Today, we take for granted that a quick glance at our phone tells us the date, but in the past, ingenious watchmakers had to devise mechanical marvels to keep track of the calendar.
The most complicated of those watches, perpetual calendars, even account for leap years thanks to hundreds of cams and levers. These watches have their roots in mid-18th-century London, where watchmaker Thomas Mudge invented a detached lever escapement, which he used in his first-ever perpetual calendar in 1762.
The perpetual calendar displays the time, day of the week, date, month, leap year and — in most instances — moon phases, and automatically adjusts the date every month, including February. Most do not need a manual adjustment until the year 2100, when the leap year that should occur will be skipped in order to have real-time and the Gregorian calendar align again.
Some models also include a retrograde date complication, meaning that at midnight on the last day of the month, the hand automatically flies back to “1” to start the trek again.
The less complicated annual calendar watch displays the time, day of the week, date, month and year, and automatically adjusts itself every month except February, when the date must be changed manually. It was developed by Patek Philippe in 1996, and these watches have grown quite popular as they are more user-friendly and easier to set than a perpetual calendar.
A Lange & Söhne
Langematik Perpetual Honeygold
Germany’s A Lange & Söhne is known for its complicated watches. Of particular note is the Langematik Perpetual Calendar, launched in 2001. At that time, it was the first self-winding watch that combined a perpetual calendar and an outsized date display.
The Sax-o-Mat movement is also equipped with a patented Zero-Reset mechanism that simplifies accurate time setting to the second: When the crown is pulled out, it stops the balance and advances the second hand to zero.
The newest version has a white dial and is crafted in the firm’s proprietary HoneyGold, which has only been used for specially selected limited editions and one-of-a-kind pieces, ensuring its exclusivity.
A sapphire-crystal case back enables viewing of the 478-part movement with hand-engraved 21K gold rotor and Lange-style three-quarter plate. The escapement and balance cock are manually hand finished and flawlessly engraved.
Price: $85,000 in HoneyGold
Contact: A Lange & Söhne in New York, +1 646 828 3150, alange-soehne.com