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There is a special fascination surrounding watch models with Grande Complication. For some watch enthusiasts, acquiring such an exclusive luxury watch is comparable to finding the Holy Grail. However, even for watch collectors who want to expand their watch collection, the complexity and intricate craftsmanship involved in designing and manufacturing such timepieces is a reason for intense engagement with the topic of complicated watches. We want to take a closer look at the functionality and history of watches with Grande Complication at this point.

 

What is a Grande Complication?

The term "Grande Complication" comes from French and means "great complication". It describes a highly complex mechanical movement with a series of elaborate additional functions. Although many watch manufacturers often label their special luxury watches with the addition of Grande Complication, there is no uniform definition for how many additional functions qualify as a grand complication. However, the term indicates that a Grande Complication is a luxury watch that goes far beyond the technical standard of a regular movement. The display of hours, minutes, and seconds are commonly known functions of a movement. If additional complications, also called "kadratures", are added to these functions, then the movement is referred to as having complications, which qualifies a watch for the title of Grande Complication.

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Even though watches labeled as Grande Complication can reach high prices at auctions and acquiring such a timepiece can prove to be a long-term investment, it has always been the ambition of watchmakers that has driven the development of complicated watches. In the past, the flagship of a watch manufacturer was often also referred to as a Grande Complication. The complexity of this timepiece defined many companies and measured themselves against other competitors.

 

What are complications?

Complications are modular additional functions that utilize the watch movement, but are not counted as part of it. The term "complication" comes from the late Latin word "complicatio", which described the winding or entangling of something. The appearance of a watch movement is already complex enough with its multitude of gears, pivots, and crowns. When one considers the many additional, intricate components of a complication, the term "entanglement" makes perfect sense. There are a variety of different additional functions, some of which we would like to introduce to you in more detail.

Power Reserve

The power reserve is an important feature in mechanical wristwatches that measures the amount of time a watch can run without being wound. It is essentially a gauge that shows how much energy is left in the mainspring before it needs to be wound again. The power reserve is usually displayed on the dial of the watch or on a separate subdial.

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The structure of the power reserve is relatively simple. In a manual-winding watch, the power reserve is directly linked to the mainspring barrel. As the mainspring is wound, the power reserve indicator moves from empty to full. When the watch is running, the power reserve decreases gradually until it reaches zero, indicating that the watch needs to be wound again.

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In an automatic watch, the power reserve works a little differently. The watch is powered by the movement of the wearer's wrist, which causes a rotor to spin and wind the mainspring. When the watch is fully wound, the power reserve indicator will show the maximum amount of power available. As the watch is worn, the power reserve decreases, and when the watch is taken off and left unworn, the power reserve will gradually run down until it needs to be wound again.

Moonphase

Moonphase is a popular and traditional complication found in many wristwatches. The function of a moonphase display is to show the current phase of the moon in its lunar cycle. This feature is especially useful for those who rely on the moon's phases for activities such as fishing, hunting, or even gardening.

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The structure of a moonphase complication usually consists of a small disk with two moons and several stars. This disk is located under the dial and rotates once every 29.5 days to reflect the actual lunar cycle. A gear system is used to connect the moonphase disk to the watch movement, which in turn powers the rotation of the disk.

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The moonphase display is typically set through a button or a crown located on the side of the watch. To set the display accurately, the watchmaker will need to determine the exact position of the moon in relation to the sun, as this affects the accuracy of the moonphase function.

Repetition striking mechansim

Repetition striking mechanisms are a complex and impressive feature found in some high-end wristwatches. They allow the wearer to hear the time displayed on the watch through a series of chimes or strikes. The mechanism uses hammers and gongs to produce sound that indicates the hours, quarters, and minutes.

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The structure of repetition striking mechanisms consists of a system of levers, hammers, gongs, and springs. When activated, the levers move the hammers, which then strike the gongs to produce sound. The number of strikes and their pattern depends on the time being displayed on the watch.

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There are two main types of repetition striking mechanisms: the minute repeater and the quarter repeater. The minute repeater chimes the hours, quarters, and minutes on demand. It is activated by a slide or button on the side of the case. The quarter repeater chimes the hours and quarters only and is activated in the same way.

Calendar

The simplest type of calendar is a date display, which shows the current date using a small aperture on the watch dial. A more advanced version of this is the annual calendar, which can accurately display the date for all months of the year, except for February.

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A perpetual calendar is the most complex and sophisticated type of calendar in a wristwatch, which can accurately display the date, day of the week, month, and even leap years without needing any adjustment until the year 2100. It does so by using a series of mechanical components, including gears, levers, and cams, to track the varying lengths of months and leap years.

