Second Opinions: We Criticize The Wrong Thing When We Attack Date Windows – And This Watch Proves It

Second Opinions: We Criticize The Wrong Thing When We Attack Date Windows – And This Watch Proves It

Describe my perfect date? It begins and ends with Glashütte Original – and maybe a light jacket.

One of the very few things that unite watch collectors today is a general distaste for date windows. It’s become almost a caricature of a criticism across forums and social media alike, reliable meme fodder that crosses language barriers and price points. It’s just as easy to tease the presence of an intrusive date window on a Seiko 5 as it is on a Patek Philippe Grand Complication when you’re anonymous and online.

I’m here today to put an end to the date wars, or at least to proclaim a temporary victor. Enough is enough! We’ve gotten to a point where we’ve forgotten to celebrate when a date complication is executed thoughtfully and with consideration for the end-user. And there are plenty of examples of this happening – Cara highlighted five examples back in 2017 – but I want to point out the one I think is the best.

Caseback image of the Glashütte Original PanoMaticLunar ref. 1-90-02-42-32-05

The in-house Glashütte Original caliber 90-02

Glashütte Original’s Panorama Date complication (sometimes described delightfully by its German compound name of “Panoramadatum”) is an absolute gem, in more ways than one.

Let’s acknowledge, up front, that a lot of watch companies offer “big date” displays, including Glashütte Original’s (GO) neighbors down the road at A. Lange & Söhne. The big date is not necessarily a special or unique complication at all; rather, it’s how Glashütte Original executes its Panorama Date that makes it worth celebrating rather than scorning.

A man wears the Glashütte Original PanoMaticLunar ref. 1-90-02-42-32-05

The difference between Glashütte Original’s approach and practically every other watch brand out there is that GO uses a pair of concentric date discs that are set co-axially on the same level. See that slim, curved line that separates the two digits in the date in the image above? Notice that there’s basically zero separation between the digits. The two discs do not overlap and are made up of a smaller inner disc featuring four digits (0-3) and a larger surrounding disc with 10 numerals (0-9).

That sounds like no big deal, right? Well, it shouldn’t be. But it is. Nearly every other “big date” solution uses a different approach, involving two discs that are separated from one another or stacked on top of each other. That’s why, on a watch like the Lange 1, the date display aperture is framed with a single vertical bar separating each number. The sole purpose of that bar (which, I should mention, isn’t aesthetically disagreeable in its execution) is to hide from the watch’s wearer the wide-open gap that exists between the two numerals.

Caseback image of the Glashütte Original PanoMaticLunar ref. 1-90-02-42-32-05

The in-house Glashütte Original caliber 90-02

Glashütte Original’s solution is the optimal approach. It’s extremely legible from all angles (with no bulbous magnifier required), while not taking anything away from the rest of the dial. It’s also a perfect complement to any additional complications, which is perhaps why the company has been robust in its implementation since first rolling it out in the late 1990s.

The Panorama Date has made its way onto flying tourbillonsdive watchesperpetual calendarsflyback chronographsintegrated-bracelet steel sport watches, and even traditional three-handers, not to mention one of the most innovative travel watches ever created. But the twin-disc display hasn’t caught on widely outside Glashütte Original’s Saxon headquarters yet.

The Glashütte Original PanoMaticLunar ref. 1-90-02-42-32-05 rests on a blue fabric surface.

Zenith and Breitling both utilized a similar concentric disc system in the past 10-15 years but neither currently offers a big-date watch. The brands that continually offer a big date option – such as A. Lange & Söhne, Blancpain, Carl F. Bucherer, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and a few others – have favored alternative solutions.

I would go so far as to say that the Panorama Date is the defining aesthetic characteristic for Glashütte Original in the 21st century. And it’s best paired with the Pano-collection of watches that was revealed back in 2001, a few years after the Panorama Date was introduced.

Close-up on the balance cock of the Glashütte Original PanoMaticLunar ref. 1-90-02-42-32-05

Watches like the PanoMaticLunar ref. 1-90-02-42-32-05 that we photographed for this story, with its asymmetric timekeeping displays and big-screen Panorama Date indication, are exactly what comes to mind when I think of the post-2000, Swatch Group-era of watchmaking at Glashütte Original.

And that’s a big statement. Few watch companies can compete with Glashütte Original when it comes to product diversity and manufacturing vertical integration. (Approximately 95 percent of every watch built by Glashütte Original is crafted in-house, from the dial and case to the screws of the movement.)

But it’s watches like the PanoMaticLunar that I think allow us to really see what Glashütte Original prizes, and subsequently why the Panorama Date is top-tier. The details are all out in front of you, and it’s easy to understand how all the parts came together to form the final product. With the complications and timekeeping displays all separated on the face of the dial, it’s almost like a purposeful horological deconstruction that highlights just how complex a mechanical watch can be.

A soldier image of the Glashütte Original PanoMaticLunar ref. 1-90-02-42-32-05

Take a look again at the date window on the PanoMaticLunar. It’s executed, for the most part, in the same form as you’d find it in any other GO collection, such as the Senator, the SeaQ, or the Seventies. There’s a clean, two-stepped bevel that runs along the outskirts of the aperture and forms a subtle frame for the complication. The date wheel will almost always be color-matched to the exact shade of the dial itself to ensure a seamless appearance (sometimes GO uses a different shade for the date window for aesthetic reasons). And the overall use of open space, for instance, gives the silvered dial on the pictured PanoMaticLunar a high-definition, wide-angle effect that makes the watch appear much larger than its elegant 40mm dimensions would indicate.

That right there illustrates one of the core problems that people have with date windows: They’re frequent afterthoughts in the design process. This is a complication that’s designed to be intuitive, affordable, and user-friendly; it’s become unfairly vilified when the real culprit is lazy design.

A group shot of three Glashütte Original Pano watches; books and a camera are visible in the background.

With all the energy we spend calling out and badmouthing poor date aperture implementations, I think we should make sure we’re also cheering on the companies that addressed our criticisms long ago. Because on a watch like the PanoMaticLunar, the date window is the star of the show, whether you appreciate it or not.

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  • Sadly the only reason some scorn date windows is because there are far too many sheep in the watch buying world. It’s the same reason that some brands are touted as better than others when the only real difference is brilliant (and expensive) marketing. Now, there is something to be said about the execution of a date window from a desigh standpoint that can be valid and worth discussion but otherwise . . . make up your own mind.
    For my money This critique was well done.

  • I dont get the dislike for the date window. I have alsways wanted one on any watch I own, and I use it daily. I prefer it in the popular 3 position, and these days I also like the cyclops window as well, but that is an age thing…
    I do aggree with this article though in that the GO date complication shown above is quite nice and its prominance doesnt take away from anything on the dial. It looks as if it belongs, but circling back, to me, any and all date windows belong…

  • I agree here when a watch house produces a max-date window like Glashutte or H.Moser .. however have you seen the anemic and generic date wheel on an Aquanaut? .. or the Nautilus!! How much are they charging for those watches and they insert the same white date wheel into an anemic dial cutout that we see in a seiko and any ETA movement?!! Also, to continue this rant … on a dive watch … unless it’s a Rolex with with a cyclops on the crystal to frame and magnify the date window … PLS .. Do not waste the time and money to include a date window on your watch unless you embellish, color or surround your date window with something more than just a plain rectangular cut out! Also … why do we need a date wheel on a Dive Tool watch .. do we need to know the day when under water? 😉