On June 28, 2016, we launched Ludwig Oechslin’s perpetual calendar with twenty-three videos in 4K resolution, including the video above. It was the first time we had communicated with video on our website.
We made these videos to convince you that Oechslin’s perpetual calendar is functional, reliable, and simple-to-set. To convince you this is true, we had to offer facts, evidence, and arguments for our position. Emotional appeals would not have been enough.
Here is how we presented our case:
First, we shot a video which shows Oechslin’s perpetual calendar slowly rotating 720 degrees. This gives you an overview of the object. The video is silent – music would have been a distraction, and as stated, our goal was to convince you with facts.
Next, we demonstrated the watch’s special features. We showed how it handles months with 30 days, leap years, and common years (functions page). We also showed how the date can be rapidly adjusted both forwards and backwards – a stress-test which Oechslin’s gears perform with aplomb, but if you have ever handled another perpetual calendar, you know could spell a trip to the service center. Finally, we made a video which demonstrates how simple the watch is to set (manual page). We used the actual watch in all of these videos. A computer rendering wouldn’t be convincing, because it wouldn’t be the watch doing the work.
We also filmed the complete assembly process – with no cuts! A second version of this video features Oechslin providing play-by-play commentary. We chose to film the the assembly process because it provides a concise illustration of how Oechslin’s perpetual calendar is unique. The design of a perpetual calendar traditionally begins with the conventional solution of levers and springs. It is almost a goal to maximize the number of parts, for value is created by hand-finishing each one (Patek Philippe uses 182). The assembly process for such a watch can take weeks. And when it turns out a mistake was made somewhere along the line – either in manufacturing or assembly – finding the error can be extremely difficult.
Oechslin took an entirely different tack. He spent four years researching and developing a custom-made gear system which implements a perpetual calendar in nine additional components. This is why his perpetual calendar can be assembled in twenty-three minutes. If there is a problem – and this is far less likely with an intelligently reduced set of parts – it is straightforward to track down. Oechslin’s goal was to create the most functional possible solution. A conventional, stylized presentation of our production and assembly process, or a computer-generated fly-through of the mechanics, would not have captured his radical goal. By shooting the entire assembly process, we were also able to reveal the multiple functions each part performs.
Finally, we shot an extended interview with Oechslin. In these sixteen clips, he explains why he uses gears, why he chose analog dots to represent time horizons, and more.
These twenty-three videos could convince you of Oechslin’s achievement, or they could fail to. In either case, our goal was to convince you with the facts.
As Faust tells Wagner, his student overly impressed by the power of rhetoric:
Clear thinking and some honesty
Need little art for their delivery.
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Faust I.
Es trägt Verstand und rechter Sinn
Mit wenig Kunst sich selber vor.
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Faust I.
PS. Lauschsicht, an award-winning film and motion design studio in Zürich, produced our videos. Lauschsicht’s founder, Kevin Blanc, is a longtime admirer of Ludwig Oechslin’s work and friend of Beat Weinmann. Lauschsicht will post a behind the scenes look at how they made them, and we’ll link to it when it’s online!