The basic purpose of a watch is to allow the wearer to be able to tell the time. That’s a helpful feature, and the entire reason why we have watches in the first place.
Over the years, watchmakers have added additional features to wristwatches, and these features that are not complications make things more complicated about displaying the time are known as “complications.” As I have mentioned previously, for the watchmaker, as squeezing new features into an existing form factor is quite difficult, and it’s even harder to make it both useful and attractive to the wearer.
Often, complications simply reflect the watchmaker’s efforts to show that they are clever and competent, and the more unusual the complication, the more attention the company will receive.
That’s fine, but from a practical standpoint, not all complications are equally useful to the wearer, even though all complications necessarily increase the price of the watch, often significantly.
Listed below are five complications that most watch owners will find to be helpful things to have on their watch besides the basic display of time:
- Power reserve – With a manually-wound mechanical watch, the spring will run out of power eventually, leaving the watch unable to run. It’s a simple matter to wind it again, but a power reserve indicator will clearly display the state of the mainspring, giving the owner an idea as to when the watch will need to be wound again.
- Date – This is one of the most common complications, but it is a useful one. If knowing the time is important, knowing the date is likely almost equally so. A date feature is a fairly basic complication; a day-date complication is a much more elaborate and difficult mechanism to add to a watch.
- Minute repeater – This is not a common complication, but a minute repeater, which chimes at certain intervals that are usually user-adjustable, can be helpful. It can function as an alarm, and if you have to meet an appointment, it can let you know when it’s time. A repeater can also let you know the time when it isn’t convenient to look at your watch, such as when it is dark.
- Chronograph – A chronograph is basically a stopwatch function that allows you to time events independently of the timekeeping function of the watch. Many people think this is a useful complication, as chronograph watches are among the most popular models sold on the market, and have been for decades.
- Dual time zones – Some watches are able to display the time in more than one time zone at once. There are also watches that can show you the time in all timezones, but those are more an example of showing off than producing usefulness. Still, if you travel a lot, having a watch that shows you the time both at home and where you happen to be can be handy.
Some of these complications are more common than others. A minute repeater, for example, is fairly rare (and expensive,) while a chronograph or a date complication are fairly common and affordable.
Still, all of them can be useful to a large percentage of people who wear wristwatches on a regular basis.