The perpetual calendar is one of the highest of high-end complications, requiring the skill of a master architect to create the exquisitely efficient and accurate movements that not only display date, day, month and sometimes moon phases, but which automatically take account of the various lengths of the months and leap years. If you’ve got R850,000 or more to spend, there are some truly lovely examples to choose from this year. Among our favourites are the ultra-slim Bulgari Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar, the curvaceous H. Moser & Cie Streamliner Perpetual Calendar, and the elegant Patek Philippe Ref. 5236P-001 In-Line Perpetual Calendar. These novelties also provide some context for our featured timepiece from Frederique Constant.
For younger watch collectors enamoured by this grand complication but with shallower pockets, Montblanc introduced its 39mm Meisterstück Heritage Perpetual Calendar in 2014 for under R200,000, opening the doors to a previously exclusive club, laying down the gauntlet and ticking many boxes including a few for lovers of classic watch design.
Noting the gap in the market and its commitment to making accessible luxury timepieces, Frederique Constant introduced its first QP (quantième perpétuel, French for perpetual calendar) in 2016 to its Slimline collection, currently retailing from R139,995. It was not only more affordable than the Montblanc but featured the automatic calibre FC-775, Frederique Constant’s first in-house perpetual calendar. This movement was also among more than two dozen in-house calibers, also known as movements or mechanisms, including their 2008 tourbillon, developed and produced by Frederique Constant since its inception by husband-and-wife duo Peter and Aletta Stas in 1988. Acquired by the Citizen Watch Co. in 2016, the Plan-les-Ouates-based manufacturer then celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2018 with the introduction of its first QP Tourbillon Manufacture. Available in limited editions in stainless steel or rose gold, these pieces were sold from about R300,000.
Last year, Frederique Constant introduced the caliber FC-775 to its sports-luxe Highlife line. Originally launched in the late 1990s, the 41mm tonneau-shaped Highlife is reminiscent of the watches from the 1970s with their integrated steel bracelets. With its perpetual calendar, this novelty is an attractive proposition at R149,995. It also looks more modern than the Slimline, while also being a practical everyday watch with a 38-hour power reserve and water resistance to 50m.
Raising the bar even further this year, the Highlife Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar Manufacture with skeleton dial is bold, sporty, and thoroughly modern. By coupling one of the most iconic complications with the most complex mechanical calendar, this will be the most affordable example of fine watchmaking, according to the company. Inside its 41mm case, the watch is powered by the FC-975 caliber first seen in the 30th anniversary edition, and available in 18-carat rose gold or brushed and polished stainless steel with integrated bracelet, it is also designed, produced and assembled at the Geneva-based company.
Navy blue subdials are organised to optimise readability, with the day and date positioned at 9 and 3 o’clock respectively, and the month and leap year indications combined in a single counter at 12 o’clock. The beautifully finished tourbillon balances things out at 6 o’clock. For greater precision, Frederique Constant has equipped the tourbillon with a silicone escapement — both the escape wheel and the lever. The company says this choice of technology ensures that the watch is stable and accurate, unaffected by temperature fluctuations and magnetic fields, including those associated with the digital environment, such as computers or smartphones. The inner workings of the movement can be admired through the skeletonised dial and the see-through case back.
Limited to 88 pieces in steel and 30 in rose gold, the Highlife Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar Manufacture is priced from Sf22,995 (about R366,163).
For more information visit frederiqueconstant.com or call Picot & Moss 011-669-0500.