Complication (horology)

In horology, a complication refers to any feature in a mechanical timepiece beyond the simple display of hours and minutes. A timepiece indicating only hours and minutes is otherwise known as a simple movement. Common complications in commercial watches are day/date displays, alarms, chronographs (stopwatches), and automatic winding mechanisms.

The more complications in a mechanical watch, the more difficult it is to design, create, assemble, and repair. These stipulations do not apply or refer to quartz watches. 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]

Greubel Forsey Invention Piece 1
Watch Greubel Forsey Invention Piece 1
Gallet navigator chronograph
Gallet MultiChron Navigator (1943) with 3 complications: 45-minute recording chronograph, crown-controlled synchronizable second hand, and direction-finding 24-hour hand

Grand complications

Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar 5270R
The Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph ref# 5270R in 18kt Rose Gold

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 Annual calendar Quarter repeater
Split-second flyback chronograph Perpetual calendar Half-quarter repeater
Independent second-hand chronograph Equation of time Five-minute repeater
Jumping second-hand chronograph Moon phases Minute repeater

The most complicated pocket watch movements

As of November 2018, the top four most complicated mechanical watches ever created are manufactured by Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe, respectively.[4][5][6] In particular, the Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication currently holds the title of the most expensive watch ever sold at auction, with a final price of 24 million US dollars (23,237,000 CHF) sold in Geneva on November 11th, 2014.[7][8][9][10] Two Patek Philippe Calibre 89 also currently rank among the top 10 most expensive watches ever sold at auction, with final prices over 5 million US dollars.[11][12][13][14]

  • 1) The Vacheron Constantin Reference 57260 is now widely regarded as the most complicated watch in the world. It is a mechanical pocket watch which features 57 complications, introduced by Vacheron Constantin in 2015. The company claims that it is the most complicated mechanical pocket watch ever created. The Reference 57260 took eight years to assemble, and has 2826 parts and 31 hands. It weighs 957 grams, and spans 98mm.
  • 2) 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.[15] The complications include the date of Easter, sidereal time, and a 2800-star celestial chart.
  • 3) The Supercomplication delivered to 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. It remains the most complicated watch (920 parts)[16] built without the assistance of computers.[17]
  • 4) 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 Big Ben, the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament in London).

The most complicated wristwatch movement

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.[18]

The Hybris Mechanica Grande Sonnerie is the world's second most complicated wristwatch. Powered by the Jaeger LeCoultre Calibre 182 movement, with 27 complications and over 1300 parts. The movement is housed in a 44mm by 15mm 18k white gold case.[19]


Examples of complications include:

  • 24-hour watch has an hour hand sweeping through 24 divisions where most watches have a 12-hour dial.
  • Automatic watch (self-winding watch) uses the motion of the wrist and arm to recapture energy.
  • Chronograph has a second hand that can be stopped, started and restarted for measuring time periods.
  • Double chronograph or rattrapante, multiple second hands for split-second, lap timing or timing multiple events
  • Flyback chronograph, rapid reset of the chronograph as it is running, with the chronograph continuing to run immediately after with no delay following the reset. This is faster than the stop-reset-start required of normal chronographs.
  • Calendar Watches can display, date, week of year and/or month either alone or in combination. Can include display of leap year cycle (year 1 to 4)
  • Multiple time zones
  • Equation of time variation within the year
  • Display of zone solar time (as opposed to standard time)
  • Display of true local solar time
  • Display of sidereal time
  • Display of time zones (for the world traveler)
  • Time of sunset
  • Time of sunrise

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).

