Newer watchmaker Kennsen offers up an interesting and original timepiece concept in this Swiss Made Kennsen Annual Calendar Chronograph. The idea begins with an exclusive (and patented) in-house-developed module that turns the Swiss ETA Valjoux 7750 automatic chronograph movement into an annual calendar movement. The result is a roughly $5,000 product with a level of quality and complication normally found in more expensive timepieces. From a value perspective, there is a lot to like about the Kennsen Annual Calendar Chronograph. The product isn’t perfect, but let’s take a look at why the brand is so proud of this product.
The Valjoux 7750 movement, by default, has a day/date calendar system that doesn’t follow a 31-day cycle and whose accuracy must be adjusted each month. Annual calendars are those which compensate for the different months of 28, 30, and 31 days and only need to be adjusted on leap years in which February has a 29-day month. Annual calendars are among the more practical “higher complications” out there because they are simpler to construct than perpetual calendars (which take leap years into account) and they are a lot more convenient than “traditional calendars” (like that in the stock 7750).
This is not the first time I’ve seen companies build an annual calendar off a 7750 or another movement that serves as a base. Producing a new movement from the ground up is an extremely time-consuming and expensive ordeal. It is wiser for smaller operations to modify or build modules on top of existing, robust movement platforms. Kennsen calls its module + 7750 combo the caliber KV775C. It adds a 1.3mm-thick module on top of the back 7750, which modifies the calendar system and further adds a discreet day/night indicator.
Basically, in order to adjust the calendar, you must adjust it forward. The principle of the module is that two concentric date wheels, along with necessary gearing, offer two windows on the dial for the month and date. Rather than have these windows on two planes, they are level with each other but one window (the month) is placed very close to the central hands axis point on the dial. Let’s just say that I haven’t seen this particular configuration before. Just to the right of the 15-minute position on the upper chronograph subdial is a small AM/PM (day/night) indicator window. This turns from black to white (and vice versa) and the time goes from AM to PM and, frankly, I like this complication a lot.
The KV775C movement also has a custom Kennsen automatic rotor and, is according to the brand, adjusted to “better than” chronometric performance. There are also other aesthetic enhancements, such as new screws and additional movement surface polishing. What I find nice is that, despite the presence of the annual calendar module, the movement still operates at 4Hz with 48 hours of power reserve. The movement in its glory can be viewed through the rear of the watch — but unfortunately, there is no view of the module system which makes this product exclusive.
The problem with the module over the movement is that tends to make the watch very thick. For me, this is the biggest issue in the Kennsen Annual Calendar Chronograph — and that is how the relatively classic/traditional aesthetics are trying to play nice with the beefier proportions of the case. Kennsen has done a decent job, but a trained collector’s eye will immediately see how some elements of the watch look too large for other elements.
The steel case itself is nicely polished (Kennsen says much of it is polished by hand) and water resistant to 50 meters. It is 42mm-wide and a rather thick 13.4mm; it has a lug-to-lug distance of 49mm. The Annual Calendar Chronograph is more than wearable, but it does feel large on the wrist, given the aesthetic theme the piece is going for. Some of this could be remedied by a redesign of the dial. It does not appear that Kennsen can make the case any thinner, on account of the normal thickness of the movement. So, what they can do as the easiest fix for this issue is to create a new, more modern design for the dial which complements the look of the thicker case. What I believe we have in this version of the Annual Calendar Chronograph is a bit of a mismatch because of what the dial wants to be and what the case is.
Kennsen offers the dial in two colors — polished black and “palladium.” The black one is a bit more classic and it is attractive with a higher-level chapter ring and good overall proportions. I do take issue with the polished steel hands, which inevitably disappear against the polished dial too often. This is an extremely common mistake that can be fixed by making the hands less polished or merely just white in color to match the hour markers. Over the dial of the watch is a domed, AR-coated sapphire crystal. Attached to the case is a supple black (or brown with the other dial) alligator strap.
Kennsen clearly did their homework when it comes to the design of the Annual Calendar Chronograph watch on paper, but as is often the case, more refinements need to be made once a watch is put on the wrist. A perfect example is the design of the chronograph pushers and crown. The larger, angular chronograph pushers are part of another issue which makes grasping and pulling out the crown difficult. Right now, the crown is rather difficult to grab to wind or pull out to position one or two. The fix to this, a different crown is clearly needed — and this is not something that a computer render would be able to identify. No doubt Kennsen is dedicated to the Annual Calendar Chronograph, which is why I am confident they will refine these issues with this otherwise impressive watch in the near future.
Well-made, intelligently conceived, and full of value, the Kennsen Annual Calendar Chronograph is a sweet example of what can come from a more nimble and entrepreneurial side of the traditional Swiss watch industry. Existing craftsmanship with new levels of agility is helping brands like Kennsen develop and launch. None of these brands can shortcut the time and effort it takes to properly design and refine a watch. I am really happy to see where Kennsen is at this point, and I look forward to seeing what they do next. Price for the Kennsen Annual Calendar Chronograph watch is 5,180 Swiss Francs. Learn more at the Kennsen website here.
>Model: Annual Calendar Chronograph
>Price: 5,180 Swiss Francs
>Size: 42mm-wide, 13.4mm-thick, and 49mm lug-to-lug distance.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: When wanting to show off a novel annual calendar system to fellow watch enthusiasts that comes at a good price.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Mechanical complication fan with big wrists and conservative tastes who, nevertheless, likes to eschew name brands.
>Best characteristic of watch: Good build quality and decoration, overall. Annual calendar system over base 7750 automatic chronograph works pretty well. Lots of interesting novelty to build off of.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Legibility is hampered by hands that are too polished. Case and dial size proportions merge awkwardly. Overall case is too large for aesthetic theme of dial. Crown is difficult to fully operate.