Surprising Value: A Brief Guide to the Annual Calendar

Surprising Value: A Brief Guide to the Annual Calendar

Most of the time when we talk about complicated watches on Worn & Wound, we’re looking at the most popular complications on sports watches: the chronograph, and the GMT. It’s no wonder that these complications are somewhat ubiquitous in the segment we cover (and just about every other segment as well). They’re practical, have a clear aesthetic charm when executed well, and are associated with a whole host of truly legendary classic watches that brands of all sizes are constantly trying to emulate. It doesn’t hurt that over time, the cost associated with producing watches with these complications has fallen, making them accessible to many enthusiasts who wouldn’t have thought to touch them even a decade ago. 

We love chronos and GMTs, but can’t help but feel that the calendar complications are sometimes ignored at the expense of their sportier siblings. Well, in this guide, we’re going to take a look at a small handful of calendar equipped watches that look great and display some real watchmaking wizardry that cost far less than you probably thought. While perpetual calendars are certainly the peak in the calendar game, the annual calendar presents an alternative that provides precisely 91.6% of the perpetual’s functionality at a small fraction of the cost, and it seems like nobody ever talks about it. But that changes today, because we’re all about the affordable annual calendar, and it’s about time it got its due. 

Before we get to the watches, a short refresher on the annual calendar complication itself. An annual calendar is a watch that displays the correct month and date and only requires a correction moving from February to March. It’s an “annual” calendar because you only need to correct the date once per year, which is pretty impressive for a collection of springs and gears cased in a block of metal. This complication has a surprisingly short history, and was only introduced in a wristwatch in 1996 (by Patek Philippe). While it doesn’t have the elegance of a perpetual calendar that never requires correction, these watches are eminently obtainable, and represent a truly useful complication for a watch meant to be worn daily, except perhaps at a very specific point in the dead of winter. 

Omega Globemaster Annual Calendar 

First in our lineup of watches bearing one of the most neglected of all complications, a timepiece from one of the most neglected product lines from one of the biggest brands in the world. When it comes to Omega, the Speedmaster and Seamaster tend to get the bulk of our collective attention, while the Constellation line, which is arguably Omega’s most historically significant product from a pure horological perspective, plays second (or third) fiddle. 

Omega’s Constellation watches were introduced in the early 1950s and are aesthetically about as core “mid-century” as you can get. These early Constellations are slim watches, often with fancy lugs, pie-pan dials, and applied markers, and straddle the line between formal dress watches and the type of nice Swiss gents watch that you’d buy and wear everyday of your life, no matter the occasion. While the style of the watches in the Constellation line would change with the times (there are plenty of sporty versions with unusual case shapes introduced in the 70s and into the quartz era) the fundamental identity of the Constellation was always in advanced chronometry. The watches were introduced as a showcase for Omega’s competition winning chronometer movements, and are very much the root of the Omega we see today, proudly showcasing their latest METAS certified watches with all kinds of advanced technology. There’s not only a direct link between those early Constellations and those of today, but there’s a clear connection between the Constellations of the 1950s and Omega’s current brand identity. 

The Globemaster is a modern offshoot of the Constellation, and was the platform for the brand’s first Master Chronometer in 2015. The Globemaster now emcompasses a series of chronometry focused dressy everyday watches from simple time and date models to more complex pieces. The Globemaster Annual Calendar takes the pie-pan dial that is so beloved by vintage watch enthusiasts and turns it into a canvas for a rather handsome and useful calendar, with the months displayed in twelve facets created by the unique dial shape. A central hand points to the correct month, and jumps to the next on schedule every month (again, with one exception) on the correct day. The date is displayed at 6:00 and lends the Globemaster Annual Calendar a symmetry that is somewhat rare in complicated calendar watches. 

The Globemaster Annual Calendar is powered by Omega’s Caliber 8922, which can be viewed through the watch’s sapphire caseback. Significantly, Omega has kept the iconic observatory emblem on the caseback of their newest Globemasters, a nod to Constellations which featured the same logo as a signifier of a higher level of precision than what you’d find in a standard Omega. 

The Globemaster Annual Calendar is not an inexpensive watch with a retail price of $ 8,600, but this is one of those examples of a watch that can be had for significantly less on the secondary market. If you’re shopping for a Speedmaster, for instance, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that you could spot a Globemaster Annual Calendar on the secondhand market for not much more than the price of a Speedy. It’s something to consider if you find value in complications, and are interested in another, less celebrated aspect of Omega’s long history. 

Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra Annual Calendar 

If you like the idea of an Omega annual calendar, but are looking for something a little sportier and don’t mind hunting for a watch that’s currently out of production, the Seamaster Aqua Terra Annual Calendar is worthy of your consideration. The Aqua Terra line maintains much of the robustness of a Seamaster diver, but in a smaller and more discreet package, sans rotating bezel. These watches have 150 meters of water resistance in a 43mm case, feature big lumed hands and hour markers, and are typically found on bracelets. 

