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The Leap Year in the A. Lange & Söhne perpetual calendars. Today is a leap day, the 29th of February that only occurs about every 4 years to keep our calendars in alignment with the Earth and the sun.

Today is a leap day, the 29th of February that only occurs about every 4 years to keep our calendars in alignment with the Earth and the sun.

We need leap days because it takes 365.2422 days for our planet to complete one revolution around the sun. Thus, the actual orbit is a quarter of a day longer than our 365-day year. Of course, we cannot add quarter days to each year so it was decided to add a leap day every four years.

In watchmaking, only perpetual calendars correctly reproduces the transition from 28 to 29 February, and subsequently switches directly to 1 March at midnight of the leap day. With annual calendars, you have to manually set the date once per year, at the end of February.

While this difference might sound a small thing, it is a real technical challenge. In fact, it requires the development of a mechanical programme that maps the different durations of all 48 months across the entire four-year cycle.

Usually, this complication is handled by a programme wheel with 48 notches and steps, which correspond to the different durations of the 48 months in the four-year cycle of three regular years and a leap year. This is also the type of mechanism adopted by A. Lange & Söhne for seven of its eight timepieces featuring a perpetual calendar.

Above and below, the Tourbograph Perpetual “Pour le Mérite” (calibre L133.1); the bearing of the programme wheel is being lubricated with oil. It goes around once in four years and contains the information as to the different lengths of the 48 months in the four-year cycle.

While the wheel rotates only once every four years, the notches and steps are sampled by a lever. The rule is the deeper the notch, the sooner the mechanism switches to the first day of the next month. The deepest notches correspond to the four Februaries. On a closer look, one of them is slightly shallower.

This one marks the February of the leap year with an additional calendar day. The mechanism recognises the different lengths of the months for an entire century. A correction is only necessary in the secular years 2100, 2200 and 2300, which according to the Gregorian calendar will not be leap years.

Above and below, the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon (calibre L952.2); the leap-year disc is held in its position by a hold-down device fixed with a screw.

However, for its Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar, launched in 2012, the Saxon watchmaker used a completely new approach.

The Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar housing the calibre L082.1

Its key element is a patented peripheral month ring, which constituted an entirely new type of month display. It replaces the traditional mechanism in which the month is advanced by a notched programme wheel. The solution was devised in order to harmoniously integrate the multitude of calendar indications into the dial architecture of the Lange 1 without affecting the asymmetric arrangement of non-overlapping displays (more on the Lange 1 and its history can be found here).

But the designers of this ingenious solution needed to find a way to rotate the large ring instantaneously by 30 degrees while switching to the new month. This increment is about four times longer than that of the very lightweight and much smaller programme wheel.

Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar (calibre L082.1); assembly of the leap-year indication. The numeral disc is positioned on top of the leap-year arbour.

In this exclusive model the month ring is driven via its internal gearing. It rotates around its own axis once a year. The inside of the gear rim features a circumferential contour with wavy recesses. A spring-loaded sampler lever glides along this contour and is deflected by a magnitude that corresponds to the depth of the respective recess.

The more it is deflected, the shorter the month. In February, an extender of the sampler lever contacts a cam beneath the leap-year disc. This tells the mechanism whether it is a common year with only 28 days in February or a leap year with 29 days.

Innovating in a perpetual calendar mechanism is tough but still possible. alange-soehne.com

