There are few things in the watch collecting world that really get my goat (well, if I had a goat), more than multi-day date windows. I’d like to think this trend has already hit its peak and is slowly, and rightfully, declining, but I’d like to help contribute nails to the coffin as much as possible.
In theory, the idea of the multi-date window was that those adorable curved openings would show more of the date wheel so you can also see the date before and the date after today. I imagine it was designed by those who either suffer from amnesia or don’t understand math.
The real reason it started showing up I believe is really two-fold. First, simply aesthetics: As dials get larger, having a larger cutout for the date can help dials that perhaps look too sparse, without having to increase the physical size of the date wheel or mess with the physical movement. The second reason is the direct inspiration from aviation. Its true, airplane altimeters have a similar look and it is a cool and utilitarian purposeful look. Heck, it could be said Bell & Ross started because of this one singular fact. But this is where it all breaks down for me. Dear readers, sometimes more cowbell is not more cowbell, but in fact just pain and suffering.
The design of an altimeter makes sense, since whatever your cruising altitude is, and we are talking large numbers here, you can see what’s above and below and smaller increments are clearly marked in a separate dial to aid in precision. It tells the truth for that situation and instrument, which is fluid and can change at any moment with a push of the control wheel by the pilot. In a watch however, showing the date before and after while sometimes will be accurate, in truth makes the date function more inaccurate since it increases the number of days where what it’s showing is just plain wrong.
Take the month of September for instance, 30 days in the month, nothing too crazy like free-spirited February. With a normal watch where the date window only shows today, at most, at the end of the month you must advance it one day on the first of October, since there is no September 31st (a pity I know). Nothing unusual, we all do this every other month and for the most part we can go about unhindered living the rest of our lives.
With a multi-day date window, while you also need to do this manual advancement on the first of October, what’s so insidious, is prior to then and after, your watch will still be telling you dates that don’t actually exist. And there’s the rub. Worst yet there’s nothing you can do about it but wait for the inaccurate dates to slowly get hidden with the passage of time. I have it on good authority this exact situation is outlined in Dante’s 8th circle of Hell where you’re surrounded by false counselors and it’s always the 31st of the month.
Thankfully, this transgression has been fairly few and far between. IWC was the largest perpetrator of this offense across many of their models for a time. Most notably for me, in the release of the new Mark XVII pilot watch back in 2012. A date that will, albeit incorrectly, live on in history. This offense was so great it partly led to the open letter to IWC from Jennifer Anniston’s ex-boyfriend. As we all know, IWC learned from the error of their ways and the curved scar that was the date window on the dial of the Mark XVII was removed with the release of the Mark XVIII.
When Cartier released their dive watch with much fanfare at SIHH in 2014, it also sported a multi-day date window. Perhaps they were trying to channel a depth gauge mystique, but in reality, just falls flat and amplifies the armchair desk diver imposter feel. Just imagine how great their diver would look without any date wheel at all. Let that Roman numeral III live large I say!
So where do we go from here? Ultimately, there are only three logical choices: Buy a watch with a traditional single date window, buy a watch with a multi-day date window and live in a recurring hell outlined above, or do what I typically do, wear a time-only watch with no date window and live in blissful ignorance of what day, date, and possibly year it is and no one will be the wiser.
(Note: Thoughts, opinions, “facts”, and overall outlook on life are those of The Grumpy Collector and not necessarily of WATCHA staff, readers, or most sane people in general. Have a gripe you’d like to share or have profiled by The Grumpy Collector? Contact the grump himself, Troy, at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find him on Instagram @TheGrumpyCollector)