A perpetual calendar complication is often synonymous with a lavish price tag. This is no coincidence, either, as the perpetual calendar mechanism is complex and difficult to produce.
Yet watch manufacturers will often take it a step further and use the opportunity to exhibit their horological expertise. Most will approach it from a traditional angle, while others prefer an unconventional take on the classical complication.
Through this guide, we will be highlighting our 5 top perpetual calendar watches originating from both camps. We’ll also be taking a look back at the beginnings of this timeless complication:
- Perpetual Calendar Complication History
- 5 Best Perpetual Calendar Watches
- Best Perpetual Calendar Watch Under $10,000
Lastly, we’ve chosen to include a section on a sub-$10k perpetual calendar so as to give most watch fans (and ourselves) a bit of hope that these are still within reach.
Best Perpetual Calendar Watches
- Patek Philippe Grand Complications Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5204/1R
- Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Ref. 26579CE.OO.1225CE.01
- IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Ref. IW392101
- Breguet Classique Perpetual Calendar Ref. 3795PT/1E/9WU
- H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Perpetual Calendar Ref. 1341-0207
Our picks of the top perpetual calendar watches epitomize how the personality of each luxury brand will shine through in the final product.
Nevertheless, the resulting timepiece will often be the embodiment of an obsession with perfection in the design, the construction, and the movement finishing steps. If ever a detail were to be overlooked, this would not be that time.
See Bespoke Unit’s Watch Reviews
History Of The Perpetual Calendar Complication
The perpetual calendar complication is the brainchild of a historic watchmaking figure that we’ve encountered previously. English watchmaker Thomas Mudge had already devised the detached lever escapement when he engineered the first pocketwatch perpetual calendar around 1762.
Though the complication had been conceived, it wouldn’t be implemented until almost 100 years later, when Patek Philippe created their own perpetual calendar pocketwatch. In turn, a wristwatch perpetual calendar would be ordered from Patek as well, and which they produced for the first time in history, in the year 1925.
Production would slowly ramp up, but a perpetual calendar remained a mechanical marvel requiring hundreds of hours to construct. This fact holds true even today, as the mechanism has not functionally changed in any major way.
Indeed, the automatic perpetual calendar surfaced in the second half of the 20th century. Similarly, IWC introduced their own perpetual calendar system (more on this here). But the essence of the movement is still intact.
Why Are Perpetual Calendars So Expensive?
There’s something to be said about the enduring character of a mechanical perpetual calendar. A device brought to life by springs, wheels, and gears which could continue functioning for hundreds of years. And do so accurately, too.
There may not be any other object that can claim the same. We’ve become accustomed to short lifespans in the products we buy. This fact makes a perpetual calendar, and most mechanical timepieces, even more enigmatic.
It also translates directly into high retail price tags, and perceived scarcity and exclusivity. In the end, it just makes it that more special when, as a watch collector, you’re finally able to reach the landmark milestone of owning your first perpetual calendar.
Best Perpetual Calendars
1. Patek Philippe Grand Complications Perpetual Calendar Split-Seconds Chronograph Ref. 5204/1R
The 5204/1R is evidence of Patek Philippe‘s level of expertise in crafting increidble complications. Not merely a perpetual calendar watch, the 5204 also possesses a split-seconds, or rattrapante, function.
The dial design is classic Patek, and heavily inspired by the previous ref. 5004, which was also offered in rose gold metal with a black dial. The leap year indicator has changed, though, and the second time zone function has been removed.
The combination of complications requires a lot of real estate on the face of the watch, yet the 5204/1R’s dial is perfectly symmetrical and legible. Additionally, the rose gold indices and hands, as well as the white printing, provide perfect contrast.
The band is another novelty, and a huge part of what makes the 5204R so attractive. The full-gold bracelet changes the look of the watch substantially; it almost competes with the dial in aesthetic beauty.
Likewise, it ensures that when the watch is worn, it’s presence is felt. And considering the price, you’re going to want to experience every second of wear.
- Brand – Patek Philippe
- Model – Grand Complications Perpetual Calendar Split-Seconds Chronograph (See on Patek’s Site)
- MSRP – $311,860
2. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Ref. 26579CE.OO.1225CE.01
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar was already a svelte piece before AP decided to transform by presenting it in black ceramic, which they did at SIHH 2017.
Ceramic had only been encountered previously by a Royal Oak in the Royal Oak Offshore line. Audemars decided to implement it on the entire watch for this 100 piece limited edition.
The case design of the Royal Oak is one that already plays with sharp edges and polished vs. satin facets. When this effect is implemented on black ceramic, the look is elevated to a whole ‘nother level. That’s in addition to the fact that the watch is all-black, murdered out, and this makes it even cooler.
The dial boasts the familiar Tapisserie texture and 4 subdials belonging to the perpetual calendar and moonphase. It also boasts a week indicator on its inner bezel, one not often encountered in perpetual calendar watches.
Overall, Audemars Piguet knocked it out of the park with this ceramic Royal Oak Perpetual. It’s often a gamble for brands to mess with what’s tried-and-true, but this bet has payed off big time.
- Brand – Audemars Piguet
- Model – Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar (See on AP’s Site.)
- MSRP – $93,900
3. IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Ref. IW392101
The IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph IW392101 is a modern reissue of a watch that first appeared in 1995 as the reference 3751.
At release, the ref. 3751 caused waves, as the Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar model had been outfitted with a split-second complication. This was added to the fact that Kurt Klaus’ Perpetual Calendar had only been introduced 10 years earlier.