A SELECTION OF BRANDS

Name

A. Lange & Sohne,142,Accutron,1,AkriviA,10,Alain Silberstein,4,alarm,18,Alpina,17,Andersen Geneve,2,Andersmann,2,Andreas Strehler,5,Angelus,6,annual calendar,43,Anonimo,15,Anthony de Haas,1,Antiquorum,4,Antoine Martin,2,Antoine Preziuso,1,Apple,2,Apple Watch,2,Aquadive,2,Aquastar,1,Armin Strom,80,Arnold and Son,27,Artime,1,Astarwatch,1,Atelier de Chronometrie,1,Ateliers deMonaco,2,Atmos,1,Auctions,93,Audemars Piguet,96,Autodromo,1,automaton,2,BA111OD,1,Ball Watch,1,Bamford,2,Baselword 2022,1,Baselworld,8,BaselWorld 2013,50,BaselWorld 2014,53,Baselworld 2015,69,Baselworld 2016,27,Baselworld 2017,64,Baselworld 2018,75,Baselworld 2019,41,Baselworld 2020,2,Baume,4,Baume & Mercier,16,Baume et Mercier,70,Beaubleu,1,Bell & Ross,40,Bernhard Lederer,4,Bernhard Zwinz,1,bespoke,1,Blancpain,97,blue dial,3,Bonhams,2,Bovet,14,Brands histories,1,Breguet,125,Breitling,74,Bremont,1,Bremont Watch Company,4,Breva,2,bronze,28,Bücherei,1,Bucherer,1,Bulgari,120,Bulova,2,Burberry,1,C3H5N3O9,1,carbon,4,carillon,4,Carl F. Bucherer,4,Carl Suchy,1,Carrera,19,Cartier,48,ceramic,22,Certina,13,Chanel,5,Chaumet,3,chiming hour,14,Chopard,42,Christiaan van der Klaauw,1,Christie's,9,Christophe Claret,5,Christopher Ward,15,chronograph,771,chronometer,41,Chronoswiss,6,Cimier,1,Citizen,4,co-axial,1,column-wheel,9,complete calendar,29,complications,89,concept watch,5,Concord,1,constant-force,39,Corum,18,Credor,2,CSEM,1,Cuervo y Sobrinos,1,Cyrus,34,Czapek,8,Dan Niederer,1,Davosa,1,Daytona,8,De Bethune,28,de Grisogono,3,dead seconds,21,Delma,2,detent escapement,4,DeWitt,9,digital display,1,dive watches,92,diving,8,diving watches,410,double regulator,3,Doxa,38,drei,1,dress watches,526,dual time,107,Ebel,2,Eberhard,35,Edouard Koehn,6,Edox,6,El Primero,42,Emile Chouriet,1,Emmanuel Bouchet,1,Emmanuel Breguet,1,enamel dial,14,enamelling,16,Equation of time,9,ETA,1,Eterna,18,exhibitions,1,F.P.Journe,40,Faberge,2,factory tours,3,Favre-Leuba,1,feature article,90,features,125,Felipe Pikullik,2,Ferdinand Berthoud,8,flyback,61,Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie,1,Formex,1,Fortis,9,Franc Vila Founder,1,Franck Muller,7,Frederic Jouvenot,1,Frederique Constant,19,Furlan Marri,1,FVF,1,Gallet,1,Garrick,1,Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix,8,Georg Jensen,1,George Daniels,4,Gerald Charles,2,Gerald Genta,13,Girard-Perregaux,48,Glashuette,19,Glashuette Original,93,Glashütte,33,Glashütte Original,126,Glycine,4,GMT,135,GoS,1,GoS Watches,1,GPHG,21,GPHG 2020,3,GPHG 2021,3,GPHG 2022,3,GPHG 2023,3,GPHG 2024,1,GPHG2019,1,Graham,6,Grand Feu,6,Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve,16,Grand Seiko,36,Grande Complication,28,Grande Sonnerie,9,Greubel Forsey,38,greubelforsey,1,Gronefeld,10,Grönefeld,8,Grossmann,3,guilloché,8,H. Moser and Cie,50,H20 Watch,1,Habring,10,Habring2,11,Hajime Asaoka,2,Hallmark of Geneva,2,Hamilton,37,hands-on,129,Hanhart,20,Harry Winston,11,Hautlence,6,Hermes,26,Heuer,2,high jewellery,2,high-frequency,5,Hublot,63,Hybris Artistica,1,Hydro Mechanical Horologists,7,HYT Watches,16,Icon,1,In pictures,17,independent watchmaker,39,industry news,240,interview,8,Interviews,8,IWC,171,Jacques Bianchi,1,Jaeger-LeCoultre,127,Jaquet Droz,58,Jean-Francois Mojon,1,Jean-Marc Pontroué,1,JeanRichard,3,jumping hours,37,Junghans,12,Kaj Korpela,1,Kari Voutilainen,11,Kenissi,1,Kollokium,1,Korpela,1,Krayon,4,Kudoke,6,Kurono,2,L.Leroy,1,L'Epee 1839,2,Labails,1,Ladies watches,194,Lang & Heyne,4,Lang 1943,1,Lange,53,large date,3,Laurent Ferrier,25,Laureus,2,Le Garde Temps,1,Lederer Watches,4,Leica,3,Lemania,1,Leroy,4,Linde Werdelin,2,Longines,100,Louis Erard,32,Louis