In the watch world, a “complication” is simply a function on a timepiece that does more than just tell the time. It applies to everything from chronographs and alarms to moon phases and calendars.
While luxury watches are often seen as status symbols and accessories, they also serve as invaluable multi-tools, not so different from Swiss army knives. In fact, watches can often be practical tools of the trade, and in some cases, even have life-saving potential.
In this guide, we explain all of the most famous watch complications in simple terms. With this knowledge under your belt, you’ll have a more productive expedition to the watchmaker’s shop.
Probably the most prevalent complication, date displays are incredibly useful. How often have you had to ask for the date when filling out a form or writing a note?
Date displays are usually viewed in one of four ways:
The only difference between the aforementioned Date Display and the slightly more sophisticated Day Date is the addition of the day of the week.
Triple Calendar complications are less popular than Date Displays and Date Windows, probably because few people are forgetful enough that they need to be reminded of the month. That’s what the Triple Calendar does. In addition to the date and weekday, you now have the month as well.
Most people who choose the Perpetual Calendar are interested in the horological achievements of classic complications. After all, most of us don’t forget the year very often.
In layman’s terms, a chronograph is a stopwatch. Initially, this complication was designed for timing races. Although you still may want to time a race now and then, most people use stopwatches for other purposes today. Did you know that the crew of Apollo 13 relied on the chronographs of their Omega wristwatches to get them home after their computers failed?
Today’s chronographs usually come in one of three varieties: the one-button Mono-Poussier, the two-button Fly-Back, or the split-second Rattrapante.
Popular with frequent travellers, the Dual-Time complication allows the wearer to read the time in two different time zones concurrently. Both time functions operate through the use of a single movement.
Particularly helpful for people who work in two time zones from a single location, the World Time Zone complication is slightly more complicated than Dual-Time. It relies on a rotating inner bezel with a 24-hour display that rests inside an outer bezel that lists locations by time zone. By setting the outer bezel, you can read the time in two different places at any given moment. This complication is popular with business executives who run operations in two countries simultaneously.
A standard feature in vintage pocket watches, a minute repeater simply causes the watch to chime when it reaches a specific time.
Aesthetically charming but not terribly useful, the Moon Phase complication tells you whether the moon is half, full, quarter or new. Initially, the complication was developed to assist sailors in predicting the tides.
Like the petrol gauge in your car, the Power Reserve Indicator on a luxury watch shows the wearer how much power is left in the watch. Typically, the remaining time is shown in hours.
A Tachymeter complication is used to compute speed based on travel time over a fixed distance (usually one kilometre). It’s often found on the bezel of a chronograph as a logarithmic scale. To use a Tachymeter, you start the chronograph when the object passes the starting line, and you stop it after it has travelled exactly one kilometre. Then you look at the number the second hand is pointing to and get the reading from the corresponding number on the tachymeter bezel.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the complications incorporated in luxury watches today. As you can see, there are complications for all kinds of tasks. Some complications are nostalgic and historical. Others perform functions that help with your everyday modern work.
As you shop for luxury watches, look for complications that intrigue and assist you. And when you find the perfect watch, insure it with Q Report watch insurance. We can provide the cover necessary for you to wear your favourite watch as often as you like without having to worry about theft, loss or damage. Get your instant online quote, and learn how affordable it is to protect your treasured timepieces.