Parts/Mechanics of a Watch – Part 3

Welcome back to borro’s watch blog. Later in the series, we’ll be having a look at individual watch manufacturers, singling out their signature style and most revered watches. However, today’s article will take a sneak preview into such watches, featuring the most unique and complicated timepieces ever made.

Understated complications

If you can resist the urge to see the penultimate paragraph of this piece, we’ll start with watches whose brilliance are defined by the simplicity with which their complications are incorporated. Patek Philippe are particularly good at this, aptly demonstrated with their 5216R (pictured below). Beautiful to behold, it features a perpetual calendar, moon cycle and tourbillion, as well as a minute repeater.

Glossary Update

As we continue with these watch blogs, we’ll be updating the glossary started in Parts/Mechanics of a Watch: Part 1.

Tourbillion: strictly speaking, more aptly connected to a watch’s movement, than an out-and-out complication. Manifested as an escapement & balance wheel mounted into a rotating cage. Its purpose is to counter the effects of gravity, hence improving precision

Escapement: the device on a mechanical clock/watch which transfers energy to its timekeeping element

Minute repeater: a complication in a mechanical watch that chimes the time on demand, using separate tones for hours, quarter-hours and minutes. Originally useful for use in the dark as well as for the blind, it is more commonly included to showcase the craftsmanship & ingenuity of watchmakers.

A Note on Mechanical Watches

In this and preceding blogs we’ve referred to the sheer ingenuity of complications, but we are talking specifically about mechanical movements. Many watches today have a quartz movement and are battery powered – as such the difficulty of making a clock tick to the nth degree of precision is reduced. On the other hand, every movement of a mechanical watch is regulated by intricate cogs and springs – this is where the value of such machines lies.

Extravagant Materials

While we know that complications can cause the value of a watch to sky-rocket, materials are equally as influential on price. Watches that boast the ability to keep accurate time into the next millennium need to be backed up by valuable and long-lasting component parts. For example, Patek Philippe’s Sky Moon Tourbillion 5002P includes a case of platinum, dial of white silver and sapphire crystal case covering, reflecting a $1.5 million price tag.

As promised

We promised to look at the most complicated watches ever made, and so we shall. As ever, it’s hard to get away from Patek Philippe who continue to push the boundaries, as with the aforementioned Sky Moon model. However, it is hard not to single out the work of three other watchmakers, Greubel Forsey, Franck Muller and Glashütte Original – the examples below ably demonstrate why:

While Franck Muller boast 36 complications, claiming ‘the most complicated wrist watch ever made’, the GMT is also truly unique. With a pop out spherical globe, it spins every 24 hours in sync with the world’s actual rotation. Finally, the Grande Cosmopolite Tourbillon is a wonder for all to see: a travelers watch like no other, it packs the world and its 37 time zones into precisely 8.72 cubic centimetres and straps it onto the traveller’s wrist. But it’s the bespoke nature of limited edition watches like Glashütte’s (only 25 were made) that provide the pure magic. They state “they will gladly exchange the city ring should there be time zone changes in the future” with an added special personalisation that the owner can have his/her home town – in the form of an IATA airport code – printed on the mechanism itself.

In Conclusion

The undoubted complexity, design and craftsmanship of, often bespoke, watches mixed with their expensive, hard-wearing component parts and limited-to-the-point-of-endangered numbers of manufacture make true luxury mechanical watches both timeless and priceless.

For a free watch valuation from experts hand-picked from auction-houses such as Sotheby’s and Bonham’s, call borro today on 0808 163 9537.

Until next time…

Clocking off, Ed Hallinan and the borro team.

About the Author: