Parts/Mechanics of a Watch – Part 2

Following on from Wednesday’s blog which précised the history of the wristwatch, it’s now time to delve deeper into the world of complications. Here we’ll be looking at the first complications, their impact on the value of a watch and their implications for the future of watch technology.


As we found out last time:

“a complication is any function on a watch, other than the display of the time. Complications can range from simple displays of the date, to extremely rare works of high horology that combine numerous functions.”

The first Complications

Some things which you’d expect as standard in any watch are still classed as complications. Even a simple date display is a complication, first included on a wristwatch as recently as 1945 (the Rolex DateJust). While it may not seem it now, this was a huge breakthrough in watch technology, with as many as 250 parts needed to make the dates tick over. In fact, this came years after the invention of the start, stop and reset chronograph (Adolph Nicole: 1844), the millionometre (Antoine LeCoultre: 1844) and the first dual timezone pocket-watch (Tissot: 1853).

Do Complications add value?

Put simply, every new complication not only makes its mark on the horological timeline, but also marks a step forward in watchmaking. They are maths and physics in action: incredibly detailed measurements and craftsmanship, evolved over months (often years), to make cogs rotate in a certain way in order to bring you precise results. Each innovation makes a watch more interesting, desirable and, yes, valuable.

Grand Complications

From the humble beginnings of the simple chronograph, watchmakers have continued to push the boundaries. This led to pieces featuring ‘grand complications’ meaning that they essentially had compacted a number of time-telling apparatus into one watch. These would normally include:

  • a timing complication – anything ‘stop-watch’ related (chronograph)
  • an astronomical complication – anything calendar related (e.g. perpetual calendar)
  • a striking complication – put simply, anything to do with an alarm

N.B. the perpetual calendar is particularly nifty. Commonly watches will show the date and time, but you’ll need to adjust it monthly according to months with 30/31 days as well as leap years. Not so with the perpetual complication, of which certain examples can now guarantee a complete millennium of accurate dates, such as the Aeternitas Mega 4 (Franck Muller). Incredibly complex, this is based on algorithms which, while fairly easily to input electronically, took years to master via analogue motions.

In Conclusion

Whether for need of accurate time-keeping or to accelerate watch innovation for horology’s sake, complications add considerable value to a watch. Such detailed watches are often made in limited batches, giving them the potential for rarity, and as such will appreciate over time. Something which will still be as accurate today as in 500 years time is well worth passing down from generation to generation. borro offer loans against luxury watches – to get obtain a free valuation, contact an expert member of out team today on 0808 163 9537.

Next week

Next week, we’ll be looking into the most complicated watches ever made, as well as the influence watch materials have on their value.

Until next time…

Clocking off, Ed Hallinan and the borro team.

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