Picking my favorite under the radar release was difficult because, by nature of being under the radar, these weren’t watches that were top of mind. So, instead of just knowing which watch I’d write about, I had to actually discover it by going through our archives. In doing this, I actually came across several watches that were released last year, that I totally forgot about, that were disproportionately rad considering the relatively low fanfare they received upon launch. My three top choices all involved complications, of course, ranging from a clever GMT chronograph by Stowa to a chiming one-hander by MeisterSinger. But, I can’t fight my heart, which is why the ochs und junior Calendario Cent’Anni is my pick for favorite under the radar release of 2021.
I have a growing fascination with perpetual calendars that I can’t ignore. There is something about the complexity of an automatically adjusting full calendar that is powered by springs and gears, that I find awe-inspiring. Sure, annual calendars do something very similar (and I’m quite into them, too), but that extra bit of magic from adjusting for leap years is just, well, extra.
But, there are two common problems with perpetual calendars, in my eyes. First, is that they tend to be a bit stuffy looking. Though Pateks, Langes, JLCs, etc, are all gorgeous, they aren’t really watches I’d want to wear (this is about me, after all). It’s not even the complexity of the sub-dials, moon phases, etc, that bothers me, it’s more that they tend to be stuffy. They’re serious watches that take themselves seriously, like a high school principal. Ok, the 3940 gets a pass, but is an example of issue number two: they also tend to cost a fortune.
This brings me to the ochs und junior Calendario Cent’Anni, or CCA (as they call it), a calendar complication that requires adjusting every 100 years – call it “semi” perpetual, or a lifetime calendar. Starting with the first issue – just look at these watches! These aren’t gilded instruments meant to live behind french cuffs. No, they are fun, unpretentious, and even whimsical. Such is the charm of ochs und junior (note the lack of capitals in their name). This extends from the 40mm titanium case with visible machine marks, to the minimal, graphic aesthetic, to the execution of the calendar functions, to the design of the complication itself, which is a module consisting of only nine parts on top of a Ulysse Nardin UN 320.
Where most perpetual calendars require several sub-dials, with several hands and indexes printed at tiny scales, the CCA gets all of the calendar information across with a series of windows, discs, and dots, all displayed about the center of the dial. Admittedly, it takes a moment to learn how to read it, but I imagine if one wore it every day, that would be an issue that would resolve itself quickly (check this out to understand the display). They also omit the moon phase, likely because they have that covered elsewhere.
The result is strikingly simple at a glance, almost as though they were two-handed watches. The complexity of the calendar is revealed upon further examination, putting emphasis on the most relevant information first from the outside in, date to leap year. Available in three prefix flavors, as opposed to ochs und juniors fully customizable choices, the CCA also includes a version with a few numerals, which aid in reading the date in particular.
In terms of price… Well, they are still very expensive by normal, sane standards, but in the scale of perpetual calendars, they are a bargain (that A. Lange & Sohne Lange 1 Perpetual above is $116,000). With a price tag of 15,230 CHF (about $16,500 at the time of writing), they come in on the low side. Sure, there are the Frederique Constant offerings, which are still the best value for a perpetual calendar by a solid margin (and pretty awesome in their own right), but otherwise few, if any, are available at MSRP under $20k. And none that look anything like the CCA.
So, why was this my choice? As should be clear, the CCA is a unique combination of things. From aesthetic to price, it’s just very uncommon, and I felt it deserved a second look. This isn’t the kind of watch that comes out on a normal basis, and frankly, until Nomos starts making perpetuals, that’s unlikely to change. That said, it’s also a bit of a departure for ochs und junior.
As their first series of watches that are only available in fixed versions, they represent a slightly different direction for the brand. Where their earlier models combine a sort of hand-made craftiness with a minimal sensibility, not to mention being fully customizable, these feel more refined, and even commercial. For people who like the ethos of the brand, the cleverness of their complications, but want something that looks a bit more like it was manufactured en masse, these provide that look while retaining the brand’s personality. ochs und junior
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