Orient first presented its multi-year calendar watch in 1965. The concept was simple and clever: they had a disk printed with the years – 1960 to 1981 on that first version – and weekdays, installed on the movement. A second crown was used to rotate the disk around and when the year was placed under the corresponding month at the bottom of the dial, the weekdays would "magically" show just above the respective date at the top of the dial.
These first calendar watches are quite hard to find nowadays. Even pictures of this model are not too common – here's one of the few I've found online:
The concept quickly turned popular and became one of Orient's more recognizable designs. Why is that? I think the secret is in the clever compression of a lot of useful information into the tiny bit of available space left on the watch dial. Remember that was the era before smartphones and even before personal computers; the wristwatch was the only piece of technology most people would be carrying around. The multi-year calendar was like getting the latest mobile app installed on your phone.
The added disks also meant the watch had to be bigger than most timepieces of the 60's; at around 39mm in diameter, it must have had a substantial wrist presence.
Over the years, the multi-year calendar evolved. Within a few years, Orient added the annual calendar feature to its new line of automatic movements that featured a date quick-set pusher at 2, and so the year-wheel rotation crown had to be moved down to 4.
An entirely new configuration of the calendar was launched in 1976. The year-day disk was replaced by a day-only arrangement. This was not as smart as a system that arranged the days for you based on the month and the year, but it was elegant and the wearer only needed to set it once at the beginning of each month. This picture of the '76 model is from Orient's official site:
Orient's successful design also inspired other watchmakers. The most common reiteration of the multi-year calendar was produced by Soviet brand Raketa. Available as both hand-wind and quartz versions, this useful and affordable type of watch became widely popular among Russian students, earning it the nick-name "college watch". Other names by which this "complication" became known by were "annual" and "perpetual" calendars – although, strictly speaking in horological terms, it is neither annual nor perpetual.
Despite calendars becoming instantly available to any smartphone owner, the popularity of the Orient multi-year calendar remains. Orient produce them in a multitude of colors, shapes and sizes (at some point there was even an Orient Star version).
Here are my two calendars – the funky multicolor version I wrote about on one of my previous articles, and the more sporty and professional looking 50th anniversary model – which, thanks to the GMT time zone display, has an even greater abundance of information on the dial… which means, you'd never get bored staring at it!