers create larger-than-usual windows – hence the term “big date” – for better readability.

Slightly more interesting is a date indicator in the form of a hand pointing to a date track, usually in a sub-dial but occasionally the periphery of the main dial. And sometimes there is the addition of the moon phase, a complication tracking the lunar cycle that lends the simple date a touch a whimsy. 

(Related: Watch 101: Mechanical VS Quartz Movements)

The above white gold Saxonia Moon Phase with a black dial from A. Lange & Sohne, for instance, features an oversized date counter at ‘12’, and a seconds sub-dial at ‘6’ whose upper crescent reveals the moon phase.  


Meanwhile, the Oris Big Crown Pointer Date has a central hand with a red tip that points to the dates positioned around the periphery of the dial.

More detailed calendar watches can be found in both the annual and perpetual calendar categories. These feature not just the date, but also the day and the month. Occasionally, the year is thrown into the mix to show off extra watchmaking muscle.

The main difference between the two is obvious from the names themselves. The annual calendar requires an adjustment once a year, on March 1, to correct against the shortest month of the year, February.

The perpetual calendar, however, requires only one adjustment in 100 years as it is calibrated to correct itself automatically for months shorter than 31 days, including leap years. The next time a perpetual calendar watch needs to be corrected is in the year 2100.

(Related: SIHH 2018: Must-See Watches From Day 3)

One of the best-looking annual calendars this year is the IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot’s Watch Annual Calendar Edition “150 Years”, the only one in its extensive Jubilee Collection to feature this complication. The in-house calibre 52850 with Pellaton winding system operates what is known as the American display of the month, date and day, via three separate windows at ‘12’.

(Related: Anniversary Bash: IWC Celebrates 150 Years In Style)

When it comes to crafting exquisite calendar watches, Vacheron Constantin has very few equals. Last year’s Cabinotiers Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication 3600 was a jaw-dropping piece featuring 23 complications to include the seasons and zodiac signs besides the perpetual calendar.

Vacheron Constantin's new ultra-thin Overseas features a more typical perpetual calendar display via four sub-dials – the month at ‘12’, the date at ‘3’, the day at ‘9’, and the moon phase at ‘6’. Despite the watch's technical complexity, its automatic movement is composed of only 276 parts and measures only 4.05mm in thickness.

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