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In horology, the term complication refers to any feature beyond the simple display of hours, minutes, and seconds in a timepiece.

A timepiece indicating only hours, minutes, and seconds is otherwise known as a simple movement. Common additions such as day/date displays, chronographs, and automatic winding mechanisms are usually not sufficient to permit a movement to be called complicated. Moreover, that a watch movement may be a Certified Chronometer does not itself count as a complication.

The more complications 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, while a particularly complex watch may have a thousand or more parts. Watches with several complications are referred to as grandes complications.

The initial ultra-complicated watches appeared due to watchmakers' ambitious attempts to unite a great number of functions in a case of a single timepiece. The mechanical clocks with a wide range of functions, including astronomical indications, suggested ideas to the developers of the first pocket watches. As a result, as early as in the 16th century, the horology world witnessed the appearance of numerous complicated, and even ultra-complicated, watches.

Ultra-complicated watches are produced in strictly limited numbers, with some built as unique instruments. Some watchmaking companies known for making ultra-complicated watches are Breguet, Patek Philippe, and Vacheron Constantin.[1]

Contents

Examples

Examples of complications include:

Nonhorological complications

Sometimes various displays in or on a watch are counted as complications even if they have nothing to do with timetelling. Often-seen examples include thermometer, barometer (rare in watches; more frequent in clocks), compass, or altimeter. Many horologists will not count nonhorological complications when adding up the number of complications on a given watch or clock, and some purists even exclude the power reserve from the complications count because it does not show a time indication (although its function is related to timekeeping).

Grand complications

A grand complication is a watch with several complications, the most complex achievements of haute horlogerie, or fine watchmaking. Although there is no 'official' definition,[2] one common definition is a watch that contains at least three complications, with at least one coming from each of the groups listed below:[3]

Timing complications Astronomical complications Striking complications
Simple chronograph Simple calendar Alarm
Counter chronograph Perpetual calendar Quarter repeater
Split-second flyback chronograph Moon phases Half-quarter repeater
Independent second-hand chronograph Equation of time Five-minute repeater
Jumping second-hand chronograph Minute repeater
Passing strike

The most complicated pocket watch movements

According to watch manufacturer Patek Philippe, the three most complicated watches in the world are all pocket watches made by that company.

  • The Patek Philippe Calibre 89 has 33 complications, using a total of 1728 parts. It was released in 1989 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the company.[4] The complications include the date of Easter, sidereal time, and a 2800-star celestial chart.
  • The Super-complication built for Henry Graves, Jr. in 1933 has 24 complications. The watch was reportedly the culmination of a watch arms race between Graves and James Ward Packard. The Super-complication took three years to design and five to build, and sports a chart of the nighttime sky at Graves' home in New York. This was the world's most expensive watch when it was auctioned off for USD $11-million in 1999, it now ranks second.[5]
  • The Star Caliber 2000 has 21 complications. They include sunrise and sunset times and the lunar orbit, and it is capable of playing the melody of Westminster quarters (from the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament in London).

The most complicated wristwatch movement

The Hybris Mechanica Grande Sonnerie is the world's second most complicated wristwatch. Powered by the Jaeger LeCoultre Calibre 182 movement, with 26 complications and over 1300 parts. The movement is housed in a 44mm by 15mm 18k white gold case. [6]

The Franck Muller Aeternitas Mega 4 is the world's most complicated wristwatch. It has 36 complications, 25 of them visible, 1483 components and 1000-year calendar. [7]

External links

References

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