What is a Grand Complication?

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Complication is a term for watches that feature more than just a simple display of passing hours and minutes. A watch that only shows this much is referred to as a simple movement. Most of the common complications offered as commercial watches will utilise a day/date display, an alarm and a chronograph. This also presents the problem of having to apply years of expertise to the task of crafting complex complications. They are much more difficult to assemble and repair than your average simple movement. In most cases a complication with a date-display and chronograph will consist of 250 parts, whereas the more complex complications will be made up of thousands of parts. Often these grand complications will exhibit an array of functions, including intricate features dedicated to astronomy. Since the 16th century watchmakers have experimented with the creation of various complicated and cluttered watches. Yet over the centuries none have matched the Franck Muller Aeternitas Mega 4, widely regard as the world’s most complicated timepieces, fitted with a total of 36 complications, 25 of which are visible.  has a staggering 1483 components and 1000-year calendar to boot.

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In recent years companies like Breguet, Patek Phillipe and Vacheron Constantin have reverted back to this tradition of chasing the elusive grand complication and adding their achievements to the halls of Haute Horlogerie, in the interest of exhibiting watchmaking at its finest. However the grand complication remains difficult to define and many experts are left debating what actually constitutes a watch of this kind.

“The more complications you want the more problems you have…”

– Osvaldo Patrizzi, founder of Antiquorum, an international Swiss auction house.

Osvaldo Patrizzi was one of the experts who debated the matter of what actually makes a grand complication. Eventually they reached the verdict that it had to feature a minute repeater, perpetual calendar, moon phase, grand and petite sonnerie and split-second chronograph.



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