Further back, in 1985, the Da Vinci model released with a Kurt Klaus perpetual calendar module. It broke ground as a perpetual calendar that could be adjusted via the crown.
Considering even the best perpetual calendar watches were adjusted via case pushers, this convenience was rather innovative. Additionally, it also boasted a year indicator, which even modern mechanical perpetual calendars lack.
The IW392101, in turn, honors its ancestors with a beautiful rose gold case and dial design to match the first versions. This being a 2017 release, though, the watch is finished to an unmatched standard, while also boasting a beautifully adorned movement inside of its case.
This truly is some of IWC’s best work, and it shows why they’ve remained so successful for so long while countless other brands have come and gone.
4. Breguet Classique Perpetual Calendar Ref. 3795PT/1E/9WU
Not ones to be left behind in the league of perpetual calendars, Breguet steps up to the plate with their Classique Perpetual.
A horological masterpiece, the Classique Perpetual Calendar shows off a number of Abraham Louis-Breguet’s (French watchmaker) inventions and past creations in a single wristwatch. There’s obviously a perpetual calendar, along with a Breguet balance spring, Breguet tourbillon, and traditional Breguet hands at center.
All of these complications are presented on a completely skeletonized dial. Aside from providing an unobstructed view into modernized versions of Breguet’s creations, the watch also exudes the essence of the historic Marie Antoinette pocket watch.
Breguet unquestionably proves their horological pedigree with this Classique Perpetual, one which will surely not see an extended nor numerous production run. It’s price tag will likewise decrease it’s accessibility to only the most passionate Breguet and perpetual calendar aficionados.
- Brand – Breguet
- Model – Classique Perpetual Calendar (See on Breguet’s Site.)
- MSRP – $256,700
5. H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Perpetual Calendar Ref. 1341-0207
The H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Perpetual Calendar is included in our top picks as it offers a completely different look than all its peers. In fact, previous to seeing the Endeavour Perpetual, one may have thought that perpetual calendar watches were forever cursed with jam-packed dials.
The Endeavour proves this wrong. Evidently, a date and small month indicator arrow are all that’s needed, the rest occurs behind the fold. This is meant quite literally, too, given that the leap year indicator is displayed through the sapphire case back.
The date will change over correctly while taking into account the specific month. It will also do so exactly and instantly at midnight, a feature that has earned the watch the “Perpetual Flash Calendar” name.
In lieu of a moonphase complication, one which so often accompanies the perpetual calendar function, Moser has gone the way of a power reserve indicator. This has proven successful, as it balances the oversized date perfectly across the “Purity Funky Blue” fumé dial.
Moser has developed a reputation for using their timepieces to voice their opinions. You may already be familiar with their Swiss Alp Watch, a mechanical Apple Watch lookalike of the highest quality.
Similarly, with the Endeavour Perpetual Calendar, Moser has gone out to demonstrate that the perpetual calendar can be different. It can be modern, sleek, classy, and still look great while doing it.
- Brand – H. Moser & Cie
- Model – Endeavour Perpetual Calendar (See on Moser’s Site.)
- MSRP – $60,000
The Best Perpetual Calendar Under $10,000
It’s true that when mechanical perpetual calendar watches are involved, the price to pay to own one may be out of reach for most. Fortunately, technological advancements have allowed the costs to produce a perpetual calendar to decrease significantly. Subsequently, we’re able to bring you our favorite perpetual calendar under the $10,000 mark.
Frédérique Constant Slimline Perpetual Calendar Manufacture Ref. FC-775N4S4
The Frédérique Constant Slimline Perpetual Calendar watch boasts the traditional perpetual calendar look sans the traditional perpetual calendar price. The brand has also been able offer the watch in an ultra-thin case.
This fact becomes even more surprising considering that the movement is of their own Manufacture, as well as Swiss Made. Where other brands have modified existing movements to carry perpetual calendar functions, Frédérique Constant have gone out and conceived their own from scratch.
The Slimline Perpetual is offered in navy blue or silver dial colors. There’s also the choice of different case metals. Precious metal options are available, but the timepieces are plated, given the budgetary restrictions.
This fact should not take away from those interested in the timepiece. The look is the same as a full precious metal piece, the price is considerably less, and the essence of the perpetual calendar is not sacrificed whatsoever.
If you’re looking for a perpetual calendar watch, but are not able or willing to hand over the cash for the former timepieces, then the Slimline may just be the perpetual calendar for you.
- Brand – Frédérique Constant
- Model – Slimline Perpetual Calendar Manufacture (See on FC’s Site.)
- MSRP – $8,995
Final Thoughts & More Articles
All in all, the perpetual calendar complication is one that will always possess a bit of romance and mystery. And maybe it’s these characteristics that ensure that collectors continue paying the lofty prices that they command.
Ironically, it is also the corresponding price tag that allows the manufactures to go all out when building their masterpieces. Subsequently, it makes for ever more exciting timepieces that all watch fans get to admire, even if only at a distance.
Regardless – what did you think of our perpetual calendar selections? Do you have a favorite that we may not have included? Let us know in the comments below! Otherwise, check out our other watch articles:
- History Of French Watchmaking & The Best French Watch Brands
- All Of Our Watch Reviews
- Watch Movement Guide
- Bespoke Unit Watch Homepage
"The perpetual calendar is easily my favorite complication. While it's the epitome of a traditional function, it's very interesting to see how modern horological technology is able to elevate it even further."Rating: 5.0★★★★★