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11 Watch Complications: An Easy Guide with Examples

11 Watch Complications: An Easy Guide with Examples

Mar 27, 2024

Watch complications refer to the carefully crafted parts that make up your timepiece. They all have different characteristics from the GMT, moon phase, to the powerful chronograph timekeepers.

As its name may well be a tribute to, initially understanding the complications of a timepiece can be pretty puzzling. Here, I will try and summarize the very definition of a watch complication along with 10 prominent examples of it. Do read along

What is a Watch Complication?

A watch complication is all the parts of a particular timepiece that serves any kind of function other than telling the time. These can vary from the most simple to the few and far between types which require a lot of time and effort to create.

As a watches’ complication rises in its complexity, the value also derived increases. This is all the more pleasurable when one can view the inner workings through its case back, the result is the precise engineering and innovation that will leave the owner astounded.

11 Prominent Watch Complications to Understand

Now that you understand what is a watch complication. Next, comes the question of what types of them are available out there. From the most simple to the more intricate, below are 11 of the prominent complications a timepiece can have:

1. GMT

The first watch complication on the list is a GMT. It indicates the two-hour time zones, pointed out by the presence of a third hand in addition to the seconds and times. Ball Watch Co. Engineer Hydrocarbon AeroGMT II Black/Green Ref. DG2018C-S11C-BK

Prominent examples of timepieces with the GMT function include the Rolex GMT Master-II and Ball Watch Co. Engineer Hydrocarbon GMT.

2. Moon Phase

The moon phase is also another type of watch compilation that is well known in the horology world for its beauty and romantic allure. Its desirability is reflected in its function to reveal the portion of the moon as can be seen from Earth.

From the aesthetic to the machinery, these moon phase watches are a mesmerizing bunch indeed. Popular examples include the Omega Moonphase Master Co-Axial and the Jaeger Le-Coultre Master Control.

Read also: How Do Moon Phase Watches Work? A Guide to A Cool Complication

3. Chronograph

Next is the chronograph complication. This can mainly be seen on motorcycle timepieces and it functions similar to a stopwatch where it calculates the elapsed time.Seiko Presage "Urushi" Pwr Rsv Ref. SARW013

Its prominent use is to time races, but the everyday individual can also take satisfaction by wearing this highly athletic watch. The Omega Speedmaster Chronograph and the Seiko Presage are a few popular examples of chronograph watches.

Read also: 6 Best Chronograph Watches Under $2000

4. Day-Date

One of the simplest watch complications is more certainly the Day-Date feature. As its name refers, this is the function of a watch that can be seen on the dial. It shows the day alongside what date it is during a particular moment.

With this particular complication, you will never forget what day of the month it currently is. The Rolex Day Date is a renowned example for being the first to release this feature.

5. Tourbillon

The tourbillon is one, if not the most complex complication on a watch. Innovated by craftsman Abraham-Louis Breguet, it works as a protector to shield the small parts within a timepiece from the effects of gravity. 

Due to the exclusivity of this particular function, it has garnered favorable followings from watch collectors alike. A famous example of a tourbillon is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Tourbillon.

6. Minute Repeater

Last, but definitely not least, is the rare watch complication, the minute repeater. It functions to tell the owner the exact time by exuding a certain tone.

So, for instance, you would like the watch to remind you when it’s 11:03 a.m without having to personally check it. When reaching the intended time as has been set, the timepiece will let out the specific tune.

While in modern times, these technologies might feel outdated, this feature has been particularly helpful when electricity has not yet spread out as it is today and for the visually impaired.

Even today, a minute repeater has its own cult following due to its classic aura and extensive craftsmanship that goes into its making. One renowned example is Patek Philippe Grand Complications Minute Repeater 5178G.

Read also: The Alluring Charm of Sounds within the Chiming Watches

7. Tachymeter

Another watch complication that is popular among collectors of timekeepers is the tachymeters. It functions as a tool to measure speed in units/kilometers/miles per hour. For this feature to work, one must move at a fixed distance and speed (e.g. 1 kilometer).

8. Power Reserve

Knowing how much energy is left on a watch is the function of a power reserve complication. Designed exclusively for the mechanical types and depending on the timepiece, this feature will indicate measurements of hours and days of energy available.

The mechanical watches prominent for having this complication includes the Grand Seiko SBGA2511 and the A Lange & Sohne 1815 Up/Down.

9. Planetarium

Leaning more toward an artistic feat in the world of horology is the invention of the planetarium watch complication. As its name implies, this stunning function shows the exact positions of every planet in our solar system. 

On a planetarium watch, the sun is made to sit center on the dial and the planets will revolve around it in real time. One infamous example is the Van Cleef & Arpels Planetarium watch.

10. Perpetual Calendar

A renowned example of a perpetual calendar watch is the IWC Schaffhausen Portugieser. Its function is to show the exact date of a particular day. 

Have you ever had to turn a timepiece manually because there’s no 31st day of the month? Well, the solution may just be in a perpetual calendar watch complication. It knows exactly how many days are in a particular month. More than that, it detects the leap years as well.

Read also: Take A Peek at Celestial Objects from Astronomical Watch

11. World Timer

For travelers and international business professionals alike, the world timer is a prominent watch complication to know. More ambitious than a GMT, this particular function serves the knowledge of multiple time zones for the wearer.

This specific complication shows the 24 countries to represent each of the time zones on its dial. To use this feature, it’s as simple as turning the bezel to a particular city. If, for instance, the owner chose Japan GMT +9,  the hands will automatically follow.

As examples are stunning world timer watches, Ball Watch Engineer Master II Diver World Timer, and Junghans Meister World Timer.

That summarizes the list of complications of watches. As a timepiece gets more complicated, for lack of a better word, it only just means that an extensive amount of effort is poured into it.

As such, it can only be right to say that a watch complication may well be a beautiful reflection of the craftsmanship invested in a specific timekeeper. It’s therefore appropriate that collectively as watch collectors, these darling traits are to be admired and understood.

Don’t forget to stay tuned to our Gnomon blog for more timeless wisdom, information, and recommendations around the world of horology.

Read also: 10 Best Affordable Watches Under $1000 in 2024

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