Watch Complications

What Are Watch Complications?

Many watches have many different functions that enhance the wearer’s life, whether it’s a date aperture, the ability to read dual time zones or a power reserve indicator – the list goes on. It’s these features that are given the title of complications. Basically, anything other than telling the time is classed as a watch complication and is designed to simplify your life at a glance of your wrist. Some watches feature more than others but typically a watch will include one complication.  

Those that feature a lot of complications are more difficult to design and manufacture due to the amount of added elements to the standard movement. Intricate, complex functions such as a tourbillon or minute repeater are highly regarded due to the skill needed to produce such a piece. It takes technical innovation and precise engineering to design and handcraft an impressive movement that operates different complications.

Watch Complications List

So, let’s break it down and explain each watch complication that you will find in the industry.

Day and Date Display

As the title suggests, this complication displays the date and day of the month on the dial. It is the simplest complication and many timepieces utilise this feature. Brands and designs choose to display this function in different ways from just the date read numerically through the aperture window or with a second window exposing the day of the week to the dates of the month circling the dial with a hand that points to the exact date. Some may go a step further and include the month of the year too.


Allowing wearer’s to measure intervals without disrupting the telling of time, the chronograph complication guarantees accuracy. There are three different chronographs in total including the standard, flyback and rattrapante. Controlled by one or two pushers, the wearer is able start, stop and reset by the push of a button with the standard chronograph fastened to their wrist. A flyback chronograph allows for a quick restart of the timer function even when it is already running and the rattrapante (French for split seconds) includes an additional seconds hand that times more than one event at the same time.  

Power Reserve 

The power reserve indicator visually shows how long your watch will keep ticking before needing rewinding. Each watch has their own unique power reserve ranging from 36-42 hours to 15 days depending on the timepiece in question. There are different ways of including a power reserve indicator on the dial either using plus and minus signs, a dial, numbers or a window that starts to change colour as the power decreases. 




Favoured by pilots or avid travellers, the GMT function allows for the wearer to read the time as they fly between zones. The dual time zone ensures that wearer’s can display two times usually opting for their home time zone and the current time in the country they are visiting. The world time complications go that step further and can display the time in all major 24 cities across the globe.


To ensure that the wearer does not have to adjust the calendar function constantly brands have developed a calendar system that can accurately track each month and its irregularities. The annual calendar complication displays the day, date and month with little adjustment. The wearer only needs to interfere at the end of February – the shortest month of the year. Whereas the perpetual calendar is able to display the day, date and month all year round even recognising leap years.

Moon Phase

Beautiful and functional, the moon phase function tracks the phase of the moon in the lunar cycle, which is 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 3 seconds. The complication will be able to inform the wearer if it is a new, full, half or quarter moon via a rotating disk. Many moon phase complications are visually presented on the dial via an aperture window that follows the moon as it travels across the sky. It usually sits at 6 o’clock and depending on the design it will either be presented in colour or as a subtle image that blends with the dial.



Impressive and innovative, the tourbillon complication regulates the telling of time with a constant revolving cage that houses the escapement (the hairspring that is mounted on a balance wheel that rotates backwards and forwards), which is not affected by the position of the watch and gravity unlike standard mechanical watches. The rotating cage ensures that the timing variations are cancelled out.

Minute Repeater

Hailed as one of the most complex watch complications, the minute repeater tells the time through a series of chimes once the slide lever is pressed. The number and pitch of the tone signify the hours, quarters and minutes and help the visually impaired know the time. Hours are recognised by a low tone, quarters by both a high and low tone and the minutes by one high tone.