When you buy a watch, the least it should do is tell you the time. After all, that is what your watch can do best. But what if you want more functions from your watch? In that case you need to look for the so called watch complications. A complication is a function of your watch that goes beyond telling the time. We’d love to tell you more about different types of complications and what they do.
The most common complication is the date complication, because a lot of us find it very useful to know the date as well. The date can be shown in a number of different ways, but the most common one is through a small aperture on the dial. However, there are watches where the date is written down at the edge of the dial and indicated by a separate hand. Another way the date can be indicated is through the use of a small sub-dial. On this little dial the dates are printed and indicated by a small hand.
The next watch complication we’ll discuss is the logical evolution of the date indication, it’s the day indication. This complication shows you which day it is. The day is often shown in the same manner as the date, through a small aperture. Sometimes the day is fully spelled out, but most of the times the day is abbreviated. It can also be shown through a small sub-dial on the dial. In this way a small hand will indicate what day it is.
After the day and date, we arrive at the month complication. This one shares the same principle as the day and date complication, it shows you which month it is. The month can be shown through a small aperture on the dial, as well as through a small sub-dial with a separate hand. The month is almost always shown as an abbreviation.
A timepiece which indicates all three watch complications (day, date and month) has a different name because the combination is also seen as one watch complication. This complication is called the triple or complete calendar. Concerning the design there are two common design. The first design exist out of the day and month indication through a small aperture on the dial and the date through a hand. The hand points to the date at the edge of the dial. The second design exists out of the indication of the day, date and month all through sub-dials with separate hands.
With reference to calendars there are two other variations, namely the annual and perpetual calendar. The annual calendar knows the difference between long and short months, but does not account for leap years and needs to be set properly manually at the end of February. The perpetual calendar does take leap years into account and does not need to be set at the end of February. This means that as long as the watch has sufficient power, it will never need adjustment.
Often combined with a triple, annual or perpetual calendar is a moon phase indicator. This doesn’t mean the moon phase indicator only exists on calendar watches. Through this complication you can see the phase of the moon. This complication used to be very useful for sailors to gauge the tides. Nowadays the complication is mostly used for esthetic purposes.
The multifunction is not a complication in itself, but rather a combination of complications. The strict definition of a multifunction watch is a watch with two or more complications. Usually these complications are the day, date and a 24-hour hand. This does not mean that this is the only way a multiunction watch can be executed. There are countless combinations of complications possible. For example a moon phase with a date or running seconds.
Another common complication is the chronograph. This complication gives you the ability to measure time. Usually you can measure seconds and minutes, but there also chronographs that can measure 1/20 or even 1/100 of a second and hours.
In the early days of the chronograph, they were operated by just one pusher. But after Breitling introduced a chronograph with two pushers, it became the industry standard. Since then chronographs that can be operated with one pusher have become rarer, more exclusive and more expensive. The advantage of a double pusher chronograph is that it can measure interrupted time. This means that the chronograph can start, stop, then start again (the chronograph will resume from its current position) and then be stopped again.
What is often combined with a chronograph is a tachymeter. This is a scale which, in combination with the chronograph, can tell the speed of a moving object. This scale is usually in kilometers per hour. This scale is only valid in the first minute the chronograph is activated. But how does a tachymeter work?
The tachymeter measures the speed of a moving object across a distance of one kilometer. You start the chronograph when the object starts moving. When your object has travelled one kilometer, you stop the chronograph. The position of the second hand of the chronograph point to a certain value. This is the measured speed of the object.
A useful watch complication for frequent travelers among us is the GMT-complication. It enables your watch to tell the time from another time zone. This complication can be executed in several ways. There can be two movements in your watch, both indicating a different time zone. Another way is by adding a 24-hour hand. This hand can be set independently from the rest of the watch. This enables you to quickly see what time it is in the other time zone and if it’s noon or midnight.
A not so common complication is a power reserve. This indicates how much power your watch has left before it stops. The power reserve can be found on mechanical movements, but also on kinetic, solar-powered and Spring Drive movements.
The last of the watch complications we’ll discuss is a controversial one, because there is a lot of contradicting information on the internet. It can also be discussed whether it even is a complication. It’s the water resistance of your watch. Even some manufacturers don’t agree on what can be done with a certain water resistance. We often take this watch complication for granted, because it’s normal to be able to wash your hand wearing your watch, right? However there are different grades which tell you what you can do in and around the water. The higher the water resistance, the less you have to worry. It is usually indicated in ATM, but can also be indicated by meters. Furthermore, it usually varies between 3 and 20 ATM. This doesn’t mean that this is the maximum depth a watch can withstand. There are watches that can go a lot deeper than 20 ATM, but the common values lie within the range between 3 and 20 ATM.
With a water resistance of 3 ATM you can wash your hands and walk through the rain without a problem. With 5 ATM you can safely shower and with 10 ATM you can even swim. But if you want to go deep sea diving we recommend purchasing a true divers watch.