In 2013, Svend Andersen celebrated his 50th anniversary as a watchmaker in Switzerland. In 1963, with a fresh graduation from his native country Denmark, he arrived in the Alps and made a quick career. At the Patek Philippe ateliers he developed his interests and his skills in creating complex movements. Since 1979 he is operating under his own name, and he has settled quite a reputation for combining creativity and complexity in his products. As a co-founder of the AHCI, the academy for independent watchmakers he founded with Vincent Calabrese in 1985, he also made his contribution to the growth and innovative power of the Swiss watch industry in the last two decades.
His palmares include the world’s smallest wristwatch with perpetual calendar, lunar calendars, erotic watches and in 1989 his first World timer, “Communication” was introduced. Since then, the world time series has become an important centerpiece in Andersen’s portfolio, and his personal favorite complication. In 1994 he creates 24 pieces of “Mundus”, another record-breaking watch: it is the world’s thinnest world timer (4,2 mm thick).
In 1996 Andersen creates a new extension to the spectrum of perpetual calendars, when he introduces the Perpetual Secular Calendar. For the first time, a perpetual calendar is based on the Gregorian Calendar, introduced in 1582. In 2013, this Perpetual Secular Calendar is still a prominent part of the Andersen watch catalog.
In order to describe the complexity of this watch, we have to dive into what happened in 1582. Pope Gregor XIII ordered mathematican and astronomer Christopher Clavius to resolve a problem that had occurred within the Roman-based Julian Calendar. The difference between the position of the sun and the calendar had grown to nearly 10 days. Clavius introduced the Gregorian Calendar, and simply omitted 10 days from the calendar as part of the necessary correction. Furthermore, secular years that couldn’t be divided by 400 weren’t counted as leap years anymore in order to prevent a growing difference in the future. This became known as the 400-year rule. In this rule, the years 1600, 2000 and 2400 would still be counted as leap years, while 1700, 1800, 1900, 2100, 2200 and 2300 were not. The Andersen watch is the only perpetual calendar watch that takes this 400-year rule into account.
Owners of the Svend Andersen Perpetual Secular Calendar will experience the genius of their watch in full on February 28th, 2100. On that date, the watch will know that 2100 is not a leap year and the clock will tick to March 1st. “Normal” perpetual calendars will face a correction on this date. The Patek Philippe pay-off (You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely take care of it for the next generation) was never better illustrated by this event, that current owners will never witness but their grandchildren probably will.
The Perpetual Secular Calendar is housed in a 40 mm case, and available in yellow gold and platinum. With an ETA 2892 automatic movement as base, the complexity is visible on the reverse. The “year” indicator shows the ongoing correction, and makes a full round every 50 years.
Svend Andersen watches are rare birds, and do not often come to market. Only a handful of official distributors are installed worldwide, and the Andersen website (www.andersen-geneve.ch) is offering deals on the current 1884 world timer. The Perpetual Secular Calendar will be built to order and is in the €40-60,000 price range, depending on exact specification.
On the second-hand market, Andersens are even rarer. In 2013, a rare chance to obtain a Svend Andersen watch occurred when several complications were auctioned at Antiquorum. A Perpetual Secular Calendar, number 40, fetched $ 13.750, which is an absolute steal.
It is a rare dilemma for prospective buyers of a perpetual calendar. The Perpetual Secular Calender outplaces other perpetual calendars in complexity and accuracy, but the genius can only be witnessed in the years 2100, 2200 and 2300. On the other hand, this knowledge will place ourselves and the time we have into perspective every time the Svend Andersen is looked at. That alone must be worth the investment!