Hands-On Moser Streamliner Perpetual Calendar

The Skinny

  • 42.3 mm
  • Stainless steel case and bracelet
  • 120m water resistance
  • Movement – manually wound Calibre HMC-812 with perpetual calendar functions and 168 hours of power reserve
  • Price – $54,900

PerpCals, Generally Speaking

For many watch collectors, a perpetual calendar is a final destination. I know this personally, but also ethnographically as I have spent decades around watch collectors for whom the perpcal (as we shall call it) looms on the horizon or the wrist like a monument to horology itself. Jack Forester, Hodinkee’s bow-tied patriarch, once asserted that the split-second chronograph is the more difficult complication to create, an assertion that, while maybe true, also exalts the perpcal as the complication against which all others must be measured. In my 30+ years of watch nerding, it doesn’t seem that the perpcal has budged even a little bit from its exalted position.

In my estimation, the perpcal holds center court because it mechanically imitates the cycles of our solar system, but not eccentricities like sidereal time or even lunar cycles, both of which elude most 21st-century Earthlings, myself included. The perpcal pertains to our more mundane hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, and annual lives, and it keeps up without being reset for 100 years, offering us a time frame within which to be born, live and die before, as Patek would have it, handing it down to the next generation. Despite the mundane calender time perpcals adhere to, these complications draw our attention to how our lives move in rhythm with the solar system, rhythms too often lost to electric lighting, TVs, and our endless servitude to social media.

Patek Philippe 5327J wears its complications on the dial side. Image: Patek Philippe.

I think of a perpcal as a mechanical representation of what goes on Out There in The Real Universe. Perpcals are calm and quiet devices we can, with the flick of a wrist, insert between our eyes and our lit-up, data-grabbing, behavior-shaping digital devices. In this sense, a perpcal is even a little subversive, somehow akin to sneaking a book past the Department of Truth in Orwell’s frighteningly predictive novel 1984, an intervention on the arrival of Kurtzweil’s singularity. I personally take solace knowing that Big Tech can’t access the interaction between you and your Patek 5327J, that private moments between human and machine are not only still possible, but very common. “Resist! Resist! With a flick of your frickin’ wrist!” I chant in protest as I march down Madison Avenue on way to the new Vacheron Constantin boutique.

As exalted or subversive as perpcals may be, they have their downsides. You can break them pretty easily when setting them, and most perpcals are ostentatiously complicated on the dial side. Moser solved both of those problems with their award-winning hand-wound Calibre HMC-341 movement in the Moser Perpetual 1. The Perpetual 1 is a classically styled affair in a precious metal case with a sub-seconds dial and a clever tiny arrow hand on the central arbor that points to the numeral markers to indicate the month. With the Perpetual 1, Moser threw the year indicator around back, a move that not only cleans up the dial but, frankly, compliments the owner’s intelligence because who the hell doesn’t know what year it is?

The Moser Perpetual 1 deviated from perpcal standards by hiding its complexity. Image: Moser

The only other modern perpcal to achieve the Moser Perpetual 1’s level of discretion is, in my estimation, the Patek Philippe 5320G in white gold, a watch that appears at first glance to be an annual calendar with a moon phase. Not even my beloved Vacheron Constantin can help themselves from asserting complexity on the dial side of their modern perpcals. If only Patek hadn’t blown their logo up to billboard proportions, the 5320G could really be considered mellow. If, like me, flashing Patek credentials across a room isn’t your jam, the Moser Perpetual 1 is a near flawless exercise in horological discretion, the flaw being the massive power reserve gauge at 9-o’clock. A power reserve gauge is useful for a hand wound perpcal, to be sure, but, just as fuel gages are not sexy enough to be major dashboard features, a power reserve gauge ought be tertiary information at best.

Patek’s 5320G is a relatively understated perpcal. Image: Patek Philippe

Thankfully, that power reserve gauge is reduced to at least secondary information on 2021’s Moser Streamliner Perpetual Calendar, a watch so extremely reduced in ostentation that at first glance you’d think it was a time-only affair. What you see is the steel case with Moser’s reptilian Streamliner bracelet, a charcoal radially-brushed dial, bright white hands and markers, a staggered micro-scale chapter ring (think Omega Speedmaster Schumacher editions), and a date window at the controversial 4-o’clock position. What you can’t quite see are the power reserve gauge, the tone-on-tone Moser script logo, and the hair-thin and ultra-stubby month indicator rotating on the central arbor.

The Moser Streamliner Perpetual Calendar looks like a time=only watch at first glance.

