At the Miami Beach Antiques Show, I had the opportunity to put together the three watches I’ve always wanted – the original ultra-thin automatic perpetual calendars from the so-called Holy Trinity, Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin (it’s a slogan, so let’s call them QP, the French for perpetual calendar).
Even today, in 2023, I’d like to own a QP. It’s so romantic, anachronistic and unnecessary – I can’t think of a better use for a mechanical watch today than to track leap years, as if the answer is not within the scope of a ChatGPT query (Google is so 2022). Once quartz rendered mechanical high quality rolex replica essentially useless in the 70s, it feels like the best thing a watch can do is lean into that uselessness by doing something ridiculous – hand-finishing movements, crazy complications, and yes, creating a calendar that doesn’t need to be adjusted until 2100. More than the Royal Oak, Nautilus or 222, these QPs – introduced from 1978 to 1985 – are the ultimate middle finger to those battery-powered timepieces.
Finally, these watches are becoming more and more valued. Sure, the Patek Philippe 3940 has been appreciated for some time – Gary Shteyngart wrote about his perpetual love for the 3940 just over a year ago – but that may be because of the name on the dial, not because of what’s under it.
History aside, when I had the opportunity to tackle all three QPs together, the question was simple: if I could buy one – and only one – which one would it be and why? Here are the watches I tested.
Wait, you might say, the AP and Vacheron are platinum and skeletonized, while the Patek has none of those things. This is certainly true, and while I once wore a 3940P platinum watch on my wrist for a few sublime seconds, none of the thousands of who sells the best replica watches at the Miami Beach vintage show seemed to be available, so I had to make do with what I had (poor me). Also, Patek never made a skeletonized 3940 – the naughtiest thing Patek ever did was put the movement on display on a sapphire case back.
While many brands eventually produced ultra-thin QPs, it was these models from Patek Philippe, AP and Vacheron Constantin that had the most lasting impact. You see, while these brands had previously been producing dozens of QPs, they soon began mass-producing perpetual calendars, hundreds of them each year. All three of these watches were born out of the same need these fancy watchmakers had to make fancy watches, and now battery-powered watches are everywhere. Of course, squinting at them, these watches all look somewhat similar, but on closer inspection, it’s the differences that are more worth discussing.