Unlike the Globemaster, the Aqua Terra’s annual calendar complication is read at 3:00, clearly displaying the month and date in a trapezoidal window. The movement used in these watches is Omega’s Calber 8601, which was also used in a fairly extensive variety of watches in the Omega De Ville collection. It features a co-axial escapement, is chronometer rated, and carries a 60 hour power reserve. 

Omega produced an impressive array of Aqua Terra’s with this movement over the years in a wide range of dial colors. The initial retail price on these watches was $ 9,500, but when they pop up on the second hand market these days they trade for well under half that amount, which feels like a massive value. 

Longines Master Collection Annual Calendar

Keeping things in the Swatch Group family, next on our list is the Longines Master Collection Annual Calendar. Launched in 2018, this can be thought of a dressier and more classically styled version of the Aqua Terra above. The layout is the same, and we suspect that the L897.2 movement inside shares some architecture with Omega’s 8601 (we can confirm its base movement is the ETA A31.L81).

This watch feels more like the type of watch we think of when the words “calendar watch” are thrown around. Roman numerals and a textured dial (Longines refers to it as “Barleycorn”) give this watch a considerably more sober aesthetic. That’s par for the course with Longines, a brand that’s never afraid to run up against their long history. While they make watches that are unapologetically modern, they’re really at their best when they operate in a more formal and traditional style. That said, there are variants with Arabic numerals too, as well as a more contemporary sunray blue dial. But this watch looks best with barleycorn, in my personal opinion. 

With a 40mm diameter and case height of just 10.8mm, this watch has what I think most people would agree are vintage style cues with the proportions of a sensible modern watch. It’s not sized to true vintage proportions, but it’s also not hysterically oversized. It’s a size that perfectly reflects its era of production, and should stand the test of time without any major hurdles. It’s also extremely competitively priced at $ 2,425. You’re truly getting a lot of watch for your money with this one. 

Zenith Captain Winsor

The El Primero is its own little rabbit hole of collecting. It’s a lot more than just a popular sports chronograph – it’s served as a jumping off point for some of Zenith’s strangest creations and flights of fancy. There are, of course, wildly complicated El Primeros with tourbillons and so forth, and the standard time and date chronograph has so many different case shapes and dial variants it’s genuinely hard to keep track. But that’s just the beginning. Not a lot of people know about the constantly running flyback El Primero, for example. And there’s even an El Primero that doesn’t have a chronograph at all, which feels a little bit like a vegetarian steakhouse.

Similarly forgotten is the Zenith Captain Winsor, an annual calendar chronograph (with El Primero branding, of course) originally introduced in 2011. For a time, this watch put Zenith at the center of the watch universe, not unlike the current moment they’re experiencing with the launch of the Chronomaster Sport. The watch world was a lot smaller in 2011, at least on the internet, so it says something about the state of things then versus now that a classic multi complication watch from a heritage brand like Zenith dominated the public watch discussion. Now, just about 11 years after it was announced (and several years after it went out of production) it remains singularly interesting. 

When this watch was introduced, retail pricing was set at $ 8,700 for the steel version. Think about that. The Chronomaster Revival A386 currently lists for exactly the same price, and of course that watch is missing the Captain Winsor’s key distinguishing feature. Captain Winsor’s are still out there, and while they haven’t fallen to bargain basement level prices, they still present quite a bit of value between $ 5,000 and $ 6,000. And they’re not making any more of these, so while the Captain Winsor might not be a blue chip investment grade watch (but who knows?), it doesn’t seem likely to plummet in value, either. 

Unlike the other annual calendars we’ve looked at so far, this Captain Winsor displays the date in addition to the day of the week and month. The chronograph is of the 60 minute variety, and is read via the 6:00 sub register for the minutes and a centrally mounted chronograph seconds hand. The watch is somewhat awkwardly sized at 42mm considering the more formal style cues, but that’s certainly not an unwearable size. 

Bonus! Seiko SBCM023 Perpetual Calendar Diver 

So, this one’s not an annual calendar, and it’s quartz. But it’s also incredibly cool and we couldn’t resist including it here, as it certainly packs way more calendar punch than you’d think it does from a quick look at it. The SBCM023 is a perpetual calendar, meaning it adjusts automatically for February, including leap years, and it looks an awful lot like a run of the mill Seiko dive watch. The 8F35 movement also happens to fall into the high accuracy quartz category, and was originally rated to just 20 seconds per year. 

Image courtesy Fratello

This is a true insider’s watch in the sense that even though it’s tracking the years and months, all it displays is the date. It’s similar to a tourbillon that isn’t exposed on the dial side, in a way: only the owner really knows just how heavy the watch is hitting. Setting the watch is apparently quite the experience, with the date window automatically shifting to read the month during the setting process, and the seconds hand indicating leap year. 

The SBCM023 was made for the Japanese market only, and went out of production in 2010. They had a roughly 7 year run, so they’re definitely out there on the second hand market, but they’re not incredibly common. Prices on these have climbed recently, and some complete examples in excellent shape trading between $ 700 and $ 800.

There are certainly many more interesting calendars out there with novel ways of displaying the date and telling you where you’re at in the year – what are some of your favorites? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments. 

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