Moinet,8,Louis Vuitton,2,luxury steel watch,27,LVMH,10,LVMH 2020,6,M.A.D.Edition,5,M.A.D.Editions,5,Maîtres du Temps,1,Manufacture Contemporaine du Temps,3,Manufacture Royale,3,Marc Lang,1,marine chronometer,2,Marqueterie,1,Maurice de Mauriac,2,Maurice Lacroix,27,MB&F,71,MCT,1,MeisterSinger,96,meteorite,3,metiers d'art,2,Mickey Mouse,2,Mido,65,military watches,14,Minerva,4,Ming,2,Minute Repeater,62,monopusher chronograph,5,Montblanc,58,moon phases,129,Moritz Grossmann,31,Moser,45,Muhle,6,Mühle-Glashütte,5,mystery watches,4,Nautilus,13,New Britain Corp,1,new watches,3784,Nivada,3,Nomos,79,Norqain,31,Ochs und Junior,6,Officine Panerai,107,Omega,200,Only Watch,15,Only Watch 2015,4,Only Watch 2017,2,Only Watch 2019,3,Only Watch 2021,4,Only Watch 2023,10,Oris,44,paillonne,1,Panerai,110,Parmigiani,17,Parmigiani Fleurier,36,Pascal Coyon,1,Patek,60,Patek Philippe,137,Pedrozo & Piriz,1,perpetual calendar,151,Perrelet,12,Petermann Bedat,3,Phenomen,1,Philippe Dufour,1,Phillips,10,Piaget,39,Pierre DeRoche,2,pilot watch,115,Pininfarina,1,Pisa,16,Pisa 1940,4,Pisa Circle,13,Pita,1,planetarium,2,platinum,7,pocket watch,3,pocket watches,2,Poehlmann-Bresan,2,Poincon de Geneve,2,Porsche Design,17,Pre-SIHH 2016: Cartier - Clé de Cartier Automatic Skeleton,1,pulsometer,5,Purnell,1,quartz,10,Rado,20,Ralf Tech,3,Ralph Lauren,2,rattrapante,24,Raul Pages,2,Raymond Weil,5,rectangular watches,16,reddot award,1,regatta,2,regulator,29,remontoire,5,Remy Cools,1,Renaud Tixier,1,Reservoir,2,resonance,22,Ressence,13,retrograde,10,Revelation,1,Reverso,26,review,131,RGM,1,RGM Watch Co.,1,Richard Mille,116,Richemont,4,Richmond,1,Roger Dubuis,12,Roger Smith,1,Roger W. Smith,1,Rolex,72,Romain Gauthier,13,Romain Jerome,1,Royal Oak,40,Rudis Sylva,1,sapphire,4,Schwarz Etienne,1,Seamaster,10,Seiko,41,SevenFriday,26,SIHH,3,SIHH 2012,4,SIHH 2013,25,SIHH 2014,36,SIHH 2015,43,SIHH 2016,44,SIHH 2017,41,SIHH 2018,43,SIHH 2019,53,Simon Brette,2,Singer,7,Singer Reimagined,11,single hand,31,single-hand watches,37,Sinn,16,skeleton,36,smartwatch,9,solar energy,1,Sotheby's,8,Speake Marin,6,Speake-Marin,6,Speedmaster,37,split seconds,24,sport,1,sport watches,984,sportwatches,1,Spring Drive,3,square watches,3,squelette,60,steampunk,1,Steinhart,1,Strehler,1,striking time,16,SuisseMecanica,1,sunrise,2,sunset,2,Swatch,9,Swatch Group,24,Sylvain Pinaud,2,table clocks,4,Tag Heuer,182,tantalum,1,technical insight,3,terra Cielo Mare,1,Theo Auffret,1,Tiffany,17,Tissot,10,titanium,12,top news,443,Torsti Laine,1,tourbillon,380,Trilobe,4,Tudor,39,Tulloch,1,Tutima,3,ultra thin,36,Ulysse Nardin,40,Unimatic,1,Union Glashutte,15,Universal Genève,1,Urban Jurgensen,29,Urwerk,22,Vacheron Constantin,83,Van Cleef & Arpels,7,Vauchier Fleurier,1,Vianney Halter,5,video,1,vintage watches,3,Vulcain,11,wandering hours,1,watches,1,Watches & Wonders,42,Watches & Wonders 2020,19,Watches & Wonders 2021,28,Watches & Wonders 2022,35,Watches & Wonders 2023,38,Watches & Wonders 2024,47,Watches & Wonders 2025,1,Watches&Wonders,10,WatchesandWonders2022,35,WatchesandWonders2023,39,WatchesandWonders2024,48,WatchesandWonders2025,1,Wilhelm Schmid,1,Winnerl,1,worldtime,58,YEMA,5,Zannetti,1,Zeitwerk,2,Zeitwinkel,1,Zenith,114,Zodiac,9,
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Time and Watches | The watch blog: Technical Insight: The Leap Year in the A. Lange & Söhne perpetual calendars
Technical Insight: The Leap Year in the A. Lange & Söhne perpetual calendars
The Leap Year in the A. Lange & Söhne perpetual calendars. Today is a leap day, the 29th of February that only occurs about every 4 years to keep our calendars in alignment with the Earth and the sun.