The 15 Best Retrograde Watches at European Watch Company

In terms of functionality, a retrograde display doesn’t really serve much of a purpose, and yet many brands offer them in some form or another. What exactly is a retrograde display? It’s a display in which the hand moves through an arc to indicate a specific measurement. This can be the hours, minutes, seconds, or even date or day of the week. When the hand reaches the end of the arc, it instantly snaps back to where it started. As mentioned, this isn’t really a complication that serves any serious purpose, but watching as the hand snaps back to its starting point sure can be fun! Last time we checked, there was no rule saying that watchmakers had to concern themselves with useful complications only… Anyways, here are 15 of our favorite luxury watches featuring some form of a retrograde display that have come through the doors of European Watch Company.

Kari Voutilainen 217QRS Retrograde Date “Night Sky” Piece Unique

Kari Voutilainen is the undisputed king of dials and you can definitely see this in the Retrograde Date Ref. 217QRS “Night Sky” seen here. The beautiful hand-engraved silver and blue dial showcases the solar system and beyond, including the moon, stars, and even Saturn. While the dial is clearly the star of the show, the watch also features the in-house manual-wind Caliber 217QRS movement which is based on Kari’s Vingt-8 caliber. The 217QRS features a retrograde date display, however, unlike most retrograde complications, the hand glides back to 1 over the course of a few seconds rather than snapping back immediately. This Night Sky variant of the Voutilainen Retrograde Date is a Piece Unique, so consider yourself incredibly lucky if you ever see it in the metal!

Patek Philippe Minute Repeater Tourbillon Retrograde Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5016P-018

Like the Kari Voutilainen Night Sky, the Patek Philippe Ref. 5016P-018 features a retrograde date complication. That’s pretty much where the similarities end though. While the dial on the Voutilainen is the centerpiece of the watch, the dial on the Ref. 5016P-018 is a simple, black affair. The real magic of the Patek is under the hood, so to speak. In addition to the retrograde date, the 5016P also features a moonphase, minute repeater, perpetual calendar and tourbillon (which is visible through the caseback). If you are looking for an understated Grand Complication, this is your watch.

Patek Philippe Retrograde Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5496P-015

Patek Philippe Retrograde Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5496P

Remove the tourbillon and minute repeater from the Ref. 5016P-018 and you get the Patek Philippe Retrograde Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5496P-015 (even down to the same dial layout). By no means a budget option, the 5496P is cased in platinum and offers a more traditional look and slimmer profile. This is an obvious choice if you want a dress watch with complications that will easily slip under your cuff.

Roger Dubuis Sympathie Bi-Retrograde Perpetual Calendar Ref. S37.5632.0

Roger Dubuis is best known today for their Excalibur line, a brash, skeletonized sport watch offered on a rubber strap or bracelet. But when you go back into the brand’s archive, you find some very interesting and unique designs. The Sypathie Bi-Retrograde Perpetual Calendar is one of these incredibly unique pieces. The case is neither square nor circular, but an interesting blend of the two and the watch features a perpetual calendar with not one, but two retrograde displays. The retrograde day and date displays sit opposite each other on the left and right side of the dial, surrounding the seconds and chronograph minute subdials. If you have a thing for Art Deco designs with some serious complications, the Roger Dubuis Sympathie Bi-Retrograde Perpetual Calendar Ref. S37.5632.0 is a great option.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Chronograph Ref. Q389848J

Upon first glance, you might be wondering how the Jeager-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Chronograph in stainless steel made the list of our favorite watches with retrograde complications. I mean, the main dial of the Tribute Chronograph is a simple (but stunning) two hander. On the reverse side of the watch, however, is the watch’s chronograph, a beautifully skeletonized affair that, in our opinion, is the main attraction. The chronograph features a very large, central chronograph seconds subdial and because of this, there isn’t much room for the minutes counter. Enter the retrograde! The chronograph’s minute counter is actually a 30-minute retrograde display at 6 o’clock. Not necessarily know for being the most innovative of manufacturers, it’s great to see JLC using a retrograde in a new and different way.

Gerald Genta Fantasy G Retro Mickey Mouse Ref. RSF.X.10.123.CA.BD

While Gerald Genta is most often remembered as the designer of the Patek Philippe Nautilus and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, he is also one of the most prolific users of retrograde complications in the history of watchmaking. Case in point, he used retrograde complications in many of his Disney-themed pieces that were released under his eponymous Gerald Genta brand. One of our favorites is the Fantasy G Retro Mickey Mouse. At 9 o’clock, the watch features a large aperture for the hour and on the right side of the dial is the retrograde minutes display. But what makes the watch so fun and quirky, is the way Genta integrated Mickey Mouse into the dial. Shown wearing a race suit, Mickey’s left arm acts as the minute hand of the retrograde display.

