The art of being complicated

The art of being complicated

The art of being complicated (september 2015)


Enlightened enthusiasts and collectors swear by them. Watchmaking complications are more in vogue than ever, and today’s most exquisite mechanical watches are amassing these additional functions. But what exactly are they?

Generally speaking, there is nothing in everyday life that we want to see complicated. There is, however, one area that proves the exception to the rule: watchmaking. In this domain, an increased number of complications simply means greater pleasure for lovers of fine watches. But newcomers should not be misled into thinking that a complicated model will be difficult to use or its dial unreadable. The famed term “complication” refers in fact to any mechanical function that is beyond the display of time and that is achieved by adding a module to the watch’s movement.

Any information that a timekeeper provides over and above hours, minutes and seconds therefore belongs to this category. Were we to travel back in time, we would see that the first clocks, at the end of the Middle Ages, had just an hour hand. The appearance of a minute hand, and, much later, a hand to tick off the seconds, could legitimately be seen as the birth of complications.

Nowadays, there are at least ten of these additional functions: chronograph, perpetual calendar, moon phases, minute repeater, date, power reserve indicator, equation of time, chime, dual time zone, world time…

Today considered the very symbol of fine watchmaking, the tourbillon increases the accuracy of a watch by countering the effects of gravity; it is therefore not a complication in the true sense of the term. Nevertheless, many amateurs include the tourbillon on the list of complications, such is the device’s beauty, its magic and complexity.

A number of fine timepieces claim the title of grande complication. This expression refers to watches that combine at least three significant complications.

Beyond this most distinguished family of additional functions, there are various other features capable of transforming a simple watch into a technical and aesthetic masterpiece. For example, backlit displays, self-winding movements, digital numbers, tri-axial tourbillons, astroregulators and a great many other wonders besides…

In the end, what could be better than a beautiful complication?

Ekaterina Sotnikova

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