Watch 101: Complications

Posted on August 05 2018

Watch 101: Complications


DEFINED: A complication is any function on a watch other than the display of the time.


Chronograph (Stopwatch)

  • One Button Chronograph (Monopoussoir): A stopwatch feature on the watch, the one button chronograph cannot measure interrupted time spans.
  • Split-seconds Chronograph (Rattrapante): Split-seconds chronograph will have three pushers on the case and two second hands on the chronograph, one right on top of the other.
  • Flyback Chronograph (Retour-En-Vol): The Flyback is designed so that when a second button is pushed while the stopwatch is running, all counters reset and start from zero.
  • Tachymeter: An instrument for measuring speed. Typically, a scale is placed on the outer or inner bezel of a watch.


Date Display

  • Date Window: Displays the calendar date, the window is also referred to as an aperture.
  • Big Date: Larger display view of the date and is significantly more legible than the traditional date window.
  • Pointer Date: A hand with an arrow points to the date along the outside periphery, or chapter, of the dial. This is sometimes called a “Bankers” date.
  • Subsidiary Dial Displays: The date on a small subdial.
  • Day-Date: The Day-Date adds the day of the week to the date complication.



  • Triple Calendar: Also called a “complete calendar,” the triple calendar adds the day of the week and also the month of the year.
  • Perpetual Calendar: The most complex type of calendar feature, it accurately displays the date, day, month, year and leap year.
  • Annual Calendar: The movement of intermediary complication between a perpetual calendar and a triple calendar. It is not programmed to take leap years into account and will continue to run to the 31st in February before advancing to the first of March.
  • Equation of Time: Incorporates all the features of a standard perpetual calendar with one additional feature: the measurement between “calendar time” and “solar time.”


Time Zone

  • Dual Movement: Contains two separate movements, each running from their own power source and each set independently.
  • Dual Time: Displays two different times.
  • GMT (Greenwich Mean Time): The watch displays two or more time zones.
  • World Time Zone: Feature has a rotating inner bezel with 24-hour display and an outer bezel, listing the major cities in each of the 24 time zones. The user sets the outer bezel.


Other Complications

  • Alarm: An alarm function can be found on manual, automatic, and quartz movements. An alarm time can be set independently of the main time to remind the wearer of an event.
  • Helium Escape Valve: Allows pressure from diving in the sea to escape via a valve when the pressure is greater inside the watch than outside.
  • Jump Hour: A complication in which the hour is displayed in a window that instantly changes every 60 minutes
  • Luminosity: Feature where the dial has glow-in-the dark hands and hour markers.
  • Minute Repeater: A movement that chimes out time when a lever on the side of the case is activated.
  • Moonphase Complication: Shows if it is a full, half, quarter, or new moon.
  • Power Reserve Indicator: Measures the amount of power remaining in the watch by the tension of the mainspring and displays (for mechanical watches).
  • Shock Resistance: Allows a watch’s gears, movement and parts to move with the impact of the shock after which it returns to a normal position under pressure from small springs.
  • Tourbillon: The Tourbillon improves the balance of the watch, eliminating timekeeping errors caused by gravity and changing watch positions. Commonly used in high-quality watches.
  • Water resistant: A watch is generally considered water resistant if it can withstand the pressure of 30 meters (99 feet). Sometimes a watch’s water resistance is referred to in atmospheres. An atmosphere or “ATM” is 10 meters; therefore a watch with 3 ATMs is water resistant to 30 meters.


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