Watchmakers love adding complications to their timepieces. For many, creating elaborate features that go beyond just telling the time is the very reason they became watchmakers.
It’s hard to come up with a clever feature that can be powered by a watch mainspring. It’s harder to make it fit into a watch case with the timekeeping movement. It’s harder still to find a way to make the resulting complication both functional and attractive.
It happens, however, and there are dozens of complications or non-time-keeping-features that you can find on a mechanical watch. Some of them are fairly common and others are somewhat rare. A few are borderline unique (Hebrew calendar, anyone?)
While complications add a lot of flash and style to a watch and give the company that makes the watch something to brag about, many complications are not overly useful to the wearer. It goes without saying that in a world where there may be 50-60 different things a watch might be asked to do for the wearer that not all of them are going to be equally useful.
Listed below are some complications that someone who is new to the hobby of watch collecting may find to be helpful.
- Automatic movement – Winding a watch is a pain. It’s not as bad as it used to be, back before we had cellphones and atomic clocks to keep us apprised of the correct time. Back then, you had to wind a run-down watch to get it going again and then find someone who had the correct time to set it. Those days are gone, but it’s still easier to have a watch wind itself automatically.
- Chronograph – The ability to time how long something takes using a built-in stopwatch function is one of the most popular of complications, and racers, pilots and just people who like watches that have lots of dials and buttons on them like having a chronograph. They look busy, so people think you must be important if you’re wearing one.
- Dual time zone watch – Some watches have the ability to display the time in two time zones at once. That’s helpful if you travel; you can see the time at home and the time where you are. A dual time zone watch is far more helpful than a World Time watch, which shows you the time everywhere. Those watches are just showing off.
- Perpetual calendar – Lots of watches have the date, or the day and the date. A perpetual calendar takes it a step further, providing you with a calendar that also remembers which months have 30 days, which have 31 and which month is February. Most day/date watches can’t do this, so you’ll have to fumble with them every few months. With a perpetual calendar, you’ll have to do it once a century or so.
These are the complications that a novice watch collector will likely find to the most helpful if they’re wearing their watch on a day to day basis. Obviously, everyone is going to have different needs, so one person might find a minute repeater to be more helpful than a perpetual calendar, for instance.
That’s up to you. All of the complications above are likely to be useful most of the time.