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What is a watch complication?

You may think that watch ‘complications’ seem like a very complicated thing to get your head around ;) but it’s actually very simple. A watch complication is simply any other functions a watch has other than telling the basic time. See, told you it was simple. There's a few different types of complications which vary in complexity, so get yourself a cuppa and let’s take a look at them.

Date complications

Date complications are fairly straight forward to understand. It is the addition of a date display on the dial.

There are a few variations of date displays, including:

· Date window (aka an aperture): This shows the day of the month

· Big date: Same as the date window, just bigger.

· Subsidiary dial: This shows the date on a smaller dial within the main dial

· Pointer date: On these, the dates are displays around the edge of the dial and there will be a hand which points to the correct date.

· Day-date: This shows both the day of the week and the day of the month

· Triple calendar: This shows the day of the week, the day of the month and the actual month.

· Annual calendar: Has the same displays as a triple calendar however it will only need to be adjusted when moving from Feb to March, as it does not take into account leap years. All of the other long and short months will be taken into account automatically.

· Perpetual calendar: This is the same as an annual calendar, however it also takes into account for leap years. This means the dates displayed will stay accurate for many years.

· Equation of time: Have the same features of a perpetual calendar, but also show the difference between solar time and calendar time.

Chronograph complications

A chronograph is basically a stopwatch which can be used in many types of ways, including timing an event, measuring time remaining of an event, calculating speed etc.

There is typically a separate dial and hand, used exclusively for the chronograph, independent from the main dial and hands. There will also be additional buttons on the watch to start/stop the chronograph, and reset it.

Tourbillion complications

A tourbillion complication maintains balance within a watch by reducing the effects of gravity on the watches timekeeping mechanisms. It neutralizes timekeeping errors, making the watch more accurate.

GMT complications

This is a Greenwich mean time complication which allows the user to keep track of two different time zones.

The watch will have a 24 hour dial around the circumference of the main dial, and a GMT hand which is used to read the 24 hour dial. The 24 hour dial can be rotated in order to be set appropriately to the time zone the user wants to track.

Moon phase complications

A moon phase complication does what it says on the tin; it keeps track of the moon phases.

The watch will tell you if the moon is a new moon, waxing moon, full moon, or a waning moon. This was primarily used by sailors to make tidal calculations.

Power reserve indicator complication

This complication shows the user how much power is left in the watch, however this is only a useful function for mechanical watches as electric watches are powered by batteries which last for months.

It does this by measuring the tension left in the mainspring which tells the mechanism how much elastic potential energy is left in the watch.

Repeater complication

This complication allows the user to hear the time if they cent see the dial of their watch.

There will be a button or lever on the watch which will activate the repeater when pressed. This will cause the watch to chime when a certain time is reached. There are a few types of repeaters such as: hour, quarter hour, 5 minutes, and minutes (e.g. a 5 minute repeater will chime every 5 minutes).


And that’s all of the main complications that can be found on a watch. There really is a watch for everything! Hope you have found this guide useful, and have a good day :)


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