Looking at this category, I struggled to comprehend the gulf between two watchmaking extremes among the watches that the jury has preselected. On the one hand there is a thoroughly reasonable calendar watch that costs 3,750 Swiss francs. On the other, there are not just one, but two watches that cost over 160 times this amount: a perpetual calendar with equation of time from Greubel Forsey and the Krayon Everywhere.
Such figures do little to counter claims that a luxury watch is an expensive trinket designed for the few rather than the many. The average price of the watches preselected in this calendar category (where the only criterion for entry is that the watch should have at least one calendar complication) is a staggering 234,000 Swiss francs. I could buy a house in my home town in England for that and use the change for a luxury sports car to park on the drive. The median value removes the impact of the two far more expensive watches on this figure to leave 62,000 Swiss francs, which is still enough to get you a respectable luxury car, even in Switzerland.
This is not to detract from the level of horological accomplishment demonstrated by the finalists in this category. Greubel & Forsey’s QP à Equation has an innovative way of displaying the equation of time and the current year, but this can only be seen when you take the watch off. The Krayon Everywhere removes the equation of time display altogether, even though it is required for its universal sunrise and sunset time display. After paying your 600,000 Swiss francs, all you need to do to see these is set the month, the date, UTC and the latitude and longitude of your location. Of course you have all this information readily to hand… on your mobile phone which can, incidentally, also tell you the precise sunrise and sunset times for anywhere around the world for a thousandth of the price.
Greubel & Forsey QP à Equation and Krayon Everywhere
Slightly more on the reasonable side, yet still way beyond the budget of most mortals, is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar. This new model in black ceramic costs 85,000 Swiss francs and bridges the gap between the 59,000-franc stainless-steel model and the gold models that are just shy of 100,000 francs. In this case the price is justified by the 30 hours of work required to machine, polish and hand-finish the ultra-resistant ceramic used for the case, bezel and bracelet. This is five times longer than the time needed to produce the stainless-steel model and the result is a wonderful scratchproof shiny black version of the iconic Gérald Genta design.
Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar © Audemars Piguet
A. Lange & Söhne would usually be among the most expensive of a category pick, but in this case the 1815 Annual Calendar almost looks like a bargain. At “only” 39,000 Swiss francs, and with a red-gold case, we cannot expect a perpetual calendar. But correcting the watch on the 1st of March every year is a small concession to make for such an accomplished piece whose thin calendar module (it is just 1.4mm thick), combined with manual winding, make it slim enough, with a thickness of just 10.1mm, to be an easily wearable classic timepiece.
1815 Annual Calendar © A. Lange & Söhne
The Zenith Chronomaster El Primero Grande Date Full Open is the most mainstream of the luxury models preselected in this category and retails for a nice, round 10,000 Swiss francs. There is plenty crammed into this package, including the brand’s legendary high-frequency El Primero chronograph movement, a big date display and a combined moon-phase and day-night subdial on which the moon disc rotates once every 59 days, or two lunar cycles, and the sun disc beneath rotates once every 24 hours, creating a constantly changing animation in the 6 o’clock position on the dial.
Chronomaster El Primero Grande Date Full Open © Zenith
Last, but by no means least, is the Delma Klondike Moonphase, which is equipped with a high-quality Valjoux 7751 chronograph movement and costs just 3,750 Swiss francs. The two-tone case and bracelet may be targeted more to Asian customers, the classic styling may not be to everyone’s taste and the brand name may not be as well-known as those of its peers in this category. As a result one might even argue that its price actually reflects its true value.
Klondike Moonphase © Delma
The dial facet has many other treats for the onlooker, particularly people linked to the perpetual calendar and the rattrapante chronograph. The former is composed of 206 components, nearly a third of their 684 total component count of this L133.1 caliber. Lange’s moon phase is “true to 122.6 years” — mind you, that “precision” means that it requires that much time to get the moon phase display to be off with a comprehensive moment. This form of arbitrary way is how the accuracy of moon phase displays in watches is usually ascertained, not that anybody really cares about actual usefulness beyond its aesthetic and technology element.The rattrapante chronograph on the other hand is among the most technically impressive and hard complications on the market. A few watchmakers I asked told me they find it more difficult to do than the usual sonnerie or minute repeater, and definitely a much bigger pain in the neck than a perpetual calendar (unless it is instantaneous or further complex). The two laser sharp chronograph seconds hands break a hair’s width over one another in their own reset place, with the blue being the rattrapante hand, operated by the pusher at the 10 o’clock position of this circumstance.
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