Among all the watch complications (defined as any function that goes beyond telling the time) available, the perpetual calendar is one of the most complex to create, thus typically only offered by the finest watch brands. A mechanical perpetual calendar can accurately track the time, date, and often the moon phase too by accounting for the number of days in the months and whether it is a leap year or not. As long as the watch is running, a perpetual calendar will display the correct indications without needing an adjustment until 2100–the year that the Gregorian Calendar will skip the leap year.
Since 2020 is a leap year, owners of perpetual calendar watches can admire the complication’s ability to account for February’s 29th day, an occurrence that only happens every four years. So, if you do not have a perpetual calendar in your watch collection yet, now is the time to pick up one just ahead of leap day. From divers to dressier timepieces to chronographs, here are some of the best perpetual calendar watches in stock right now.
A. Lange & Söhne Langematik Perpetual
Recognized as the best German watchmaker of ultra-high-end timepieces, A. Lange & Söhne has an impressive lineup of complications in its catalog. One of which is the Langematik Perpetual model (first launched in 2001) that takes the brand’s signature oversized date windows and pairs it with the perpetual calendar complication. The Langematik Perpetual ref. 310.021, which belongs to the first generation of collection, is the yellow gold version fitted with a classic alligator leather strap. The case measures 38.5mm in diameter, allowing enough room on the dial for all the indicators while still maintaining a restrained proportion.
Along with the big double date window and the hour and minute hands, the silver champagne dial is home to a host of displays including the day, month, leap year cycle, moon phase, running seconds, and day/night indicator. The display caseback allows for a view of the impeccably decorated L922.1 automatic movement fitted with a micro-rotor to maintain the watch’s relatively slim profile. One of the best perpetual calendar examples to own, the Langematik has become a modern classic in the luxury watch space despite its short history.
Breguet Classique Perpetual Retrograde
Founded by Abraham-Louis Breguet, one of the most prolific and inventive watchmakers of all time, Breguet continues its long and rich history of producing high horology Swiss watches, often fitted with mechanical complications. The Breguet Classique Perpetual Retrograde 3787, produced from the 1990s until the 2000s, combines all the hallmarks of a traditional Breguet watch.
For instance, the 36mm white gold case features the customary fluting detail around the caseback while the engine-turned silver dial benefits from various intricate finishes throughout. There’s also the signature blued Breguet style handset for the hour and minutes. The blued serpentine moves along the arch of the retrograde date display until it reaches the last day of the month, after which it jumps back to “1” when a new month begins. The day and month windows are located at the center of the dial, the moon phase at 6 o’clock, and the leap year indicator is discreetly tucked away between 1 and 2 o’clock. The automatic Caliber 591 movement is visible through the sapphire caseback and the watch is fitted with a leather strap equipped with a white gold deployant buckle. The Breguet 3787 is a fantastic perpetual calendar watch well suited for both men and women thanks to its classic aesthetics and restained proportions.
IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Rattrapante
Designed by master watchmaker Kurt Klauss and introduced in 1985, the IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph 3750 marked a major milestone in the field of perpetual calendars. It was the first perpetual calendar mechanism that relied only on the winding crown (instead of a series of correctors) to adjust all the PC indications (day, month, leap year, year, moon phase) as they all advanced together in sync. Plus, along with the innovative perpetual calendar, this groundbreaking IWC Da Vinci also boasted a chronograph complication.
On the 10th anniversary of the watch, IWC released the Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Rattrapante 3751, which added the split-seconds chronograph feature where the second chronograph hand is activated via a pusher at 10 o’clock. The yellow gold 39mm case features the distinctive hinged lugs, rounded capped pushers, and double-stepped bezel, while the dial is well balanced and legible despite it being packed with indicators spread over four registers and a year aperture. IWC’s technical contribution to the perpetual calendar complication cannot be overstated and wearing a Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph shows admiration for a piece of horology history.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Perpetual
One of the most respected names in Swiss watchmaking, Jaeger-LeCoultre is often referred to as “the watchmaker’s watchmaker” sine the manufacture has supplied movements to just about every top-tier timepiece brand throughout its long history.
Produced from 1996 – 2005, the Master Perpetual pairs the Kurt Klauss IWC perpetual calendar module we mentioned above (but the calendar indicators are set via a corrector and not the winding crown) with the JLC Caliber 889 automatic movement. This particular Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Perpetual 140.6.80 is a limited edition model rendered in precious platinum. The 37mm platinum case houses a rich blue dial, punctuated with the calendar and moon phase displays, There’s even a small window right above the center hands that turns red to let the wearer know when not to adjust the perpetual calendar–also known as the “danger zone.” Limited to only 250 pieces, crafted from the noblest of metals, and manufactured by a highly renowned watchmaker, the platinum and blue Master Perpetual is a special perpetual calendar indeed.
Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Retrograde Perpetual Calendar
Founded in 1996 by master watchmaker and restorer, Michel Parmigiani, Parmigiani Fleurier is a relatively young brand. However, the company has established itself as one of the leading independent brands in haute horlogerie with an impressive lineup of mechanically complicated timepieces and luxury watches.
The Toric Retrograde Perpetual Calendar ref. PF002622 is a perfect example of Parmigiani Fleurier’s aesthetic. The watch pairs a 40mm 18k rose gold case with a black dial and black leather strap to great effect. On the upper portion of the dial is the retrograde date display with the leap year window beneath it while the bottom portion is reserved for the day, month, and moon phase. It’s also worth mentioning that the Toric includes a precision moon phase mechanism that has a mere 1-day deviation every 122 years.
Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph
Patek Philippe is the pinnacle of fine Swiss watchmaking, revered by enthusiasts and collectors for its exquisite range of complications, luxury sports watches, and classic dress watches. Among the many areas that Patek excels at, perpetual calendar chronograph watches are without a doubt one of its specialties, starting with the ref. 1518 in 1941. Almost eight decades later, Patek Philippe Perpetual Chronographs are some of the most collectible models in the luxury watch market.
Patek introduced reference 3970 in the mid-1980s and continued to manufacture it until 2004, with models falling into three distinct series. The Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph ref. 3970EP is part of the third series where the letter “E” stands for “Etanche” meaning “waterproof” in French and “P” denotes its platinum case. The 36mm platinum case is fitted with prominent stepped lugs and the caseback is fitted with a solid platinum caseback to shield the hand-wound movement inside the watch. The silver dial showcases the beautifully balanced layout of the perpetual calendar and chronograph indications, with the day-month calendar under 12, the 30-minute chronograph counter at 3 combined with the leap year display, a moonphase at six encircled by the date indicator, and the small seconds and 12-hour chronograph counter at 9.
While the above are some of our favorite perpetual calendars, we carry plenty of other pre-owned perpetual calendar watches in stock from renowned brands like Ulysse Nardin, Corum, Girard Perregaux, and Audemars Piguet. There are about two weeks left until leap day, so now is the ideal time to get your hands on a perpetual calendar watch to marvel at the miniature mechanical mechanism.