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Complications

Complications is a delightful term used in horology that you will often hear complications mentioned in association with a manufacturers high end, most expensive and luxurious watches, or often their flagship models. A complication is technically anything beyond the simple display of hours, minutes and seconds on any form of timepiece (be it a watch, pocket watch or even a marine timepiece). Any watch that does not contain a form of complication is known as a "simple movement" timepiece, however more simple additions such as chronometer, date function and auto winding (and even the tourbillion in certain cases) are not considered complications. To produce a complications watch a horologist must be seen to be innovating in some way and producing something exciting and unique.

Some examples of more common complications include a zodiac display, astrolabe dial, solar time display, date calculator, second time zone, alarm and on occasion a month display. A complication can also count on a watch even if it has nothing whatsoever to do with timekeeping or telling the time, for example a thermometer or barometer can be counted as complications even though they do not complicate the actual timekeeping mechanism itself. Purists however will argue that these are not complications, and this often leads to a great degree of difficulty when classifying accurately what is and what is not a complication on a timepiece. The essence of the complication is that it must be seen to be complicating the mechanism as a horological challenge, not simply in an effort to cram more features onto a timepiece to justify a higher price. Complications should be used as a celebration of horology and a demonstration of watch-making prowess.

You may also hear mention of grand complications, this simply refers to any watch that contains at least three complications that fall into whatever criteria is being used to measure the validity of the complication itself. One of each of the complications must come from one of three groups referred to as visual indicators (including many chronograph functions), astronomical indicators (including many calendars and perpetual calendars and moon phase displays) and finally acoustic indicators (including repeaters and alarms). So a watch that features a counter chronograph, perpetual calendar and a passing strike indicator would be considered a grand complication as it features a complication from each of the three categories.

The most complicated watch in the world (in the horological complications sense, not the hard to operate sense) is a subject of much debate, however the Patek Phillipe Calibre 89 is a contender as it features 33 complications made from 1728 parts. This watch is however a pocket watch, the most complicated wrist watch is the IWC companies Il Destriero Scafusia which contains 21 complications made from 750 individual parts. The perpetual calendar on this timepiece is so precise that it will display the exact day, date, month, year, leap year and century correctly until 2499. The moon phase display is also the most accurate ever produced and will not need correcting until 2115, when it will need a one day adjustment. Complications are a wonderful celebration of the art of horology .