Vacheron Constantin Perpetual Calendar, 43032/000P-7072, Platinum

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First released in 1984, the Vacheron Constantin reference 43032* represented a bold move when viewed in the context of tumult of the Quartz Crisis that the Swiss watch industry was still in the midst of. The reference affords an almost unfettered glimpse into the inner workings of its perpetual calendar complication. This particular example from 2003, with a skeletonised ultra-thin automatic calibre paired with a 36mm platinum case is as slim as it is elegant in its architecture.

Leap Forwards of Perpetual Calendar

The first perpetual calendar pocket watch was invented by Thomas Mudge in 1762, yet it wouldn’t be until 1925 when Patek Philippe produced the first perpetual calendar wristwatch. That’s how hard it is to miniaturise this complication, just so that its wearer isn’t thrown out of sync for a moment every four years.

Certainly, the complexity of this complication isn’t just about scale. It’s about energy. If a chronograph requires a lot of energy just to move those three extra hands, now imagine the energy demands of a watch whose entire mechanism needs to be constantly running, even while it appears to be doing not much at all. This requires minimal friction, minimal weight and whatever else can be done to conserve energy.

All of which begs the question, if perpetual calendars can not only be challenging to make, but even to own, what quite is their appeal? Michael Friedman, who holds the fantastic title of ‘head of complications’ at Audemars Piguet – makers of rods for its own back, and hence the RD2, the world’s thinnest self-winding perpetual calendar watch – gets philosophical on this question. If, he says, watches are so often celebrated for their precision in the moment, for their nowness, for splitting seconds, the perpetual calendar celebrates slow time. Indeed, the very name says it all: the perpetual calendar might as well be called the forever watch.