While we commemorate the cultural significance of Mid-Autumn festival, let us not forget how important the moon once was to our ancestors, and how it enabled them to develop the modern calendar system.
Mid-Autumn is a key festival that is celebrated across many countries in Asia. Although commonly known as a significant day in traditional Chinese culture, Mid-Autumn is also commemorated in different forms in Japan (Tsukimi) and Korea (Chuseok), with the common denominator being, obviously – the full moon.
The Moon’s Role in Timekeeping and Calendars
Known as the ‘harvest moon’, the moon is typically at its fullest and brightest during the Mid-Autumn Festival. In many cultures that have traditionally relied on the lunar calendar for their agricultural activities, farmers would take advantage of the extended brightness from harvest moon to work late into the night to harvest their summer crops. The round and luminous moon is seen as a symbol of reunion, completeness, and prosperity, and becomes the central element of the celebrations.
Long before electricity was invented, the moon played a significant role in the development of various timekeeping systems and calendars. One crucial aspect of the moon’s relationship with time is its influence on lunar months, which are defined by the moon’s phases, lasting approximately 29.5 days. Many traditional calendars, including the Chinese, Hebrew, and Islamic calendars, are lunisolar. These calendars rely on the natural cycles of the moon and the seasons of the year (dependent on the solar calendar) to track time and organize the passage of days, months, and years. As a result, the moon still has a strong historical and cultural impact on many cultures around the world.
When it comes to horology, calendar watches, as well as those with a moon phase display, are highly sought after by both connoisseurs and enthusiasts. Some seek such timepieces for their practical functions, while others appreciate calendar and moon phase watches for their poetic aesthetic.
The Ingenious Perpetual Calendar Watch
Many watch aficionados are also captivated by the idea that a fully mechanical timepiece, despite its small size, can display not only the time and date but also more intricate complications. This remarkable achievement stands as a testament to human civilization’s ingenuity and wisdom and is presented in the form of the pinnacle of horological sophistication – the perpetual calendar watch.
With the ability to meticulously display the date, day of the week, month, and often the year, effortlessly accounting for the quirks of varying month lengths and leap years, the origins of perpetual calendar watches trace back centuries, marked by a fascinating journey of innovation. Although basic calendar watches started appearing in the 17th century, it was not until the 18th century when English watchmaker Thomas Mudge introduced one of the earliest perpetual calendar watches, in 1762. The 19th century witnessed Swiss luxury watch manufacturer Patek Philippe making remarkable contributions to perpetual calendars. Their timepieces featured complete perpetual calendar complications, encompassing leap years and moon phases, solidifying their reputation for precision and craftsmanship. In the modern era, perpetual calendar watches continue to evolve, with esteemed watchmakers refining their mechanisms and making these complex complications more accessible to a broader audience.
Complex Movements and Diverse Aesthetics
Perpetual calendar timepieces require extremely complex movements that utilize multiple gears and cams to precisely calculate calendar information. These masterpieces epitomize craftsmanship and are celebrated for their ability to provide precise calendar data across generations, without the need for manual adjustments.
In terms of design and aesthetics, perpetual calendar watches are conventionally known to be classical, though in recent years, several watchmakers have brought about a welcome change in terms of design, coming up with some of the most exciting, intriguing, and showstopping timepieces on the market. We highlight five of our favourite perpetual calendar watches, each offering a distinct aesthetic that will suit different preferences.
Blancpain Villeret Quantième Perpétuel Phases de Lune
Fashioned in a manner typical of Blancpain’s Villeret collection, this timepiece encompasses all the elements of a classical-style perpetual calendar watch. However, it incorporates several contemporary nuances. Firstly, it is housed in a 40mm case, slightly larger than most classical dress watches. Thanks to its stepped bezel and sloping lugs, it appears slimmer than its actual size and sits more comfortably on the wrist.
This watch features user-friendly invisible under-lug correctors introduced and patented by Blancpain in 2004. These discreet correctors eliminate the need for pushers that often require tools for adjustment. Additionally, it is available in steel, a contemporary and somewhat unusual material for high-complication watches.
Glashütte Original Senator Excellence Perpetual Calendar
Designed in a somewhat classic yet minimalistic style, the Senator Excellence Perpetual Calendar offers a superb in-house perpetual calendar complication at a comparatively more accessible price point. One of its most significant advantages is its user-friendliness—a quality often challenging to achieve in perpetual calendars. On the dial, the watch’s functions are elegantly displayed in a clean, symmetrical, well-proportioned, and legible manner, cleverly incorporating the innovative Panorama date display that is a signature feature of Glashütte Original.
Powering the timepiece is the award-winning self-winding Calibre 36, beautifully finished and offering an impressive 100-hour power reserve. Its warm red gold case adds a luxurious dimension, making it a perfect dress watch as well.
Chopard L.U.C Perpetual Twin
Boasting a more contemporary aesthetic than most perpetual calendar watches, Chopard’s L.U.C Perpetual Twin stands as one of the brand’s most complex offerings. This model represents a new iteration of the original L.U.C Perpetual Twin in Lucent Steel, a novel and sustainable material proprietary to Chopard. At 43mm, it has a sizable presence, likely to appeal more to a younger audience. Its use of Lucent Steel will surely resonate with those seeking sustainable luxury.
At its heart lies the Calibre L.U.C 96.22-L movement, meticulously finished with features such as bridges adorned with the Côtes de Genève motif, polished sinks, and a ‘perlage’ finish on the main plate. This self-winding movement operates on a twin-barrel system and beats at a frequency of 4 Hz. Developed entirely by the brand, it is a COSC-certified chronometer offering 65 hours of power reserve and includes a stop-second function for enhanced precision.
Bulgari Octo Finissimo CarbonGold Perpetual Calendar
Make a statement with what is likely the only octagonal perpetual calendar on the market. Beyond its distinctive design, this timepiece represents the pinnacle of Swiss watchmaking, thanks to the record-breaking perpetual calendar BVL 305 calibre. Since its launch in 2021, it has held the title of the world’s thinnest perpetual calendar.
The watch features an intriguing dial display with a retrograde date display at the top and a small retrograde leap year indicator at the bottom. Its case, bracelet, integrated buckle, and dial are crafted from extremely lightweight, matte-finish anthracite-coloured carbon, complemented by rose gold accents on the dial display, case back, movement, and crown.
Remarkably, this watch requires no adjustment until the year 2100, and it boasts water resistance up to 100 meters.
H. Moser & Cie. Streamliner Perpetual Calendar
This watch boasts a unique appearance that may cause one to pause and question if they are truly looking at a perpetual calendar timepiece. Drawing design inspiration from the Flyback Chronograph and Centre Seconds models in its Streamliner series, H. Moser & Cie. has successfully infused its signature minimalist design principles into this perpetual calendar model.
Ingeniously and intuitively, it employs a small red hand at the center of the dial to indicate the months, discreetly positions the power reserve indicator at 10 o’clock, and incorporates an instantaneous date-change function. While the dial may appear deceptively simple, the devil resides in the details, extending to its integrated steel bracelet, which has been meticulously engineered and finished to ensure maximum wearability and comfort.
The self-winding HMC 812 movement that powers this watch earned the prestigious Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) Complication Award in 2006, and continues to be recognized as one of the most innovative creations in the watchmaking world.