What is a Perpetual Watch?

More than just another wristwatch, a perpetual watch is something of a mechanical marvel, and the name “perpetual” is a clue to just how impressive these watches are.

There are many kinds of watches, but the perpetual Calendar watch has an added charm and is unique in its own way.

What is a Perpetual Watch?

A perpetual watch, or perpetual calendar watch, as it is commonly called, is a timepiece that automatically displays the date, day, week, month, year, and moon phase. The watch also adjusts itself for the different lengths of months, leap years, and other variations without needing manual intervention by the wearer.

Also called the Quantieme Perpetuel in French, a perpetual watch is an advanced mechanical watch designed to provide complete and accurate calendar information at all times. It requires fewer adjustments since it has an automatic setup that allows automated configuration.

How Does It Work?

This watch works like an astronomical timepiece. It has several mechanical parts, from the gears to levers built to track the calendar until the year 2100.

Contrary to analog quartz watches designed with a simple disc to showcase the entire days in a month, a perpetual calendar watch has many complicated discs, each with a year’s worth of information for different days, weeks, months, and years.

Put simply, each disc is dedicated to a different function, but each works in tandem to provide accurate timing. A date wheel tracks the date, the day lever tracks the day, while another tracks the week, month, and year.

How Was a Perpetual watch Invented

The first perpetual calendar watch was designed by Thomas Mudge, an English watchmaker, in 1762 and has long existed since then. Although, unlike their modern wrist frame, it was crafted as a pocket watch and used mainly for astronomical purposes. redesigned

It was not until 1925 that its pocket design was remodeled by Patek Philippe, who created the first wrist-style perpetual watch for Thomas Emery, an American watch connoisseur.  

How a Patek Phillipe Perpetual Calendar Watch Works

How A Perpetual Watch’s Time Is Set

Setting a perpetual work is complicated due to the hundreds of mechanical parts it houses. They won’t often require settings, but if the need arises, they often require precision and correct setup. Accidentally setting a wrong date could mean waiting until its battery runs out before another reset.

Notwithstanding this, its setting will depend on the model. For some models like the IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar, a quick date, month, and year setup will get the watch working correctly.

But, Seiko models like the Chronograph Perpetual calendar have complex settings where the Chronography displays information on the date, month, and year – and only a button function can help you figure out the settings.

Here are the steps on how to set a typical  perpetual calendar watch:

  1. The first step is to set the date. You can do this by moving the crown clockwise until you reach the correct day of the month, then turning the crown counter-clockwise until it stops. Once this has been done, wind your watch fully before moving on.
  2. Next, you will want to set your time zone using the crown at 2 o’clock. This allows you to easily adjust for daylight savings or summertime changes without manually changing your watch’s actual time setting after each adjustment.
  3. To set the time itself, pull out the crown of your watch until you hear it click, set the watch to the correct time and then push the crown back in.

Some Important Things to Know About Perpetual Watch

Albeit complicated, we know that a perpetual calendar watch is a habitual timekeeper – you never go wrong with the dates, time, and month. More than this, there are some important facts worth noting when considering a purchase.  

  • Perpetual watches are more expensive than regular watches. The price difference heightens your preference. Analog models featuring quartz or mechanical movement typically range between $50.99 to $400, while those with automatic movement cost as high as $150 (Non-Western brands like Japanese models) to $1000 (for Swiss, Us, and European brands).
  • It is heavier than regular watches.
  • Their stainless-steel design allows for quick and effortless chemical or scrubbing maintenance.
  • Automatic perpetual watches need servicing every three to five years to last long.
  • Many perpetual watches are water-resistant to some degree, depending on the brand. Check its case back or dial to see water resistance indications.
  • A perpetual watch needs to run at all times for it to work.
  • It has a complicated build and can be puzzling to set.

Several Brands that Have a Perpetual Watch

Several brands produce a diverse range of perpetual calendar watches at varying luxury and price levels.

  1. Seiko Watch Corporation, a Japanese brand, offers entry-level watches such as Seiko Premier Kinetic Perpetual, Seiko Chronograph Perpetual, and Seiko Astron SSE170J1.
  2. Vacheron Constantin, a Swiss watch brand, designed ultra-luxurious models such as the Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Tourbillon and Vacheron Constantin Patrimony.
  3. Patek Philippe, another Switzerland watchmaker, makes some of the most famous perpetual calendar watches like the Patek Philippe Grand Complication and the Nautilus Travel Time 5990/1A-001.
  4. Longines, another renowned Swiss luxury watchmaker, designed some superior quality perpetual watches like the Longines Conquest VHP Chronograph Perpetual Calendar and the Spirit Watch.
  5. IWC, a Schaffhausen-based brand, makes some cool perpetual watches like the Mojave Desert and the Portugieser Perpetual Calendar.
  6. Jaeger-LeCoultre.
  7. A. Lange & Söhne.
  8. Breguet.

Is Perpetual Watch Automatic, Mechanic, or Quartz?

Perpetual watches can be either Automatic, Mechanic, or Quartz. What differs in these three is the mechanism that powers the watch.

  • Automatic – Uses a self-winding mechanism to store energy in a mainspring, which then powers the watch. This type of movement is very accurate but requires more maintenance than other types of watches.
  • Mechanical – Uses a mainspring to power the movement, so no battery is needed (and there’s no need for battery replacement). This movement may require occasional manual winding but will last for decades if properly maintained.
  • Quartz – Uses an electronic oscillator that vibrates at 32,768 Hz — fast enough to be considered instantaneous — to keep time. These are cheaper and more accurate than their mechanical counterparts but require battery replacement every few years.

Why Is It Called Perpetual?

The word perpetual means everlasting or continuing forever. Perpetual watches live up to this meaning by constantly displaying accurate time-date information at all times. Simply put, they are called perpetual because they always give correct information without you tinkering with them.


The perpetual watch has its roots that date back to the 17th century. Its astronomical watch inspiration means they are complicated. Albeit this complication, they are particularly popular in today’s modern watch and fashion industry owing to their timeless design and impeccable accuracy. On the flip side, they are quite expensive but will be worth adding to your watch collection if you can afford them.

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