In Per­pe­tu­ity

Singapore Tatler - - WATCHES -

Patek Philippe is con­sid­ered one of the world’s premier watch­mak­ers, and its per­pet­ual calendar watches are par­tic­u­larly ex­cep­tional. Nicolette Wong ex­plores the lux­ury brand’s legacy of cre­at­ing this cov­eted com­pli­ca­tion

n the horo­log­i­cal world, there are few watch mech­a­nisms as cov­eted as the per­pet­ual calendar com­pli­ca­tion. It is not hard to see why—that a me­chan­i­cal watch, no larger than 40mm or so across, de­void of any elec­tric­ity or fur­ther in­for­ma­tional in­put, is able to ac­cu­rately mea­sure the pas­sage of time over a pe­riod longer than a hu­man life. That, dear read­ers, is truly amaz­ing. When we speak of per­pet­ual calendar com­pli­ca­tions, there is one brand that afi­ciona­dos al­ways bring up: Patek Philippe. It is no sur­prise, as the Swiss watch­maker’s ded­i­ca­tion to de­vel­op­ing the com­pli­ca­tion has helped it build up its ca­chet, and be­come the re­spected and cov­eted brand it is today. Be­fore we dive into Patek Philippe’s his­tory with per­pet­ual cal­en­dars, how­ever, it be­hoves us to ex­plain the “calendar” part of the com­pli­ca­tion. As you know, each year com­prises 365 days—ex­cept that it doesn’t. It ac­tu­ally com­prises ex­actly 365.2422 days. This odd length is the rea­son we have 366-day leap years ev­ery four years or so. But be­cause the length of a year is shorter than the 365.25 days that this sched­ule sug­gests, we need to sub­tract a leap day from the calendar year ev­ery so of­ten. Ev­ery cen­turial year (that is, years end­ing in 00) will be leap years if they can be per­fectly divided by 400. For ex­am­ple, the year 1600 was such a leap year. If it can­not be per­fectly divided by 400, how­ever, then it will not be a leap year. The year 1700, for in­stance, was not a leap year be­cause it left a re­main­der of 100 when divided by 400. If that sounds com­plex, that is be­cause it is. And it is this com­plex­ity that puts a kink in the time­keep­ing cal­cu­la­tions of per­pet­ual cal­en­dars. The beauty of the per­pet­ual calendar is that it is al­most per­pet­ual. It ac­counts for nearly all of the dis­crep­an­cies in time and date (in­clud­ing vary­ing lengths of months, and four-year leap years) but for one, it can­not ac­count for the non-leap cen­turial years. It must there­fore be ad­justed for most cen­turial years, which are usu­ally 100 years apart. Ev­ery per­pet­ual calendar watch will have to be ad­justed for­ward by a day to skip the leap day that the watch would think is oc­cur­ring. So, the next time you will have to ad­just your per­pet­ual calendar will be in the year 2100—or more likely, the task will be left to your prog­eny, be­cause af­ter all, “You never ac­tu­ally own a Patek Philippe.

The beauty of the per­pet­ual calendar is that it is al­most per­pet­ual. It ac­counts for all of the dis­crep­an­cies in time and date but for one

THE FIRST ONE The Ref 97’975, also known as the cal­i­bre 12’’’, was the firstever per­pet­ual calendar wrist­watch in the world, and had an un­likely be­gin­ning as a women’s pen­dant watch

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