Three Outstanding Perpetual Calendars for Celebrating This Leap Day

Time Warp: Three Outstanding Perpetual Calendars for Celebrating This Leap Day

Today is a leap day, so we’re looking at three perpetual calendar models from the last three non-leap years to celebrate this calendrical quirk.

By Elena Fichtel
Deputy Managing Editor

Calendar complications come in many different forms. There is the simple date display, which uses the numbers 1-31 to indicate the day of the month and requires manual adjustment at the end of every month with fewer than 31 days.

There is also the day/date. This calendar functions exactly like a date display, except it also indicates the day of the week.

The next step on the complexity ladder is the complete calendar, also called a “triple date” complication. On these watches, the numbers 1-31 usually ring the outer edge of the dial or ride the flange, and the day of the week and month of the year are displayed either through apertures in the main dial or via sub-dials. Again, like the date and day/date complications, this type of calendar requires manual adjustment at the end of every month with fewer than 31 days.

Then, there is the annual calendar. These are more complicated because, although these watches display all the same information as a complete calendar (albeit, often with a different dial configuration), the mechanism inside is more complex as these calendars automatically compensate for months with only 30 days. That means watches with this kind of calendar will only require manual adjustment at the end of each February.

Finally, we arrive at the perpetual calendar, often abbreviated as QP (which is short for the French term “quantieme perpetual”). Among the oldest and most complex complications in watchmaking and considered a mark of high horology, perpetual calendars are like annual calendars, except QPs also account for leap years, like 2024.

That is why, on this leap day, we decided to celebrate this calendrical quirk by looking at three perpetual calendar models, each from the last three non-leap years.

2021: The Bulgari Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar

To miniaturize a perpetual calendar movement is a monumental achievement. Thus, creating the world’s thinnest perpetual calendar wasn’t just a box for Bulgari to check — it was a dream for its talented watchmakers.

Bulgari achieved this feat with the Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar, released in April 2021, by integrating the 150 components needed for the perpetual calendar into a 40mm sandblasted titanium or platinum case that is a mere 5.8mm thick. By miniaturizing parts and reducing the space between them, the 2.75mm-thick Calibre BVL 305 has 408 total components and somehow boasts a 60-hour power reserve, too.

The Octo Finissimo collection is designed to be ultra-modern and minimalistic, which can be challenging for a watch equipped with a perpetual calendar. However, the Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar’s clever dial design keeps the sleek and simple look of its Octo Finissimo cousins but still displays a wealth of information by utilizing two retrograde displays.

First, the top half of the dial is dedicated to the retrograde date indication – shown in a half-moon from 9 to 3 o’clock – and alternates Arabic numerals with dots. And at midnight on the first day of the month, the day hand will snap back to 1.

Then, at the bottom of the dial, at 6 o’clock, there is another retrograde indicator, this one for the leap-year indication. It is a unique twist; most leap-year indications are sub-dials with a red indicator to show whether it’s a leap year (and signal to everyone else that your watch is not just an annual calendar).

Finally, the Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar won’t need adjusting until February 2100. But, if you let the power run out and need to reset it, it’s easy to do because it has three discreet correctors: the date at 2 o’clock, the month at 4 o’clock, and the day between 8 and 9 o’clock.

To read the original article written by Kristen Shirley, click HERE.

2022: The IWC Portofino Perpetual Calendar

As the holiday season officially kicked off in November 2022, enthusiasts were treated to a slew of end-of-year releases. However, perhaps the most pleasant surprise came from IWC Schaffhausen when it announced the return of its iconic perpetual calendar complication to the Portofino collection via two new watches.

Available in 18K 5N gold and in stainless steel, this marked the first time IWC released a perpetual calendar Portofino with a stainless steel case. Plus, with case diameters of only 40mm, these Portofino Perpetual Calendars are still the smallest perpetual calendar watch in the IWC catalog by two entire millimeters.

That might not seem like a lot, but when it comes to mechanisms, shaving a few millimeters off the size of a watch represents a significant example of engineering. So, this small change represents a big commitment from IWC’s research and development team.

Powered by the IWC-manufactured 82650 calibre movement, featuring automatic Pellaton winding with ceramic components and a power reserve of 60 hours, these calendars also feature IWC’s perpetual moon phase indication, which will only deviate by one day from the orbit of Earth’s satellite in 577.5 years.

No other complication sums up IWC’s engineering chops like this calibre. Created in the 1980s by former head watchmaker Kurt Klaus, the defining characteristic of this calendar is its user experience. Using an intelligent mechanical program that recognizes the different lengths of the months, it automatically inserts a leap day every four years.

And it will continue to run without manual adjustment until 2100. That is when the leap year will be omitted due to an exception in the Gregorian calendar.

Finally, because the displays are perfectly synchronized, the calendar on these models can be advanced by simply using the crown.

To read the original article written by Rhonda Riche, click HERE.

2023: The Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Ultra-Complication Universelle RD #4

Nothing encapsulates Audemars Piguet's approach of “uncomplicating the complicated” as brilliantly as the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Universelle, which, at the time of its release in February 2023, the brand billed as its very first ultra-complicated automatic wristwatch.

In name and spirit, this watch pays tribute to AP’s Universelle pocket watch from 1899, whose 26 functions and 19 classic complications made it one of the most elaborate creations the brand has ever produced.

Well, hold on to your hat because the 42mm wide, 15.55mm thick Ultra-Complication Universelle RD #4 manages to fit in 40 functions and 23 prestigious complications – including 17 “special technical devices” – among its primary complications (a split-second flyback chronograph, grande sonnerie, and perpetual calendar with moon-phase display).

Oh, and while not technically a complication, the Code 11.59 Universelle has a flying tourbillon because, you know, why not?

Winner of the “Aiguille d’Or” at GPHG 2023, nearly every primary complication of this Code 11.59 Universelle boasts at least one special feature that enhances its performance or the wearer’s experience.

Take the watch’s perpetual calendar, for example. Unlike a traditional perpetual calendar, the QP mechanism incorporated into the Ultra-Complication Universelle RD #4’s movement is engineered in such a way as to require manual correction only once every 400 years (and the realistic moon phase display once every 122 years), provided, of course, the watch is kept running for that amount of time.

Yet, for all the impressive complications at play here and for all the 1,100 components needed to assemble the automatic Calibre 1000 (which has a decent maximum power reserve of 60 hours), the team at AP has succeeded in creating a movement measuring just 34.3mm in diameter and 8.75mm in height.

To find the space, the team simplified functions and revised its engineering so that the calendar functions, for instance, are now on a single level. At the same time, the team managed to space out the various functions enough that the dial remains clean, tidy, and legible despite their attendant indicators, be they sub-dial, aperture, or the like.

To read the original article written by Steven Rogers, click HERE.

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