The term “complication” comes from Latin and means something like aggravation or complication. A complication is an elaborate additional mechanical function of a mechanical movement. Even just one additional function makes a watch more complicated, because the number of individual parts can quickly increase from 60 to over 300. Watches with complications go beyond the usual display of hours, minutes and seconds and thus have a greater functional value than other timepieces. While the complicated is usually undesirable in everyday life, such a complication is the highlight of a watch and always offers the wearer a certain added value that is fascinating.
Classification and discrepancies
A distinction is made between minor and major complications. The small ones include, for example, a date display, day of the week display, moon-phase display, power reserve display, rotating bezel and the display of a second time zone. Large complications are tourbillon, minute and hour repeater, annual calendar and perpetual calendar. World time watches, wristwatches, equations of time (equation) and watches with striking mechanisms are also considered to be major complications. Whether the tourbillon is really a complication is a matter of controversy. The tourbillon (French for “whirlwind”) is a device designed to eliminate the influence of gravity on the rate accuracy. However, a watch worn on the wrist is always moved differently, so that the tourbillon often does not provide any advantage. For this reason, some experts do not regard it as a true watch complication.
Are chronographs complications?
Chronographs are often also considered to be major complications, as they are just as difficult to implement as a perpetual calendar. However, they are integrated more often and are less expensive. The chronograph functions flyback, rattrapante and foudroyante are also included. With the Rattrapante or “split-seconds chronograph”, split times are stopped by dragging a second stop-second hand along with the timekeeping, which can be uncoupled and reset to the main second hand. Foudroyant, on the other hand, is an exotic complication in mechanical watches, also known as “flashing seconds”. Here, a hand rotates once per second around its own axis. The complication is extremely complex, so that only a few watches are equipped with it.
Convenient additional benefits thanks to these visionaries
Especially simple complications like the date display or the display of a second time zone are helpful in everyday life. Rolex plays a decisive role in these, as the company has repeatedly brought advantageous additional functions to the world of watches in the past and developed them further. However, other long-established manufacturers such as A. Lange & Söhne, Breitling and IWC Schaffhausen have also contributed to this. Timepieces with several such elaborate complications are called “Grande Complication”. For many watch enthusiasts, such an exclusive masterpiece is the non-plus-ultra, because the luxurious pieces of jewellery are the result of elaborate manual work, a great deal of sensitivity and the highest watchmaking art.
Popular Grand Complications
One of the most famous Grand Complications is the Vacheron Constantin Tour de L’Île with 16 complications. To mark the 250th anniversary of the Manufacture, Vacheron Constantin created seven exclusive Grand Complications, including the Tour de L’Île. It is equipped with a minute repeater, a moon-phase display, sunrise and sunset displays, and a perpetual calendar. The timepiece is made of pure gold and is composed of 834 components. At an auction, one copy was sold for a proud $1.56 million. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Hybris Mechanica à Grande Sonnerie with 26 complications has long been the most complicated watch in the world. It features a perpetual calendar, a Grande Sonnerie, a Petite Sonnerie and power reserve indicators for movement and striking mechanism. It was also the first wristwatch ever to completely sound the melody of the Westminster tower clock. The A. Lange & Söhne Grande Complication No. 42500 also ranks among the most famous watches with complications. It was introduced in 1902 and sold to a Viennese. After that, no one heard anything about this special timepiece for almost a hundred years before it made its way back to the A. Lange & Söhne. The disastrous condition of the watch required several thousand hours of work, but the effort was worth it in the end and the Grande Complication No. 42500 could be restored to a working condition. Now it is exhibited in a museum as a historically significant cultural asset. Based on this pocket watch, the Grand Complication Ref. 912.032 was finally presented in 2013, the most complicated wristwatch by A. Lange & Söhne to date.
Complication master Patek Philippe
When one speaks of watches with complications, there is no way of getting past Patek Philippe. The watch manufacturer is one of the leaders in this segment and has twice been able to produce the most complicated watch of the century. The Patek Philippe Grand Complications Ref. 5207P-001 is a prime example of the company’s craftsmanship. The model comes with a minute repeater, moon-phase display and perpetual calendar. The platinum case makes a particularly bright tone. The repetition is considered a speciality of Patek Philippe. The Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon Ref. 5002 with 12 complications is also one of the most famous complication masterpieces of the Swiss. In addition, the Grandmaster Chime timepiece was presented on the occasion of the 175th anniversary of the company – with a proud 20 complications. Only seven pieces of this special wristwatch were produced, which is considered one of the most complicated in the world. It is worth several million euros, and one of them has naturally earned a place of honour in the Manufacture Museum. A team of the best watchmakers, designers and engineers worked on this model for eight years. The date repetition of the Grandmaster Chime is a revolution in the wristwatch segment. The date button strikes a chime to tell the wearer how many days of the month have already passed. One high and one low blow results in ten days. An alarm clock is also integrated. Here, the day is not started with the usual beeping, but with the soothing sound of the minute repeater. This special luxury item was designed for watch fans of the extra class. It is 16.1 millimetres thick, has a diameter of 47 millimetres and is decorated with sapphires and 18-carat rose gold. According to information, the Patek Philippe team has already spent 100,000 hours just assembling the individual components of the seven Grandmaster Chime models.
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