When it comes to watches, functions that do more than tell time (hours, minutes and seconds) are referred to as “complications.” Complications in watches are desirable because they require the highest amount of watchmaking effort and skill to create, and therefore are priced at premium levels.

One example is the perpetual calendar. This is one of the highest achievements in mechanical complications as it is programmed to account for the differing days per each month, as well as for leap year, which occurs every fourth year and includes an extra day (Feb. 29) on the calendar, so once set, if you wear one of these watches for four years straight, it always will have the correct day, month and date. All of this is displayed by items that fit on your wrist or in your pocket via the use of ingeniously thought-out gears and wheels.

Some of the finest examples of this include:

1.  Audemars Piguet Exquisite Skeletonized Quantieme Perpetual Moon Phase 18K Gold Pocket Watch, Ref. 25559BA, Circa 1982


This is a pocket watch that was made to mesmerize. There is something powerful about holding all of that complicated programming in the palm of your hand, it almost feels sinful to handle it without a white glove. The skeletonization – or open work dial with engraved bridges – really allows you to see the depth that goes into these masterpieces. The celebrated makers at Audemars Piguet have made this watch to the highest standards. Furthermore, this piece includes the moon phases and ages. Adding this piece to your collection will allow you to accurately tell people that you have your very own horological museum.

2.  Patek Philippe Ref. 5940G-001 Very Fine Gold Automatic Perpetual Calendar Wristwatch With Moon Phases & 24 Hour Indication:

In watch collecting circles, it is said that Patek Philippe is the most desired brand. This watch is a prime example why. The design is impeccable with an unusual cushion shaped case, clean layout and exhibition back displaying the movement and the fine attention Patek Philippe pays to details. As if the watch itself were not enough, it also comes with the original box, papers and accessories!

3.  Vacheron Constantin Very Fine Ref. 47112/000J Gold Malte Quantieme Perpetual Calendar Chronograph:

This is a robust timepiece that carried an MSRP of $93,000! This watch has a presence like no other, and there is no doubt people will be drawn in to look at it on your wrist. The proverbial cherry on top is that when you take it off, the solid case back can be lifted easily to see the movement in all its glory.

4.  Breguet Very Fine 18K Gold Perpetual Calendar Moon Phase Chronograph Wristwatch Ref. 3617

Guilloche dial? Check! Coin edge? Check! Perpetual calendar, moon phase, chronograph? Check, check and check! Now, we must admit that we have a soft spot for Breguet, and this piece is no exception. It’s a highly detailed, ultra-complicated, extremely well made watch, by one of the most storied brands ever to exist. Finally, when you consider what you would have to pay for a comparable watch from Patek Philippe or Vacheron Constantin, this piece is unquestionably a great value.

5.  IWC Da Vinci Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar Chronograph With Moon Phase Limited Edition Wristwatch Ref. 3752

Following Breguet is no easy task, so we had to get creative. This perpetual calendar masterpiece not only features a moon phase, a chronograph and even a display for the year, but it also contains one of the most desirable complications in timekeeping: the tourbillon. The tourbillon is a rotating carriage which houses the balance and escapement wheel, the parts which make the “heart beat” of the watch. It was ingeniously developed by Abraham Louis Breguet around 1795 and is said to counteract the effects of gravity as well as reduce wear and evenly distribute the lubricating oils – all to make a more precise timekeeper. The result is a super-complicated wristwatch at a price which would blow away all expectations, and we recommend bidding quickly on this one.

These, and other exceptional timepieces, will be available June 6 in Heritage Auctions’ Timepieces Auction.

Written by: Michael Fossner

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