The Big date? A great idea!

It’s hard to believe but it’s true: the famous watchmaking complication known as “big date” is less than 30 years old! Frank Sans C explains everything you need to know in a special video…

By Nicolas Yvon
Horloge 5 Minutes de l'opéra de Dresde
What has influenced the creation of the big date, you ask? The five-minute clock of the Semper Opera House in Dresden.

Isn’t it surprising that such a useful and obvious complication was not invented centuries ago on pocket watches? Still, it’s the truth: A. Lange & Söhne invented this ingenious mechanic bearing two distinctive apertures that allows a larger display for the date in… 1994! What has influenced it? The “five-minute” clock of the Semper Opera House in Dresden, birthplace of Walter Lange, grandson of the brand’s founder. The clock, which indicates the time every five minutes on two distinctive windows, served as inspiration for the Lange 1, the iconic model of the Maison. 

The Maison A.Lange & Söhne has even made a short video to explain everything about the big date. 

But how does a big date work? By combining two extremely thin and perfectly aligned discs that turn at the same time at midnight. While the cross-shaped disc displays the dozens (1, 2 and 3) the other displays the units (see the animation in the video above). 
“So simple!” you might say, but it was not an obvious idea. Now, “big date” watches are common among all watchmaking manufacture, even on Quartz cheap models made in China. It is indeed the prerogative of great inventions, to be remade by many to be useful to all. And it is certainly quite useful: with this little complication, no need to get one’s glasses to read that information. 

MIDO Baroncelli Big Date 

Created in 2018, for the 100th anniversary of the brand, the Baroncelli Big Date watch displays a classical and timeless style. The timepiece is beautiful and has good value for money. This 316L stainless steel with rose gold PVD coating model (€ 930) bears a white refined dial, with a sharp relief and big date at 6 o’clock. 

Mido Big Date
The Mido Big Date watch is a classical timeless beauty with a good price.

Displaying a 40m diameter, the case reveals a very elegant design with its double gadroon bezel. This will certainly bring back memories to lovers of the “double apple” Villeret collection of Blancpain. 

The see-through back allows us to admire the automatic movement with an oscillating weight adorned with Geneva stripes. The exclusive Calibre 80 offers 80 hours of power reserve. 


Drive De Cartier, Large Date, Retrograde Second Time Zone And Day Night Indicator

The name of this timepiece is not misleading: when you read it, you know right away which complications it features. It is rare to see this combination of complications on the watchmaking landscape.

Cartier Drive Grande Date Second Fuseau
The pink gold Drive de Cartier carry on the legacy of watches with unconventional case shapes from Cartier and holds a combination of little complications.

Cartier’s manufacture has incorporated all of the complications in its self-winding calibre 1904 MC to create a version called 1904-FU MC. The movement is also visible through the case back of this pink gold Drive (€ 20 200). It animates a silvered flinqué dial with several indications: large date at 12 o’clock, small seconds at 6 o’clock, retrograde second time zone at 10 o’clock, and a day/night indicator at half past three.

Cartier Drive Grande Date Second Fuseau
On this Drive Large Date Second Time Zone, the secret signature of Cartier is hidden in the V of the number VII.

The timepiece features all of Cartier’s signature codes: crown set with a faceted synthetic blue spinel, blued-steel “sword” hands, Roman numerals and a “railway” minute track. It is true, the railway minute track was stylised in a free manner on the dial, but is also found on the Second Time Zone with an evocative drawing.

Our detailed data sheet of Drive De Cartier, Large Date, Retrograde Second Time Zone And Day Night Indicator.



As we know, the Jaquet Droz manufacture is one of the biggest specialists of artistic dials. It has indeed mastered the technic of the “Grand feu” enamelled dial down to perfection. This enamelling process is the most difficult to get right. It consists in building up many layers of the enamel, and then firing each layer up to 800°C in order to achieve the perfect shade.

Jaquet Droz Grande Date Email Ivoire en or rouge
This Grande Date Ivory Enamel illustrates perfectly the expertise of the masters of enamel of Jaquet Droz.

The masters dial-makers of Jaquet Droz reveal their talent with the refined design of this Grande Date Ivory Enamel (€ 25 000). The model is an off-centered hours and minutes with a big date at 6 o’clock. A red gold 43mm-diameter case protects the whole thing. 

On its back, the self-winding mechanical calibre with white gold oscillating weight is visible through the sapphire glass. 

Our detailed data sheet on the Jaquet Droz Grande Date Ivory Enamel watch 

As Frank rightfully recalls in the video, the Jaquet Droz manufacture is famous for its ingenious timepieces. It has become a historical speciality, extremely rare, and expressed through the design of true little wonders: micromechanics, fine watchmaking and artisanship are fused to create emotion. Frank Sans C had mentioned it in his video about skeletonized watches. 

You can see in this video a bit of the Jaquet Droz automaton watch.



60 years after the creation of the Reverso in 1931, Jaeger-LeCoultre had the great idea of expanding the scope of possibilities with its rectangular icon watch. Indeed, the watchmakers have used the hidden part of the reversible case to display other indicators on the back. That’s the case of the vintage Reverso GMT 8 days models of 2011 which you can find on the collector watch room at Lassaussois Montres et Bijoux new boutique on 58 rue de Rennes in Paris and on the brand’s website. This stainless steel timepiece, sold at € 8,500, holds a manually wound mechanical movement and is still available as we speak! A beautiful collector’s item… 

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso GMT 8 Jours
This Reverso GMT 8 days duo face is a lucky find. It displays a big date on the main frame and a second time zone on the back frame. 

On the main frame, the silver dial reveals a big date, a small seconds hand and a day/night indicator. On the back frame, the black dial has luminous hands and markers, and a second time zone (adjustable with two push-buttons). It also displays a day-night indicator at 5 o’clock, 8 days of power reserve (top right corner) and a GMT indicator at 7 o’clock.
If you want to know more about this indicator, read our data sheet on the Reverso Large Date GMT powered by the same Jaeger-LeCoultre 878 calibre


For this video about the big date, the Maison Dubail entrusted to Frank Sans C, two iconic A.Lange & Söhne’s models. Let’s not forget that it was this Manufacture who created the big date complication.
These editions are very special versions of the Grande Lange 1 with a gold 40,9mm diameter. One of them is limited up to only 25 pieces (€ 45,800) and the other one is even more exclusive. Indeed, only three pieces are available for the model set with baguette cut diamonds on the bezel!

A. Lange & Söhne Grande Lange 1 Edition Dubail
This Grande Lange 1 Dubail Edition is fascinating from both sides.

They display the signature big date with double aperture of the Saxon Maison with a very delicate blue mother-of-pearl dial. Perfectly balanced, the off-centered hours and minutes dial also has a small seconds hands and a power reserve indicator (72 hours). 

If you want to know more about the Lange 1 collection, you can read our detailed data sheets.

The show goes on with a manual winding calibre. A remarkable movement with hand-engraved balance cock, curved whiplash spring and “Glashütte” ribbing. No, do not say “Geneva”!

A. Lange & Söhne Grande Lange 1 Edition Dubail sertie baguette
On this jewellery version of the Grande Lange 1 Dubail Edition, the bezel is adorned with baguette cut diamonds, which illuminate the big date. 



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