See also


  1. ^ "Ultra-Complicated Watches - Unlimited Sophistication Watches Channel".
  2. ^ Perez, Carlos (June 10, 2001). "Of the Blood Royal". Carlos' Journal. Retrieved 2008-04-20.
  3. ^ Nicolet, J.C. (1999). "What does the term 'complication' mean, and how does it differ from 'grand complication'?". Questions in Time. Europa Star magazine online. Retrieved 2008-07-09.
  4. ^ "Vacheron Constantin reference 57260 - the most complicated watch". Retrieved 2018-11-30.
  5. ^ "Hands-On: The Vacheron Constantin 57260, The Most Complicated Watch In The World (Exclusive Live Photos, Thoughts) - HODINKEE". HODINKEE. Retrieved 2018-11-30.
  6. ^ "Hands-On: A Patek Philippe Caliber 89, For Sale At Christie's New York - HODINKEE". HODINKEE. Retrieved 2018-11-30.
  7. ^ Adams, Ariel. "$24,000,000 Patek Philippe Supercomplication Pocket Watch Beats Its Own Record At Auction". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-11-23.
  8. ^ "Swiss Pocket Watch Sells for Record $24 Million". Time. Retrieved 2018-11-23.
  9. ^ "Patek Philippe gold watch sells for record $24.4M - CNN". CNN Style. 2014-11-12. Retrieved 2018-11-23.
  10. ^ "Patek Philippe (THE HENRY GRAVES JR. SUPERCOMPLICATION)". Sotheby's.
  11. ^ "The Yellow Gold Calibre 89 Patek Philippe". Retrieved 2018-11-23.
  12. ^ "Hands-On: A Patek Philippe Caliber 89, For Sale At Christie's New York - HODINKEE". HODINKEE. Retrieved 2018-11-23.
  13. ^ "Patek, Philippe, Genève. The white gold "Calibre 89"". Retrieved 2018-11-23.
  14. ^ "Patek Philippe Calibre 89 sold for $5 million". JCK. Retrieved 2018-11-23.
  15. ^ Watches - Switzerland - Information -, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, General Secretariat, Presence Switzerland.
  16. ^ Mulier, Thomas; Pulvirent, Stephen (November 12, 2014). "Most Expensive Watch: Patek Philippe Supercomplication Sets Record at $24 Million". Retrieved November 12, 2014.
  17. ^ "The story of the 'most complicated' watch in the world". BBC News. November 11, 2014.
  18. ^ "World's Most Complicated Wristwatch: Franck Muller Aeternitas Mega 4". January 11, 2010.
  19. ^ "Jaeger-LeCoultre: Hybris Mechanica à Grande Sonnerie". June 19, 2009.

External links

  • Perez, Carlos (June 10, 2001). "Of the Blood Royal". Carlos' Journal. Retrieved 2008-04-20.
Automatic quartz

Automatic quartz is a collective term describing watch movements that combine a self-winding rotor mechanism (as used in automatic mechanical watches) to generate electricity with a piezoelectric quartz crystal as its timing element. Such movements aim to provide the advantages of quartz without the inconvenience and environmental impact of batteries. Several manufacturers employ this technique.


Horology ("the study of time", related to Latin horologium from Greek ὡρολόγιον, "instrument for telling the hour", from ὥρα hṓra "hour; time" and -o- interfix and suffix -logy) is the study of the measurement of time. Clocks, watches, clockwork, sundials, hourglasses, clepsydras, timers, time recorders, marine chronometers, and atomic clocks are all examples of instruments used to measure time. In current usage, horology refers mainly to the study of mechanical time-keeping devices, while chronometry more broadly includes electronic devices that have largely supplanted mechanical clocks for the best accuracy and precision in time-keeping.

People interested in horology are called horologists. That term is used both by people who deal professionally with timekeeping apparatus (watchmakers, clockmakers), as well as aficionados and scholars of horology. Horology and horologists have numerous organizations, both professional associations and more scholarly societies. The largest horological membership organisation globally is the NAWCC, the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, which is USA based, but also has local chapters elsewhere.

List of watchmakers

This chronological list of famous watchmakers is a list of those who influenced the development of horology or gained iconic status by their creations. The list is sorted by the lifetimes of the watchmakers.

You can find following information:

Full name

Dates of birth and death, if known

Country of origin and profession

Field of activity (italics)

Key concepts
Measurement and
  • Religion
  • Mythology
Philosophy of time
Human experience
and use of time
Time in
Related topics
International standards
Obsolete standards
Time in physics
Archaeology and geology
Astronomical chronology
Other units of time
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UTC offset for standard time and
Daylight saving time (DST)
Italics: historical or unofficial
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Lists of time zones

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