Bulgari Gerald Genta Arena Bi-Retro Sport Ref. 103448

If you like Gerald Genta’s aesthetic and use of retrograde complications but don’t want a Disney-themed watch, the Bulgari Gerald Genta Arena Bi-Retro Sport is a great option. The watch features not one, but two retrograde complications with one for the date and another for minutes. The design is truly unique, eschewing a classic approach for a sportier design in black and yellow. The Genta Arena Bi-Retro Sport is perfect for the person looking for a retrograde complication that is a little less classic and a lot more sporty.

Breguet La Tradition Boutique Edition Ref. 7097BB/GY/9WU

When you think of Breguet, you probably think of their history and tradition. Founded in 1775 by Abraham-Louis Breguet, the company is one of the most storied Swiss brands still producing watches today. The La Tradition line pays homage to the brand’s classic timepieces while also still managing to appeal to a modern buyer. The Ref. 7097 fuses tradition and modernity by fully skeletonizing the dial with a small subdial at 12 o’clock acting as the time display. Just to the left of (and partially obscuring) the timekeeping subdial is the retrograde seconds. This breaks up the symmetry of the watch, which is otherwise almost perfect, but it somehow works. Seeing the beautiful inner-workings of the Ref. 7097BB/GY/9WU makes this piece a worthy addition to any collection.

Breguet Classique Retrograde Seconds Ref. 5207BB/12/9V6

For a more classic take on a retrograde complication from Breguet, the Classique Retrograde Seconds Ref. 5207 fits the bill. The watch is a no frills 39mm dress watch cased in white gold with an intricate guilloche silver dial and classic Breguet hands. The 65-hour power reserve indicator sits at 12 o’clock and opposite that in the 6 o’clock position is the retrograde seconds display. On top of all of this, the watch also features Breguet’s iconic coin-edged midcase. The Classique has always been quite a traditional wristwatch (hence the name…), but all the extra decoration and added visual interest of the retrograde complication ensures that it doesn’t look out of place even in 2024.

Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date Ref. 4000U/000R-B516

The Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date is a combination of modern and classic that makes it the perfect choice for everyday wear or for a black-tie event. The sunburst blue dial, rose gold 42.5mm case, and contemporary dial font lend a youthfulness to a generally classic design. The watch features two retrograde complications: the date at the top of the dial and the day at the bottom. Interestingly, Vacheron decided to spell out the day of the week for every day except Thursday, which would be partially obstructed by the central pivot. Its an interesting design choice, but we don’t hate it.

Vacheron Constantin Overseas Moonphase Retrograde Date Ref. 4000V/210A-B911

For a sportier option with retrograde display, check out the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Moonphase Retrograde Date. Like the Patrimony, this piece features a blue sunray dial, however, instead of two retrograde displays, this piece only has the date. With a moonphase display at 6 o’clock (that you only have to adjust once every 122 years), there is enough going on to make this piece an attractive sport watch for those who want something a little more elevated than your standard diver.

F.P. Journe Octa Calendrier Black Mother of Pearl

The F.P. Journe Octa Calendrier Black Mother of Pearl is one of the most unique pieces you’ll see from the brand. The focal point, obviously, is the dial. While it has a typical Journe layout and aesthetic, it’s the black mother of pearl that really sets is apart. The material gives the dial a shimmering, almost rainbow effect, and like all Octa Calendrier’s, it features a central retrograde date. The retrograde date takes up the outer edge of more than half of the dial, but doesn’t overpower the smaller time and seconds subdials. We’re honestly not really sure why, but it all just works. Limited to just 15 pieces in platinum, if you are looking to for a show-stopping F.P. Journe, this is it.

A. Lange & Sohne Lange 1 Daymatic Ref. 320.028

The week starts on Monday in Germany. I learned that from the A. Lange & Sohne Lange 1 Daymatic, which features a retograde day display. Setting this little kernel of useless trivia aside, the Lange 1 Daymatic is quintessential Lange. Featuring asymmetric, different sized subdials and a large date aperture, if you’re on the hunt for a Lange with a retrograde complication, the Daymatic should be on your radar.

Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Hemispheres Retrograde Ref. PFC901-1020001-300182

Like many other independent manufacturers, Parmigiani Fleurier has gained in popularity in collectors’ circles in recent years. While the Tonda collection receives much of the fanfare, the Toric line offers a lot of interesting designs and complications. The Toric Hemispheres Retrograde not only has a retrograde date, but two time zones. Unlike your traditional GMT though, if there is an uneven time difference between your locations, you can pair the time down to the half or even quarter-hour. If you’re looking for a watch with a retrograde complication to bring on your travels, this is the piece for you.

Cartier Tortue XL Perpetual Calendar Ref. W1580003

Cartier Tortue XL Perpetual Calendar Ref. W1580003

Cartier is typically recognized more for its design than its complications, and the Tortue XL Perpetual Calendar Ref. W1580003 definitely has a unique look with its tonneau-shaped case and skeletonized dial. However, the watch also features a perpetual calendar and a retrograde day display. With the openworked dial and cadre of complications, there is a lot going on on the dial, but if you are looking for a statement piece with bold design choices, the Cartier Tortue XL Perpetual Calendar is a great option.

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