Feature: £4,000 vs £50,000 Calendar Watch
Some of us are happy for our watches just to tell us what the time is, but some of us are not. There are a handful of people for whom a watch must display not only the time, but the date, the day, the month and even the phase of the moon. Entry to this club will set you back a few thousand pounds, but the upper end seemingly has no limit. Question is—can you tell the difference?
Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Moon Phase 02.0240.410
Okay, so £4,000 is no bargain-basement timekeeper, but to find something with this specification and quality for less is no easy task. For many mid-level luxury brands, £4,000 is your entry point, your time-only territory, and that makes what we have a here a bit more special.
It’s a Zenith Chronomaster, so of course it comes equipped with the famous El Primero chronograph with its 36,000vph beat—that’s ten ticks per second rather than the usual eight. If you’re interested in measuring things down to a tenth of a second, that’s a pretty big deal. For everyone else, knowing that your watch draws a direct lineage from the very first integrated Swiss automatic chronograph—and the movement Rolex chose to revive the Daytona with—is pretty special.
But we’re not here for the chronograph, as handy as it is, we’re here for the calendar. You can see we’ve got accommodation for the day, date, month and moon phase, but things aren’t quite as they seem. On a Tuesday night in the middle of November, for example, you’ll wake up the next morning to find that the day has advanced, and so has the date, and everything is dandy. In fact, go to sleep on the last day of July and you’ll be able to sleep well knowing that your watch will be correct in telling you that tomorrow is the first of August.
The end of a month with only 30 days, however, and you’re in trouble. February, leap year or otherwise—forget about it. This is a calendar all right, but it’s not perpetual, or even annual, because on the months with less than 31 days, you’ll need to advance the display yourself.
It’s no big deal; the quick date change on the crown will tick over from 31 to 1 and bring the day and month with it, so it’s pretty straightforward to adjust, no harder than a normal date display. And hidden pushers on the side of the case allow you to keep the day and moon phase in check, too.
This may not be an all-singing, all-dancing perpetual calendar, but it does still have 354 parts and ten individual functions—not bad for entry-level Rolex money. But what if you’ve got a bit more to spend?
A. Lange & Söhne Langematik Perpetual 310.026
By ‘a bit more to spend’, I mean a lot more. Fifteen times more. Welcome to the A. Lange & Söhne Langematik Perpetual; this is a watch that, unsurprisingly, is not the entry-level to the brand. Perhaps more surprisingly, it’s not the most expensive, either.
Regardless, this A. Lange & Söhne can do something rather special. Where the Zenith is unintelligent, so to speak, repeating the same pattern over and over and requiring human intervention to keep it straight and true, this rather Aardman Animations-sounding Langematik Perpetual is a bit smarter.
There’s no need to sleep in fear of a missed date change thanks to a gear train programmed to know exactly what day it is every day right until the end of the century. It knows which months have 30 days, and more impressively, it knows what to do with February, even on a leap year.
But what the Langematik Perpetual can actually do only tells half the story. There are watches available at a fraction of the price that offer a perpetual calendar, but it’s how this watch goes about being a watch that really elevates it to its lofty price tag.
Take the hidden pushers, for example. Each one controls an element of the display to get it all in sync, and providing the watch is kept wound, won’t ever need to be touched again. Yet despite that, A. Lange & Söhne has made sure that each pusher press is like dipping a biscuit finger into warm caramel. The Zenith’s pushers go ‘click’, which is fine. By comparison, the A. Lange & Söhne is a sensory experience.
And as far as sensory experiences go, it’s the eyeballs that get lion’s share here. Look at it … just look at it. Even without magnification, front or back, it’s like trying on glasses for the first time having been stubbornly adamant you didn’t need them. Everything is crisp and defined, even to the tiniest details. It’s so beautiful it makes the knees weak and brings a tear to the eye.
The Zenith is a very good watch, excellent in fact, and offers so much for its £4,000 price point it’s hard to find fault. But compared to the A. Lange & Söhne, it stands no chance. The Zenith is a device to accomplish a purpose, and it does so very well, but the Langematik Perpetual is a piece of art, one that deserves to be looked at as much as it is read. You could easily be forgiven for going to take the time from it and forgetting what is was you were doing. When you consider the price of art, £50,000 is almost a bargain.
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