It’s a leap year, and in the run-up to that special day Feb 29, Revolution takes a look at some of the Perpetual Calendars that mattered. To begin, we turn the spotlight on no less than the Patek 97975, the world’s first perpetual calendar wristwatch that actually started life as something else:
Patek’s very first perpetual calendar wristwatch dates back to 1925. But in reality, the movement for this watch goes even further back to 1898, when the maison made the movement to be housed in a women’s pendant watch. It is intriguing to imagine their thinking at the time. That this extraordinary complication capable of keeping time, date, day, month, year and even moon phase would appeal to a very specific female client.
The watch went unsold and a quarter century later, this exceptional instantaneous perpetual calendar movement designated No. 97975 was re-cased in a beautiful yellow-gold wristwatch replete with hunter back and a large fluted crown. The 34.4mm-diameter case (case No. 22 033) also featured stunning hand-engraved lugs, a tradition still associated with Patek to this day.
Patek’s records of the 12-ligne No. 97975 movement dated September 1898 specify thus: “Perpetual calendar and moon below XII, date at the center, days of the week at IX, months of the year at III.” This is clearly not the case when one looks at the watch today. We can infer from this that in its transition from pendent watch (intended to be worn crown up at 12 o’clock) to wristwatch, the grand feu enamel dial was turned 90 degrees from its original orientation with the movement, so that small seconds now appears at ‘9’ with moon phase and crown at ‘3’.
The No. 97975 movement was made from a Victorin Piguet ébauche with a straight-line lever escapement, compensating balance and a Breguet overcoil hairspring. Most impressively, the movement had the rare complexity of an instantaneous perpetual calendar indications.
Date was told using a large centrally mounted hand off a red scale at the dial’s perimeter. The day-of-the-week subdial is located at 12 o’clock while the month subdial is at six o’clock. It is interesting to note that Patek would never repeat this design again. The watch was sold in 1927 to an American collector named Thomas Emery and today constitutes a historical treasure that is simply priceless, forming part of the grand collection housed within the Patek Philippe Museum.
It is amazing to think that the 97975 was a creation of 1925. It would well over 15 years until Patek would produce their first serially produced perpetual calendar chronograph, the legendary 1518.
For everything you want to know about Patek Philippe perpetual calendars, see ‘The Entire History of Patek Philippe’s Perpetual Calendars’ by Wei Koh, here.