I always wondered why they called the functions on a watch the watch complication. Is it because they make the watch more complicated to work or is it because the complications make it more complicated to build the inner workings of the watch? So, in light of learning watch anatomy and all things watches I thought this would be a really good topic to cover.
What is a Watch Complication?
According to Wikipedia (who knows everything ;)), a watch complication is any feature in a timepiece other than the hours, minutes and seconds. And, the reality is that the more moving parts in a watch, the more difficult it is to design, create, assemble, and repair. A typical date-display chronograph may have up to 250 parts and a particularly complex watch may have a thousand or more parts.
How Many Kinds of Complicated is Complication?
The watch complication falls into four main categories.
- Day-Date Complications – the simplest on the watch, and not always considered a complication.
- Chronograph Complications – a stopwatch is built into the movement, and still not always considered a complication.
- Dual Time Zone Complications – determines time in other time zones than the one that you are currently in.
- Grand Complications – several complications and is very complex and is usually found on fine watches.
The Day-Date Complications Made Less Complicated
- Date Window is also referred to as an aperture.
- Big Date allows a much larger view of the date and is significantly more legible than the traditional date window.
- Date Wheel is sometimes called a ‘Bankers’ date.
- Subsidiary Dial displays the date on a small sub-dial. Most often used in conjunction with other complications.
Chronograph Complications Made Less Complicated
- One-Button Chronograph cannot measure interrupted time spans.
- Flyback Chronograph is specially engineered so that when a second button is pushed all the counters reset and immediately start again from zero.
- Split-Second Chronograph will have three pushers on the case and two second-hands on the chronograph, one on top of the other.
Dual Time Zone Complications Made Less Complicated
- Dual Movement (not technically a watch complication) is a watch that contains two separate movements, each running from its own power source and each being set independently.
- Dual Time both displays are powered by the same movement.
- GMT (Greenwich Mean Time displays two or more time zones.
- GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) with Independent Hour Hand is set independently of the 24-hour hand.
- GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) with Fixed Hour Hand, which was introduced by Rolex in the 1950’s, this GMT complication is considered a pilot’s watch. Its unique additional hour hand makes one revolution around the dial per day; pointing to twelve indicates midnight and pointing to six indicates noon.
- World Time Zone has a rotating inner bezel with 24-hour display, part of the watch movement, and an outer bezel, listing the major cities in each of the 24 time zones. The outer bezel is set by the user. The inner bezel, marked to 24, makes one complete revolution per day.
Grand Complications Told Like They Are
- Tachymeter (Tachometer) Complication can be used to measure the speed at which the wearer moves, over a given distance. Typically placed on the bezel and generally only found with chronographs, the Tachymeter measures units per hour.
- The Tourbillon improves the balance of the watch, eliminating only timekeeping errors gravity and changing watch position cause. The Tourbillon is extremely rare and requires an enormous amount of time and skill to construct.
- Moonphase Complication is a traditional and aesthetically pleasing feature that shows if it is a full, half, quarter, or new moon. Originally, it was primarily used by sailors to gauge tides.
- Power Reserve Indicator measures the amount of power remaining in the watch, by the tension of the mainspring and displays. Some watches have a power reserve of up to 10 days, in which the indicator displays days, not hours. This is found exclusively on mechanical watches.
- Jump Hour displays the hour in an aperture, instantly changing every 60 minutes.
- Minute Repeater is a movement that chimes out time when a lever on the side of the case is activated. It was fairly common for pocket watches around the 18th and 19th centuries. It is now produced as a collectable, rather than a tool.