There are many watches whose technical merit is beyond reproach, but whose design may fall subjectively. Equally, there are watches whose design and technical merits both fall a bit flat (how is the 11.59 doing these days anyway?). However, it is the rare watch whose design and technical merits are, to my understanding, unarguable. Patek Philippe is master of the complicated perpetual calendar and the Calatrava with equal grace. But, my god, do they cover the middle ground well also.
Patek created their first line of annual calendars in 1996 with the 5035 to attract a new category of buyer: one who appreciated mechanical complication more than the 10K Calatrava could satisfy, but was not ready to borrow 40K on a 3940. If you’re asking ‘that’s great, but what’s the difference?’, read on (if you know, skip the rest of this paragraph). An annual calendar complication is aimed toward simplicity of calendar adjustment. The annual needs to be adjust once per year on the jump from February 28th to March 1st (or on leaps years likewise). Perpetual calendars are engineering to calculate and account for leap years.
Interestingly, Patek’s annual calendar calibres require more components in their construction than Patek’s perpetuals: 324 for the annual base calibre vs 280 for the perpetual (thanks J Reardon for that lovely trivia). The 5396 was available first in an art-deco sector dial and this latter ultra-minimal affair. There is also a 100-example Tiffany Limited Edition with Breguet numerals which is so gorgeous it hurts. The 5396 was the first annual to feature an inline calendar in place of rotary subdials, which cleaned up the dial’s aesthetic and has led many to declare it the most beautiful annual calendar ever produced. In the words of Annie Lennox, ‘who am I to disagree?’
This example is particularly lovely. The watch is said to be in like-unworn condition and presents that way. It bears a 2011 production date, comes with a full set including clasp, and has no visible marring as far as I can see. It comes from a reputable retailer.
Find this 5396G here from Dunaliga for 40800 USD.