This discrete month indicator is functionally similar to that found on the Rolex Sky-Dweller, a massive annual calendar watch that otherwise farts audibly in the Temple of Horology, but which might – due to size, sportiness, and that clever month indicator – be considered alongside the Moser Streamliner Perpetual Calendar. Anyways, if my math is correct, the Moser’s month indicator will spend roughly two hours and 48-minutes behind the main hands each day, which is totally fine. If you rely on your watch to know what month it is, there are plenty of other perpcals out there to consider (including $19 Casios), but I’m guessing that you, like me, turn to a perpcal for what it says about mortality and eternity and not because you forgot what month we’re in.

The tiny month indicator hand will spend some time behind the other hands.

The deliberate lack of dial-side complexity is exactly what’s makes the Moser Streamliner Perpetual Calendar so sophisticated, because this watch maintains a private and personal conversation with its owner. The topic is, of course, the nature of existence and time, the tension between mortality and eternity. This conversation is so hushed that it becomes pure thought, perhaps worrisome rumination, perhaps relief that life’s struggles wont go on forever, perhaps comfort or dread that there are five months left in the year, or whatever we ponder while gazing upon a tiny machine capable of relinking us to the solar system and all that lies beyond. Moser has accomplished something unique in horology: a perpcal that looks nothing like a perpcal, a deeply complicated watch that hides behind an almost bland facade, a wickedly smart and sexy horological companion that belie its genius and refuses to flirt.

I knew a girl like that in high school. She had a wickedly cosmopolitan mind and no desire to let our competitive classroom know that she knew what we didn’t know. But when I read this young woman’s feminist essay on Oedipus suffering vagina-envy, I felt connected to something deeply complicated, mysterious, and vast. This young woman told me in no uncertain terms to keep her intelligence a secret, a mandate I learned our teacher was also following. So odd, so complicated, and so deeply attractive.

Complexity worn against the wrist and out of sight.

I would liken the back-window view of the Moser Streamliner Perpetual Calendar to reading that young woman’s essay. Get inside the head of this watch, and an unexpectedly complicated and vast metropolis opens before you. Stunning and full of things to be discovered as you wander with a loupe stuck in your good eye. But the Calibre HMC-812 is not entirely open. Some parts hide behind the larger bridges in the northern hemisphere, thick plates that assert themselves with stripes, gold filled engravings, huge rubies and the Vacheron-esque year indicator. The articulating arm that controls the year indicator reaches dramatically across the Eastern hemisphere’s bridge to meet the display wheel at the delicate continental opening between the two bridges. It’s enough to make you wonder if Oedipus did, indeed, seek vaginal power and pleasure when he committed the ultimate Western transgression.

Transgressing the crevice.

Literary concerns aside, Moser deserves the medals of horological honor they’ve won for making a perpetual calendar that wont break if you have to reset it. That’s especially important for a manually wound perpcal, and I wonder if half the fun here is fiddling with the mysterious mechanism (innuendo noted). It does occur to me that this watch will run out of power repeatedly, and it also occurs to me that spinning a perpcal with one’s fingers might reveal its logic much the way a sped-up model of the planets orbiting the sun reveals a logic hidden by the imperceptible crawl of real time. Due to the safety features built into Moser’s Calibre HMC-812, the potential for such wonder is at your fingertips and not your watchmakers. Try that with a Patek, and it could cost you dearly.

Everyone wants us reviewers to tell readers how watches wear, but that’s a fool’s game. Wrists of identical circumference can be wildly different in shape, and preferences for fit are entirely subjective. If you’re going to mail order a $54,000 watch, I don’t know what to tell you. For me, the Moser Streamliner Perpetual Calendar, like the chronograph before it, is way too big. But I am a small-wristed man with a penchant for tight Italian tunnel cuffs and small dress watches, unless I’m SCUBA diving, in which case a perpcal is pointless. Just try it on, and if you can’t, figure out a mail order loan or something.

Price. I don’t know. If you’ve got this much to spend on a watch, I can’t imagine you’re terribly concerned with the so-called value proposition, and, if you are, please shut the eff up and stop insulting 97% of the world’s population. Still, when I look at what’s out there, both in perpcals and watches more generally, I’d say Moser’s prices are pretty chill – you know, for watches that costing more than the average American makes in a year. I think it’s time for me to shut the eff up before I ruin my weekend with the cognitive dissonance of Conscious Luxury. This watch is generally expensive and relatively well priced.

A final note: I was recently on The Waiting List Podcast, and they asked me who my favorite person in watches was, and I say Edouard Meylan of Moser Watches. I met Edouard when interviewing him for my own podcast, and I was struck by his genuineness, his depth of knowledge about luxury watchmaking (his Dad ran Audemars Piguet for decades), and his commitment to maintaining a sense of humor and irony about Swiss watchmaking while producing some of the most stunning timepieces currently available. I interface with my share of Swiss watch brand CEOs, and it’s all too rare to find one from whom humility, intelligence, and humor radiate so clearly through their timepieces. Great guy, great watches – maybe it’s not so complicated after all.

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