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The mechanism of a perpetual calendar is highly intricate, as it requires numerous gears to interact with one another to keep track of the date. Typically, the gears are made of brass or steel and are precisely cut and polished to ensure accurate operation. Additionally, a leap year indicator is included to show when an additional day needs to be added to February.

World Timer

The structure of world timers usually involves a rotating bezel or an additional sub-dial that displays the 24-hour clock. The main function of a world timer is to allow the wearer to easily determine the time in different cities or time zones. Some world timers are designed to display the time in two or three different time zones, while others can display the time in dozens of different cities around the world.

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In addition to the main function of displaying the time in different time zones, world timers often have additional features such as a day/night indicator, a date display, and a stopwatch. Some high-end world timers even include a perpetual calendar, which automatically adjusts for leap years and the varying number of days in each month.

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The structure of a world timer watch usually involves a central hour and minute hand, with an additional 24-hour hand or sub-dial that rotates once every 24 hours to display the time in another time zone. The outer bezel or sub-dial displays the names of different cities or time zones, which are usually marked with their corresponding GMT or UTC offsets. World timers can be operated in a variety of ways, depending on the specific watch design. Some world timers require the user to manually adjust the time zone using a crown or push-button, while others are equipped with an automatic adjustment mechanism that updates the time zone based on the wearer's location.

Chronograph

Chronographs are wristwatches equipped with a stopwatch function that allows the wearer to measure elapsed time with precision. This feature is useful for a variety of activities, such as racing, diving, and aviation, where precise timing is essential.

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The chronograph function is operated through additional buttons or pushers on the side of the watch case, which control the start, stop, and reset of the stopwatch. When the chronograph function is activated, the watch's central seconds hand begins to move around the dial, measuring elapsed time in seconds, while other sub-dials display minutes and hours.

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Chronographs can be constructed in different ways, with some using a column wheel system and others using a cam system to control the start, stop, and reset functions of the stopwatch. Column wheel chronographs are often considered the more sophisticated option, as they are more complex to manufacture and offer smoother and more precise operation.

Flyback-Chronograph

A flyback chronograph is a variation of the traditional chronograph that allows for quick and easy timing of successive events. Unlike a standard chronograph that requires the user to stop, reset, and restart the timer for each new event, a flyback chronograph allows the user to restart the timer with a single push of a button, without having to stop and reset the hands.

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The mechanism behind a flyback chronograph is complex and requires precision engineering. At the heart of the mechanism is a specialized cam that controls the movements of the chronograph hands. When the user presses the flyback button, the cam disengages the chronograph hands from the movement and resets them to zero. At the same time, the mechanism immediately starts the timer again, allowing the user to time a new event without any delay.

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To achieve this function, a flyback chronograph has additional components compared to a standard chronograph. One of the key components is the heart-shaped cam that controls the movements of the chronograph hands. Another important component is the sliding gear that controls the resetting of the chronograph hands to zero. Additionally, flyback chronographs often have more jewels in their movement to ensure smooth and precise operation.

Rattrapante

Rattrapante, also known as a split-seconds chronograph, is a type of chronograph mechanism that allows the timing of two events simultaneously. The rattrapante mechanism allows the timing of a primary event, such as a race, while simultaneously allowing the timing of intermediate events, such as lap times.

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The structure of a rattrapante is similar to a standard chronograph, with an additional set of hands and a mechanism that allows the user to stop and restart the second hand independently. In a rattrapante, the second hand is divided into two parts, with one part controlled by the main chronograph mechanism and the other by the rattrapante mechanism.

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To use a rattrapante, the user starts the chronograph and both second hands begin to move simultaneously. When the user wants to measure an intermediate time, they press the rattrapante button, which stops one of the second hands while the other continues to move. The user can then read the intermediate time while the main chronograph continues to measure the overall elapsed time. When the user is ready to resume measuring the overall time, they press the rattrapante button again, and the stopped hand instantly catches up to the other one, and both continue to move together.

Foudroyante

A foudroyante is a type of complication in a wristwatch that is also known as a "jumping seconds" or "split-second" hand. This mechanism is used to measure small intervals of time with precision, such as fractions of a second.

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The foudroyante hand is located in the center of the watch dial and it moves in a circular motion just like the regular seconds hand. However, the foudroyante hand moves much faster and completes a full rotation multiple times per second. It appears as if the hand is jumping from one second to the next. This allows the watch wearer to accurately measure time intervals that are shorter than a full second.

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The mechanism that drives the foudroyante is usually located underneath the dial of the watch. It involves a complex system of gears and levers that work together to control the movement of the foudroyante hand. One of the key components is a split-second or rattrapante mechanism that allows the foudroyante hand to be stopped independently of the regular seconds hand. This allows the user to compare two different time intervals with precision.

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