We all know watch brands who use exhibition case backs. Some do this to display especially beautiful or complicated movements. However, some of the beloved entry-level watches do so simply to show the wearer the beating heart inside. Seeing the balance wheel oscillating and the rotor spinning around has captured the interest of many of us, leading us deeper down the rabbit hole of watches. But Perrelet often takes a different approach. In its Lab Peripheral line, a subtle rotor spins on the front of the watch. I had a chance to check out two models from the collection — the Three Hands & Date and Dual Time Big Date.

Born of the quest for dynamic design, the front-mounted rotor is Perrelet’s calling card. In the past, the brand has released some extreme executions of this concept. Our very own Brandon Baines covered the Perrelet Turbine Yacht earlier this year. With its 47mm size, it left people wanting something more wearable, and its front-mounted rotor was anything but subtle. That’s just where the 42mm Perrelet Lab Peripheral line steps in. Not only is the size more compact, but the overall look is far more refined. The manner in which the rotor is integrated on the dial is more discreet and perfectly aligns with the modern aesthetic of these watches.

Two models to choose from

Today, I’ll be covering two models. However, to avoid confusion, I’ll first highlight the seven different variants available in the lineup. Essentially it’s a three-to-four split, with three Dual Time Big Date models and four Three Hands & Date models. The latter model’s name is pretty self-explanatory. It serves as the baseline for the range, covering the basic functions of time-telling in conjunction with a date feature. The simplicity in its display allows for its strong and characteristic design features to take all the attention, while still retaining functionality. The Dual Time Big Date model adds a bit of complication into the mix, with both a big-date and second timezone feature.

Both of these watches come in two dial colors and two case finishes. There are two white/silver-dialed models, one with a standard steel case, and the second with a gray razor PVD-coated finish. Two additional black-dialed models with the same case finishes are also available. The PVD finish is subtle, giving the steel a darker appearance. Mitigated by its polished finish, it subtly alters the character of the watch. The final three models, the Dual Time Big Date, all share the same stainless steel case, but come in three dial variants — white/silver, blue, and black. They all come on a black leather strap with an alligator pattern and white contrast stitching, with the exception of the blue-dialed variant, which comes on a matching blue strap.

The Perrelet Lab Peripheral

The 42mm × 42mm cushion case is used for all models. Its lines are very modern, with both polished and brushed surfaces elegantly combined. The execution is clearly top-notch, and everything feels sharp yet not unrefined. The sides of the case have notches running along them, and the crown, with a debossed logo on it, matches said notches. The watches feel chunky and solid, yet have an undeniably refined feel to them. Flipping the watch over, your eye will instantly be drawn to the sapphire case back. Visible through it is a beautifully decorated movement. Its rhodium-plated bridges feature Côtes de Genève as well as engraving filled with gold 3N. The unusual thing is that there is no visible rotor. The fully unobstructed view of the movement is a welcome result of featuring the oscillating weight on the front.

The case back is sealed with three screws and features engraving of the watch’s water resistance rating (50m), the model, the brand, and “Swiss Made”. Going back to the front of the watch, only a thin bezel with a rounded octagonal shape surrounds the dial. Brushed on top with polished chamfers, it gives the watch a classy stepped look and is topped with a polished ring around the sapphire crystal. The angles in the bezel result from how the relatively large yet short lugs are integrated into the case’s overall design. Thanks to the cushion shape and 13.5mm thickness, the watch wears well on my 7-inch wrist. The signed deployant clasp is easy to adjust and makes fastening the watch onto your wrist a more enjoyable experience than a regular pin buckle. The strap itself is stiff, but quickly molds to the wrist.

Dynamism and depth

We have arrived at the pièce de résistance, the Perrelet Lab Peripheral dial. Both models share the same overall structure and look. The white/silver models are more refined with a subtle display of textures all in a similar color. However, the blue and black models are slightly more sporty with silver elements contrasting against the darker dial center and minute track rehaut. In all models, the hands and markers have a silver finish, which is shared by the rotor. Starting at the center, we have a vertical line finish, with a brushed silver edge. This separates the centermost section from the outer sand-blasted ring. This ring sits slightly above the dial’s center and houses the 12 faceted silver hour markers. They extend over the edge of the dial and over the recessed circular opening which exposes the oscillating rotor.

Each hour marker extends like a drawbridge, not quite spanning the gap to the outer minute track. The overall construction creates a lot of depth. Combined with the dynamism provided by the engraved semi-circular rotor, it makes the dial a spectacle of movement and texture. In terms of structure, the Three Hands & Date model has a small date window at 6 o’clock, and the Perrelet logo at 12 o’clock. The Dual Time Big Date has the brand logo at 3 o’clock, a big-date display at 12 o’clock, and a second timezone sub-dial at 6 o’clock. The second timezone display also features a small circular day/night indicator between 10 and 11 o’clock.

Final Thoughts

The unique dial-side rotor display is made possible thanks to the brand’s Caliber P-421. As Perrelet explains, “the oscillating weight, a 180° plate’s segment, is fixed to a toothed wheel (with toothing on the inside) known as a ‘couronne’, itself positioned on the outer part of the movement that meshes with a pinion placed on the outer rim of the movement.” This means that thanks to some clever engineering, the rotor is not just displayed through the front of the watch, but rather, it is also located there. It’s a perfect example of ambitious independent watchmaking at its finest. Though the contemporary design certainly won’t please everyone, merit must be awarded for its originality and top-tier finishing and execution.

The price of these watches reflects the time and expertise that goes into creating them. The Perrelet Lab Peripheral Three Hands & Date is available for €3,980 and the Dual Time Big Date for €4,980. For more information, please check out the Perrelet site here.

For now, I’d love to hear your thoughts on these watches. Is the 42mm size more to your liking? Are you a fan of the unique modern design? Let me know in the comments below.