Historical review of Patek Philippe perpetual calendars from 1985 to 2003

A perpetual calendar is a calendar system designed to calculate dates in a recurring and accurate manner, without requiring frequent manual adjustments. Unlike traditional calendars that have a fixed duration for each month and year, a perpetual calendar can handle variations in leap years, months of different lengths, and lunar cycles.

Patek Philippe was the very first watchmaker to integrate this complication into a wristwatch in 1925, the first to create a retrograde perpetual calendar wristwatch in 1937, and the very first to produce a series production perpetual calendar wristwatch in 1941 with the legendary reference 1526.

Illustration of the first wristwatch integrating a Perpetual Calendar by Patek Philippe
Illustration of ref. 1526 (©Phillips)

The purpose of this review is to summarize the perpetual calendars manufactured by Patek Philippe since 1985.

The different calibers of perpetual calendars

We can distinguish them by two distinct caliber references.

Caliber 240

Caliber 240 was launched at the initiative of Philippe Stern during the quartz crisis in 1977. Thanks to its micro-rotor, which was first integrated into the Ellipse collection (ref. 3738), it measures 3.88mm in thickness (a record at its release) and is extra flat.

A true legend in watchmaking history, caliber 240 can be found in the Ellipse, Calatrava, Nautilus (3712, 5712), and World-Time (5110, 5130) collections...

Learn more about Patek Philippe's caliber 240

Caliber 315

Unlike its predecessor, caliber 315 allows for a central seconds hand and features a central rotor oscillating mass (and consequently a thicker case).

Caliber 315 is present in the Aquanaut (ref. 5065), Nautilus (ref. 5711), and Calatrava (ref. 3820, ref. 5127) collections.

Illustration of caliber 240
Illustration of caliber 315

The different references of perpetual calendars

Reference 3940 (1985)

The first perpetual calendar produced in "large series," it is powered by the caliber 240 Q and was commercialized until 2006 when it was replaced by ref. 5140. The complete review of this reference is available here. This highly elegant watch, beloved by collectors, stands out for the slimness of its case combined with its diameter of 36mm, despite numerous complications.

Illustration of a 3940J model

Reference 5040 (1992)

Reference 5040 features a monobloc "Tortue" type case and is powered by the caliber 240Q.

Illustration of a white gold ref. 5040G model (©Phillips)

Reference 5050 (1993)

Reference 5050 has a 36mm case in which the caliber 315 is housed. This allows it to display a central seconds hand and offers a perfect symmetry on the dial with three date windows and a retrograde calendar hand.

Reference 5041 (1995)

Reference 5041 is aesthetically very similar to reference 5040, with the difference being a slightly redesigned platinum case. The dial is adorned with Breguet numerals and hands, giving it a chic and sporty look.

Illustration of the reference 5041P (©Phillips)

Reference 5038 (1996)

Reference 5038 is a variation of the 3940 with a few aesthetic elements: the black dial features Roman numeral indexes, sword-shaped hands, and a finely decorated bezel. It was produced in 500 examples in white gold. Its atypical style divides collectors, often considering it aesthetically outdated.

Reference 5039 (1997)

Reference 5039 (1997) has a Calatrava "Clous de Paris" type case measuring 35mm. Reference 5039 evolved into the 5139, which enlarged the case to 38mm.

Illustration of a white gold ref. 5039G model (©Phillips)

Reference 5059 (1998)

Reference 5059, like its predecessor (ref. 5050), features caliber 315 S QR. With an officer-type case (the solid removable case back allows the movement to be admired through a second sapphire back), reference 5059 stands out with its prominent lugs.

Illustration of a rose gold ref. 5059R model (©Phillips)

Reference 5136 (2003)

Reference 5136 has an integrated bracelet in precious metal. Aesthetically close to the annual calendar ref. 5036, the 5136 has a slightly thicker case despite being powered by the caliber 240Q.

Illustration of reference 5136 (©Phillips)

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