Watches: This year’s best Annual Calendar timepieces

By Thierry Ané on November 17, 2013

I think it is sort of unavoidable to become a little jaded when you spend as much time as I do surrounded by watches. I must confess that a plain three-hand watch, however beautifully crafted, rarely fill me with wonder if its simplicity is not compensated for by some jaw-dropping decorative arts. To give you an example, the amazing Vacheron Constantin Les Univers Infinis Angel, Horseman, or Lizard would definitely keep me awake at night but Patek Philippe Calatrava Automatic Ref. 5227 (white gold, rose gold or yellow gold) would not make me jump off my seat. Most of the time, the presence of complications is required to get my attention.

Although any feature beyond that of simple hours, minutes, and seconds is a welcome addition, there is no denying that some complications remain more useful than others. At the top of the utility list is the triple calendar, namely the display of the day, date and month.

The calendar function of a Complete Calendar model requires constant adjustment to ensure the correct date is displayed. These watches will reset after completing 31 24-hour cycles, representing a full month. Since our calendar contains an irregular number of days per month and leap years, these watches require constant adjustments by their owners to display the correct information.

Perpetual Calendar watches do account for these irregularities and won’t need adjustments before the year 2100. Obviously the perpetual calendar is a highly intricate mechanism and the price tag attached to these timepieces will measure up to considerable technical challenge it represents for a watchmaker.

To strike a balance between the frequency of the required adjustments and the level of price, watchmakers have come up with a third type of triple calendar watch, the Annual Calendar. These timepieces automatically adjust the date displayed based on 30- and 31-day months to ensure that the correct date is always displayed. This complication requires setting the date once per year, at the end of February. By way of compensation for this little annual effort, the price tag is strongly reduced.

Despite the obvious interest of an Annual Calendar, this complication remains quite rare. Out of 2010 watches presented since the beginning of the year on Watches of 2013, I have counted only 22 Annual Calendar models, including all the variations of a same watch. That is only 1.01% of the watch offer: it is really not a lot for such a useful complication.

I have thus decided to come back on the most interesting Annual Calendar introduced this year to draw your attention to these extremely horological pieces.

A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Annual Calendar Platinum

In addition to the time, the very legible rhodium-plated silver dial of the Saxonia Annual Calendar indicates the date by two large windows, the month and the day of the week by hands in two sub-dials facing one another above the small seconds counter that also includes a moon phase display. Driven by the self-winding SAX-0-MAT calibre with its patented Zero-Reset function, the watch also available in white gold or pink gold presents the superlative finishing we know we can expect from A. Lange & Söhne.

Find out more about the A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Annual Calendar Platinum

Parmigiani Fleurier Transforma Retrograde Annual Calendar CBF Red Gold

The concept behind the Transforma, unveiled in 2011, is for a single watch head to be transformed into three different configurations: the classic wristwatch, the elegant pocket watch, and finally the timeless table clock. In partnership with the CBF, Parmigiani Fleurier launched a new model with two watch heads instead of one. The first is a chronograph and the second an Annual Calendar with the movement of the Tonda Quator: for a perfect combination between a sports watch and a classic timepiece.

Find out more about the Parmigiani Fleurier Transforma Retrograde Annual Calendar CBF Red Gold

Patek Philippe Annual Calendar Chronograph Moscow Boutique Ref 5960 White Gold

The Calatrava Ref. 5960 presented here is a limited edition (100 pieces) Annual Calendar issued specifically to celebrate the opening of its first mono-brand boutique in Moscow in the summer of 2013. It is the first version of the Calatrava Ref. 5960 in white gold and comes with a beautiful opaline dial. The watch runs on the base of the automatic calibre CH 28-520 IRM QA 24H, equipped with chronograph functions and the annual calendar. Two non-limited versions are available in platinum with an anthracite dial or a blue sunburst dial. All models feature a very legible triple-window indication for the calendar functions, a Patek Philippe’s trademark.

Find out more about the Patek Philippe Annual Calendar Chronograph Moscow Boutique Ref 5960 White Gold

Zenith Captain Winsor Annual Calendar Chronograph Boutique Edition Steel

Zenith’s new Captain Winsor Annual Calendar brings together two notable watchmaking achievements: the elegantly simple annual calendar complication designed by Ludwig Oechslin, curator of the Musée International d’Horlogerie (MIH), and Zenith’s famous 36,000 vph in-house El Primero chronograph. The beautiful dial is grey fumé with steel hands and indexes to mark hours and minutes. At the 3 o’clock position, the day of the week and the month are displayed in two circled windows, a 60-minute counter and the date are visible at the 6 o’clock position and small seconds are seen at 9 o’clock on the dial. A rose gold version with a white dial is also available in zenith boutiques

Find out more about the Zenith Captain Winsor Annual Calendar Chronograph Boutique Edition Steel

Zenith Pilot Aeronef Type 20 Chronograph Annual Calendar Red Gold

Another Zenith’s watch to conclude this presentation! To my defence you must admit that they have done some amazing watches since the arrival of Jean-Frédéric Dufour. Sharing the same El Primero 4054 automatic movement as the Captain Winsor introduced earlier, the watch present the same display configuration. But the similarities stop there: the Pilot Aeronef Type 20 is as sporty with its 48 mm case as the Captain Winsor is classy. Also available in a steel version this timepiece is perhaps the best pilot watch ever with IWC Big Pilot models.

Find out more about the Zenith Pilot Aeronef Type 20 Chronograph Annual Calendar Red Gold