Fine timepieces are complex beasts. They are made of a plethora of moving parts, incredible feats of engineering, and mechanical elements that take them beyond the ordinary. The flipside is, they’re not the simplest things to understand. So that’s why we want to make life easy for you.
In this series, we’re exploring what goes into a great watch, highlighting the things you really need to know about. And to start, we’re – maybe a little ironically – talking ‘complications’.
Complications are those features you see on a watch’s face that function beyond the simple hours and minutes. Keeping it simple: the more complications a watch has, the more it’s worth. After all, these features are renowned for being difficult to design, create and assemble – especially if you want to keep them looking grand. With added complications, of course, comes status and refinement – as a lustworthy statement piece, there’s nothing quite like a watch that boasts a special complication.
Traditionally, the big-three complications have been the tourbillon (the eyecatching mechanism that counters gravity by mounting inner-workings including the balance wheel in a rotating cage), perpetual calendar and minute repeater. This trio of complications, though, have historically been more grandiose in style. But now, discretion and subtlety are in trend, and these more striking features are taking a backseat for less ostentatious complications.
If you’re looking for a more discreet complication, you should check out what’s going on in the Jaeger LeCoultre’s Geophysic True Second, not least because all the action happens behind the elegant and classic face. On mechanical watches, the second hand dials smoothly, but this particular complication heralds a return to the ticking second hand. This requires 60 additional parts, including Gyrolab, an atypical balance wheel with a non-circular configuration, developed especially to reduce air friction. The result is that the ‘energy’ it takes to run the second hand smoothly is held back and then released each second. It also enables users to change the time and date in both clockwise and anti-clockwise directions.
Another example is Vacheron Constantin’s Metiers d’Art Fabuleux Ornements collection, which features the Grand Feu enamel complication. This delicate technique heats up layers of enamelling powder to achieve a subtle patina, easily overlooked by the untrained eye.
The popularity of this watch is definitely on the rise. And it just shows how there’s a growing appetite for subtle luxury. If you’re not already on board, perhaps it’s time for a new, understated change.