Some Not So Useful Watch Complications

In my last post, I talked about watch complications in general, what they are, why we have them and then listed a few complications that I thought might be useful to a watch owner.

Many complications (and there are dozens) are useful to watch owners, and that is why some of them, such as the date and chronograph features, turn up in hundreds of different models each year.  They truly are beneficial, and people often buy specific watches because they have those features.

Vacheron Constantin World time watch
A world time watch

Not all complications are equal, however, and some of them are a lot less useful than others.  In fact, some of them might not be of any use to the average person at all.  Of course, you will pay for any complication, as they cost more money to add to the watch, but here are few complications that likely won’t improve your life in any way:

    • Moon phases – A display that shows the phases of the moon is an increasingly common complication, and oddly enough, it’s turning up increasingly frequently on watches for women.  It hasn’t quite reached the status of being known exclusively as a “woman’s complication,” but it’s getting there.  Still – when was the last time that you cared at all about the current phase of the moon?
    • A foudroyante – A what?  Also known as a “flying seconds hand,” a foudroyante is a dial indicating fractions of a second.  While this isn’t a common complication, it is an odd one; there’s a hand or marker on the face of the watch that rotates every second.  It’s not really useful in any way; it’s just another way to run down your mainspring.
foudroyante watch
A watch with a foudroyante
  • Position of the planets – A few watches have an indicator on the face of the watch that will show you the relative positioning of the planets.  If you occasionally need to know the position of Venus vis a vis Neptune, then this might be useful to you.  On the other hand, if such things are important to you, you probably already work at either an observatory of a planetarium.  In all likelihood, this one isn’t particularly useful to anyone.
  • World time – This one is particularly odd, especially in its full-blown incarnation.  A world time watch will show you the time of day in all of the world’s time zones.  How many is that?  24, you say?  No, it’s actually 37, as there are some very small time zones that are off by 15 minutes or 30 minutes from the rest of us.    A true, 37 time zone world time watch is a remarkable piece of engineering, but it’s not overly useful.  You’ll thank me for this, because such watches are very rare and very, very expensive.
  • A tourbillon – Purists will argue that a tourbillon, a rotating cage that contains the balance wheel and escapement of a watch movement, isn’t really a complication.  It’s an increasingly popular feature, however, as the engineers get to show off how talented they are and you get to see the rotating mechanism through a window on the face of your watch.  Originally thought to make watches more accurate, a tourbillon today is more an excuse to dramatically increase the price of the watch than anything else.

Of course, one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor, and while I don’t think these complications are useful, others may regard them as essential.  The kind of features you want to see in a watch is up to you.


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