Complicated watches do more that tell time. The extra functions above the basic function of telling time are referred to as complications. In short, a mechanical watch with any other function in addition to telling time is called a complicated watch.
Date display is the simplest and most common complication. This is where a wrist watch has the current date displayed on the face via a date window, pointer date, or a sub-dial.
Simple Calendar/Day and Date Display: A simple calendar watch with a small calendar window on the dial where the day and date today are displayed. Also known as quantiame complet, or full calendar, it requires updating at the end of 30-days months and at the end of February. A triple calendar or complete calendar displays the date, day and month.
Annual Calendar: Displays the day, date and month. It self-adjusts for 30 and 31-day months requiring manual adjustment once a year at the end of February.
Perpetual Calendar: A perpetual calendar is a sophisticated calendar that displays the date, day, month and four year cycle in a perpetual (continuous) manner, accounting for the different lengths of the months and leap year’s day. It will automatically adjust for leap year. The next time a perpetual calendar will have to be adjusted manually is in the year 2100.
Equation of Time: Did you know that only 4 days a year are exactly 24 hours long! The actual solar length of most days varies by as much as 16 minutes shorter and 14 minutes longer. The equation of time is a sophisticated calendar watch which takes into account the equation of time measuring the minutes difference there is between the calendar time and the actual solar time. It indicates the addition or subtraction of minutes for the day. This is hard enough to program in modern digital pieces like Apple or Fossil watches, but to think of it being done mechanically boggles the mind!
This is the most popular complication. A chronograph watch is a wristwatch with a stop watch function. It not only shows the current time but can also be used to measure elapsed time in seconds, and sometimes sub seconds, minutes or hours. For example, measuring time intervals in sports. The stopwatch function is controlled by a start/stop button and a reset button. Chronograph watch dials have 3 sub-dials that keep track of tenths of seconds, minutes, or hours for the stopwatch function. There are simple and sophisticated chronographs: simple chronograph, tachymeter, pulsation scale (pulsometer), telemeter, flyback chronograph, and rattrapante. Learn more about these timing complications.
Duo Time/Travel Complications
Dual Movement: A duo time zone watch with dual movement has two movements running separately. There are independent of each other and are powered and set separately.
Duo Time Zone: A duo time zone watch where both time zones are powered by the same movement. You can set it so that it displays your home time and the local time for your current destination. The time for the second time zone can be displayed using a 24hr hand, a sub dial or a window with a digital display.
GMT Watches: GMT or UTC watches show the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and the home time. This kind of watch has the usual hour hand plus a second 24hr hour hand that can be set independently to display the time in another time zone instead of the GMT time, in which case it functions as a duo time zone watch. The 24hr system makes it easy to tell whether the time is am or pm.
World Timer: A World Timer is the most sophisticated travel complication. It displays all the time zones around the world. You can tell the time at home as well as determine the time for each of the 24 time zones.
A world timer has a rotating inner bezel (a ring surrounding the dial) with a 24hr display and an outer bezel where major cities in the 24 time zones are listed. The main dial displays the home time. The user sets the outer bezel and can tell the time in a specific city and therefore time zone by reading the scale next to the city the hand is pointing to. Some world timers also have a day/night indicator where a coloured/shaded band shows the time zones experiencing daylight and those experiencing darkness.
Minute Repeater: A watch that can chime the hours, quarter hours, and minutes on demand with the push of a button or the pull of a lever. It uses different distinguishing tones depending on whether it is hours, quarter hours, or minutes. You can tell the time by listening not looking.
Alarm Watch: A wristwatch with a built-in chime mechanism that can be set to ring at a predetermined time notifying he person when that time is reached.
Moon Phase: The moon phase complication shows the current phase of the moon on the watch face. The current face – full, half, quarter or new- is displayed via a moon phase indicator on the watch dial. The changing face of the moon are reproduced on the dial. This early complication was especially useful for night travellers who needed the light of the moon to help find their way and fishermen and sailors who used it to determine tides.
Star Chart- Shows where the star constellations are located. Great for star gazers or amateur astronomers.
Planetarium- Indicates the alignment of the solar system and displays on the dial where some of the planet’s in the solar system are positioned.
While the definition of a complicated watch is that any function beyond telling time in hours, minutes and seconds is a complication, automatic winding mechanisms or devices for cancelling out rate disparities in vertical positions, such as the tourbillon and the carrousel, are also considered complications:
Automatic Watch – The traditional mechanical watch is manually wound by hand. An automatic winding mechanical watch is self-winding. It has a rotating rotor, a semi-circle shaped disc, that rotates to capture energy from the wearers wrist motion and wind the watch. Manual winding is not necessary as long as the watch is being worn. Learn more about ladies automatic watches.
Power Reserve Indicator: An sub-dial or linear indicator found on mechanical or automatic watches. It displays the time remaining before the watch stops and needs to be rewound.
Tourbillon – A tourbillon is a small rotating cage that houses the balance, hairspring and escapement. This rotation counteracts the effect of gravity on the accuracy of the watch. The rotating mechanism is displayed via an opening in the dial.
Carrousel: The carrousel is an exceptional and rare complication that counteracts the effect of gravity on the accuracy of watches, just like a tourbillon.