07/12/2022
 2 minutes

Watch Complications: Why are functions called complications, and should you own a watch with them?

By Thomas Hendricks
05-Complications-Magazin 2-1
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Watches with high-end complications are widely popular among watch enthusiasts. But did you know that even a date window is a complication? Learn everything you need to know about “complicated” watches in our short Chrono24 guide.

What are complications?

Watches are machines, and some machines are more technical than others. Any feature that displays information beyond hours, minutes, and seconds is known as a complication. Common examples include date indicators, chronographs for timing, GMT hands and world timers for showing additional time zones, and calendar functions showing the day of the week, the month, or the moon phase. Less common ones include alarms, équation du temps, and minute repeaters, but we’ll save those for a separate article.

The Patek Philippe Worldtimer: a watch that shows many time zones

Are tourbillons complications?

One quick note: Tourbillons are complicated, but they are technically not a complication, because a tourbillon’s purpose is to regulate timekeeping instead of showing additional information. So, a complication does not necessarily mean that its respective watch is harder to produce than one without a complication. Tourbillons in any case are known to be very difficult to produce and therefore expensive.

Should you buy a watch with complications?

Complications are cool because they’re useful, and they demonstrate the capability and intricacy of watchmaking. Quartz watches can have complications too, of course, but they lack the magic of a finely tuned mechanical timepiece. If you take a look at a complicated movement, you’ll see what resembles a small city at work.

The downside of complications is that they involve more parts, often hundreds of tiny components, and are therefore more costly to service. Vintage examples especially may require some extra knowledge and an extra repair budget. Another potential downside is that these additional parts require more real estate inside the movement and result in thicker and/or wider cases.

Before we had apps on our phones, we had complications on our watches. Even now, with a phone in every pocket, it’s easier to peek at your chronograph when you’re boiling pasta or glance at your GMT when you’re calling home. And there you have it, the simple pleasures of complications.


About the Author

Thomas Hendricks

I didn’t grow up a watch guy, but a few years after graduating from university, I landed a job at the online publication Watchonista as a writer and marketer. “Welcome to the watch world,” my colleagues told me half-jokingly, “no one ever leaves!” Now at Chrono24, I work as a private client advisor, helping people find the perfect watch for major life moments.

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