When Complications Become a Sport
In the watch-verse, a complication is a function designed to enrich or simplify the life of the wearer. An example of a well-known complication is a chronograph. You may have seen one on a Rolex Daytona. A chronograph contains a stopwatch function which enables the user to time an event. This is, of course, useful for sport-related activities.
Then there's the other use of a complication, to show expertise. Over time, the creative abilities of watchmakers have reached new realms and it's helping to push the boundaries. How? watchmakers have succeeded in marrying different styles thought to be unthinkable or inventing new complications never-before-seen.
Trivia - The Vacheron Constantin Reference 57260 contains 57 complications!
To acknowledge the incredible work of watchmakers, we have created a list of some of the most complicated wristwatches in the world.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Grande Complication à Triptyque - 19 complications
Contrary to numerous reports, this watch has 19 complications. A list of them is available here.
If you've read our article: Luxury Watchmaking Spotlight: Jaeger-LeCoultre, you'll know the story behind the Reverso. It was made for British Officers who played Polo in India. They needed a watch to withstand the demands of the sport so Jaeger-LeCoultre met this need by concealing the dial behind a hard case.
This interpretation of the iconic timepiece contains an array of complications but the standout feature is how it contains three different timekeeping systems in the same watch! Here they are:
- Perpetual - Continues forever or lasting for a very long time.
- Sidereal Time - How long it takes a star to return to its original position. A Sidereal day is 23 hours and 56 minutes long.
- Civil Time - Designated by authorities, or a local time indicated by clocks. You'll know this as GMT.
Together, these dimensions of time give the watch three faces instead of two!
Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime - 20 complications
Patek Philippe is one of the oldest watchmakers in the world. You can get an insight into their story here: Luxury Watchmaking Spotlight: Patek Philippe.
To mark their 175th anniversary, they realised the Grandmaster Chime. What's so remarkable about this watch (Ref: 6300) was the fact they included 5 chiming functions which mean that the wearer can know what the time is through the power of music and of course, some incredible watchmaking. The complication is known as a minute repeater.
The minute repeater is considered one of the greatest complications of all time. Why? It contains both a human touch and technological innovation. Through the push of a button or lever, the watch wearer can hear the time through chimes for hours and minutes.
Vacheron Constantin Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication - 23 complications
In our article LaFerrari Review, we explained how Ferrari threw everything they had at this car. Their reward was forming the Holy Trinity of Hypercars along with the McLaren P1 and Porsche 918 Spyder.
Vacheron Constantin did a similar thing with their Grand Complication. Comprised of 514 parts and 23 complications, they achieved a magnificent feat because the calibre is 8.7mm thick which meant a vast majority of the parts needed miniaturising.
The research and planning into this calibre 3600 took 5 years and The Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève awarded Vacheron with the Mechanical Exception Watch Prize.
The wearer of this watch would be bestowed with a knowledge of astrology rivalling Galileo himself. With an array of features formed in a modernistic style, they show how the complications are related rather than them just being there. Examples include indicators from the moon, sun, Milkyway to a celestial chart!
Jaeger-LeCoultre Hybris Mechanica Grande Sonnerie - around 26 complications
Sometimes, when a challenge is deemed great, we compare it to a biblical tale or a cosmic analogy. Jaeger-LeCoultre followed suit with this masterpiece. Named the Hybris Mechanica, it's greek for "Challenge of the Gods".
Making this watch encouraged Jaeger to re-model the notion of the minute repeater. To add a touch of class, the chime will resemble Big Ben! How? Four trebuchet hammers and crystal gongs.
Comprised of 1472 parts, the intricacy and craftsmanship is remarkable and earns its place as one of the most complicated wristwatches ever made.
Finally, the mechanism will not need correcting until 2100. Bravo Jaeger.
The Franck Muller Aeternitas Mega 4 - 36 complications
There's a saying "Blessed are those who are curious".
That expression is quite apt here because what Frank Muller did was more than taking home the bragging rights but they did something never-before-seen.
Housing a massive 36 complications is this Aeternitas Mega 4 wristwatch. For anyone that studied Latin, Aeternitas is Latin for eternity.
Taking wristwatch complications to new levels, this 5-year project has created a memorable timepiece. If you like numbers then consider the 1483 parts which form the movement.
What made this watch so one-of-a-kind is the tri-axial tourbillon, the first in the world. This innovation allows the watch to correct gravity in any position contrary to classic tourbillons which correct gravity when it's vertical.
Stephen Hawking once said that there is something special about the boundary conditions of the universe not containing a boundary.
Watchmaking is no different. As the number of complications increases and the calibres become even more intricate, we are able to acknowledge the prowess and expertise craftmanship which brings them to life.
Watchmaking is a fascinating triumph of human innovation and engineering which continues to move us to places thought to be unreachable and then it moving us somewhere even further.
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