The date is the simplest complication, in addition to the basic time functions, and it is very useful to be able to see the date at a glance. But in its simplest format, with all the numbers from 1 to 31 printed on a single circular disc and viewed through a small window, the numbers are necessarily rather small. People whose eyesight is not perfect may have to put on their glasses to read the date, and this is not a practical solution. Several watch brands have solved the problem with the so-called big date function, in which there are two sets of numbers, one for the tens and one for the units. This enables the date to be shown at a comfortably large size.
Not surprisingly, brands occasionally use the oversize date function to celebrate an anniversary – a “big date.” For example, IWC Schaffhausen are celebrating their 150th anniversary this year, Certina are at their 130 birthday, and Mido are at their centenary. These three brands have issued Big Date watches to mark the occasion. The watches here are listed in alphabetical order of brands.
1. A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Outsize Date
The big date complication first appeared in 1932, but it was brought to popularity largely by German brand A. Lange & Söhne. One of their first watches was the Lange 1 presented in 1994, which had a date display with two framed windows, inspired by the antique digital clock in Dresden Opera House, not far from their headquarters in Glashütte. In the new Saxonia Outsize Date, the two numerals dominate the black dial with their white on black colour scheme and their very large size. The case is 38.5 mm in diameter, in white or pink gold. The date can be adjusted quickly and easily by means of the pusher at 10 o’clock. The automatic movement can be viewed through the sapphire caseback, and it provides a power reserve of 72 hours. The watch costs €24,500. Further information from the A. Lange & Söhne website.
2. Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Grande Date
The Fifty Fathoms Grande Date combines Blancpain’s classic diver’s watch design with an instant-change big date at 6 o‘clock, shown in two windows. The watch is powered by the in-house calibre 1315, which has three mainspring barrels and provides five days of power reserve. A silicium hairspring protects the movement from magnetic fields. The movement can be viewed through the sapphire caseback. The watch has all the characteristics of a diving timepiece, large in size at 45 mm, with a domed sapphire watchglass, a display caseback, and a 300 metre water resistance. The titanium used for the case makes it relatively light, and it has two strap options, the black fabric strap shown here, and a black NATO strap. Price €16,370. Further information from the Blancpain website.
3. Bovet Virtuoso VIII Big Date Tourbillon
This complex timepiece combines a flying tourbillon with an exceptional 10-day power reserve – shown on the subdial at 10 o’clock – and the big date function. The latter is engineered using an original arrangement that provides numerals that are as large as possible, by means of discs that are as compact as possible. The amount of detailing is phenomenal, with a hand-decorated movement and a case that is slightly wedge-shaped, creating a sort of theatrical stage effect. Though complicated, the watch has some user-friendly touches, such as date adjustment that is performed by simply pressing the blue cabochon on the crown. This is a masterpiece of traditional watchmaking, limited to 80 movements, price from 195,000 Swiss francs. More information from the Bovet website.
4. Certina DS Action Big Date Automatic
Certina is a Swatch Group brand with a long history – it was founded in 1888, so this year marks the 130th anniversary – and a lot of tradition in the area of robust, reliable watches. The ‘DS’ of its name stands for Double Security, with a series of special seals on crown, crown stem and caseback. In addition, this timepiece has a water resistance of 200 metres. The case is in stainless steel, 41 mm in diameter, with solid caseback, and inside the self-winding ETA 2826 Swiss-made movement provides 38 hours power reserve. Prices start at €775. Further information from the Certina website.
5. Glashütte Original Sixties Panorama Date
Glashütte Original is based in the same town as A. Lange & Söhne, and they also make watches in which the big date plays a dominant role. The Sixties Panorama Date is based on the Spezimatic, a watch that the brand produced in the 1960s, distinctive for its interesting numeral design. This piece has a green dégradé dial with an unusual dewdrop texture, and a big date in which the numerals are divided by a thin curved line. The watch is moderately sized, 42 mm in diameter, 12.4 mm thick, with a case in stainless steel. It is powered by a self-winding in-house movement, the 39-47, visible through the caseback, with the lovely rotor with double G motif, and other characteristic Glashütte Original features such as the bridges finished with Glashütte stripes and swan-neck beat symmetry regulation. Power reserve is 40 hours. The Glashütte Original Sixties Panorama Date is reference 2-39-47-04-02-04 and it costs €7,800 inclusive of 19% VAT. Read more on the Glashütte Original website.
6. IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot’s Watch Big Date Edition 150 Years
One of the celebration watches for IWC’s 150th anniversary is the Big Pilot’s Watch Big Date Edition 150 Years. At 46.2 mm diameter, this is a large, bold watch, in IWC’s classic pilot’s watch format. The date has a prominent position on the dial just below the reference triangle at 12 o’clock, and it is shown by means of two concentric discs. Pilot’s watches were designed for maximum legibility in all conditions and this piece achieves precisely that, with its large, simple dial markings, and generous luminescent coating on hands and numerals. The watch is hand-wound, with calibre 59235 providing a massive 8-day power reserve. Winding the watch becomes a pleasant weekly ritual, using the conveniently large conical crown. The piece is made in two versions, with blue or white dial, both limited editions of 150 units. Reference 510504 (white dial), 510503 (blue dial), price €14,800 inclusive of VAT. More information on the IWC website.
7. Mido Commander Big Date
Mido was founded on 11th November 1918 and so it is now in its centenary year. The Commander Big Date is a 42mm timepiece with a simplicity that suggests a dress watch. The date is shown in two adjacent windows with sandblasted metal frame. It is the dominant feature on the minimalist dial, with its circular purity enhanced by the partly recessed crown. This watch is powered by the new-generation ETA calibre 80 movement, which is self-winding and has a power reserve of 80 hours. The accessible price of this piece makes it ideal for a wide audience including people at their first experience in mechanical watches. Prices start at €1,050. Read more on the Mido website.
8. Mido Baroncelli Big Date
Mido have used the same ETA calibre 80 movement in another of their models, the classical Baroncelli Big Date, in a 40 mm case that is slim at 10.38 mm – almost slim enough to become a dress watch – and a pink gold PVD coating that gives it extra elegance. The watch is available in several versions, with leather strap or stainless steel bracelet, at affordable prices, starting from €790. More information on the Mido website.
9. RGM Timezone Big Date
This watch by U.S. manufacturer RGM was designed as a travel companion, with a subdial for a second time zone, and the big date. The bold dial markings and luminescent hands enhance legibility. This model has a self-winding ETA 2892-A2 movement, personalized by RGM to add the timezone and big date module, and visible through the sapphire caseback. It is made in stainless steel, with a case 38.7 mm in diameter and 12 mm thick. It costs $3,700. Further information from the RGM website.
10. Zeppelin Automatic Pulsometer with Big Date
Zeppelin is one of the brands made by Point Tec, based in the village of Ismaning, not far from Munich. The Zeppelin Automatic Pulsometer has classical looks with its graceful Breguet-shaped hands, and the pulsometer scale which makes it easy to measure pulse rate. The big date is another attractive feature in terms of practical use. The self-winding ETA 2826-2 movement provides the big date function by means of an ingenious system, based on two superimposed discs, the top one with a window showing the first 16 dates, and the rest on the disc below. Available in boutiques at €749, the Zeppelin Automatic Pulsometer with Big Date, reference 7654-4, is a robust, good-looking watch with a traditional ETA movement at an attractive price. Further information from the Point Tec website.
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