When you buy a watch, you may notice that it has other features beyond just telling time. Telling time is often the only function you’ll really need from your watch, but what if you want more? In that case, you’ll need to decide what complications you want from your watch. Simply put, a complication is an additional function that your watch can do that goes beyond telling time. While most complications today are largely considered for aesthetic purposes, it still wouldn’t hurt to understand what they are and do.
This the most common watch complication and is fairly useful as everyone needs to know what the date is. The date complication can be shown in different ways, but the most common is through a small aperture found on the dial of the watch while the date number can be displayed either digitally or analog. It can also be displayed through a small sub dial. If shown through sub dial, a small hand will point to the date number.
The next most common watch complication is the day complication. It does exactly as it sounds, it shows you which day of the week it is. The day is typically shown the same way as the date complication, through a small aperture found on the dial. Depending on the style of the watch, the days can be fully spelled out or abbreviated. The day can also be shown through a sub dial. If shown this way, a small hand will point to what day it is.
The month complication is up next after the date and day complications. It’s just as simple as the previous two, it simply shows you what month it is. It can be displayed through a small aperture on the dial or through a smaller sub dial. The month will be displayed in an abbreviated form.
There are timepieces out there that will have the date, day, and month complication. This combination is known as the triple calendar and is considered to be just one complication. The triple calendar has two common designs. One design has the date numbers around the edge of the dial and is indicated by a hand, while the day and month are displayed through a small aperture. The second design has the date, day and month all shown through small individual sub-dials. Most watches that contain a calendar complication will require to be constantly adjusted after completing 31 24-hour cycles.
Also, another thing to note with calendars is that there is the annual calendar and the perpetual calendar. Watchmakers developed these two advanced complications so that adjustments wouldn’t need to be made every month.
The annual calendar complication will automatically adjust the date displayed on the watch based on 30- and 31-day months to ensure the correct date is always displayed. However, every year the date will need to be set at the end of February.
The perpetual calendar complication also displays the date, day, and month and it requires less adjustment than the annual calendar complication. The perpetual calendar knows the number of days in each month as well as the year. Because of this, it will automatically adjust for leap year and as long as the watch is sufficiently powered, it will never need an adjustment.
The chronograph is another common complication that is used to measure time. A chronograph can measure intervals of time without any effect to the normal time telling function of the watch, it functions the same as a stopwatch. There are a few different types of chronographs that can be found in watches today.
The standard chronograph is the most basic of the 3 and it controlled by either one or two buttons (pushers) that control the start, stop and reset functions. Early chronographs featured only one pusher, but most of today’s watches have two pushers.
The flyback chronograph is a more advanced chronograph that will allow the rapid restart of the timer function while the chronograph is running. When the chronograph pusher is pushed, it will stop, reset to zero and then restart.
The rattrapante chronograph is an additional complication within a chronograph. This features an additional seconds hands that is overlaid on the chronograph hand. It enables the measurement of multiple events occurring simultaneously.
Power Reserve Indicator
The power reserve indicator isn’t a very common complication in today’s watches. This indicates how much power your watch has left before it stops. It is found on mechanical watches and will usually be on the dial of the watch. The power reserve complication is also on some kinetic, solar-powered and spring drive movements.
Among watch enthusiasts, the moon phase complication is highly desired. While it is particularly desired for aesthetic purposes, it’s also valuable for technical reasons as well. The complication will track the current phase of the moon in the lunar cycle. It will indicate if it is a new, full, half, or quarter moon.
The complication uses a rotating disk to indicate the cycle of the moon. It illuminates the portion of the moon that we would see from Earth. The moon phase is usually displayed through an aperture on the dial which shows an actual image of the moon.
Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
For frequent travelers, GMT is a useful watch complication. It enables you to tell the time from another time zone. This is done in several ways. For example, there can be two movements in your watch, each indicating a different time zone. Also, another way is by adding a 24-hour hand. The hand can be set independently from the rest of the watch allowing you to see what time it is in the other time zone quickly.
Multifunction & Grand Complication
A watch that is considered multi function is one that has a combination of complications. For example, a timepiece that contains a day and date complication would be considered multi function. A grand complication watch is one that has several complications from different groups. For example, a watch that contains a chronograph, a moon phase, and an alarm would be considered a grand complication.
While there are plenty of other complications not listed in this post, I hope that you got an understanding of what a complication is. While most watch complications are not really needed due to smartphones, it’s still nice to have an understanding of them when choosing your next timepiece.