The most common and popular watch complication, a date window or date aperture provides the date through a small box on the dial.
The same concept as the date window, a Big Date just provides a much larger view of the numbers and is preferred by those who like easy to read dials. Sometimes Big Date complications have two windows rather than one.
A pointer date feature provides the date display using an additional hand that points to the numbers on an outside periphery that circles the dial.
Rather than using a window or large hand, watches with a subsidiary dial display the date on small sub dial.
Just like a date window, a day date feature boasts the day of the week alongside the date complication. These can be found alongside each other or on other ends of the dial depending on the movement used.
One of the more complex types of date features, a perpetual calendar accurately displays the date, day, month and year at the same time and even has the ability to take into account the leap year. Watches with a perpetual calendar are usually more expensive than timepieces with other complications but are considered incredibly useful.
Just like a perpetual calendar, an annual calendar displays the date, day, month and year but does not take into account leap years. This means it will run to 31st February before changing to the 1st March.
Chronograph Watch Complications
A chronograph is a feature on a watch that allows you to measure elapsed time, almost like a stop watch on the wrist. Chronographs can come in many different styles, with some watches having two or three sub dials. Chronograph watches are distinctive not only by their sub dials but also from the buttons found on the side of their case which control the stopwatch features.
Monopoussoir (One Button Chronograph)
Formerly all chronographs were controlled by one button, until 1923 when Breitling introduced the very first two button chronograph. The only difference between a one button chronograph and a two button chronograph is that the one button model cannot measure interrupted time spans.
Retour-En-Vol (Flyback Chronograph)
The beauty of a flyback chronograph is that when the second button is pressed while the chronograph feature is running, all the counters will reset and start from zero immediately. With a regular chronograph, the wearer will need to stop, reset and restart the dials before beginning again.
Rattrapante (Split-seconds Chronograph)
A split seconds chronograph allows you to time two separate events that begin at the same time but do not end together, for example, if you were timing two different people in a race. The best way to spot a split seconds chronograph is by looking out for two second hands on top of each other on the chronograph dial.
Watches that showcase a tachymeter scale have the ability to measure speed. The tachymeter scale can usually be found on the outer or inner bezel of the timepiece and are commonly used alongside chronograph complications.
GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)
Timepieces that have a GMT function allow the wearer to tell the time in two or more different time zones at once.
World Time Zone
The world time complication that we know today was first invented in the 1930s by a watchmaker named Cottier. The impressive feature shows the time in 24 different time zones that are listed around the outer bezel or dial.
Other Watch Complications
Moonphase Watch Complication
Originally used by sailors to measure incoming tides, moonphase complications are now more typically featured for their stunning aesthetics. A moonphase features shows whether there will be a full, half, quarter or new moon.
Watch Power Reserve Indicator
A really handy feature, a power reserve indicator on a watch allows you to measure the amount of power remaining in a mechanical watch. When an automatic watch has been wound up, the power reserve measures the amount of tension remaining in the mainspring and displays this on the dial. The power reserve on a watch can vary but they can be displayed in days, hours or simply by a small marker.
A watch with a jumping hour indicator will not have the standard hour numbers around the edge of the dial. Instead the hour will often be displayed in a separate aperture which ‘jumps’ automatically when the minute hands passes (most commonly) 12 o clock. Rather than the hour numbers being displayed around the dial, it is the minutes. These designs are incredibly eye catching and are becoming increasingly popular.
An alarm setting can be set independently to the main time and will alert the wearer when the time is reached. Most alarm watches can make audible noises while others can vibrate or illuminate.
Single Handed Watches
Single hand watches often puzzle a wearer when they are first introduced to them, but the concept is very cool. Rather than having a minute and hour hand to tell the time, the watch tells the time using just the hour hand. This is done using the indices between each number to mark how many minutes has passed between each hour and each indice marker counts as five minutes. For example, if the hour hand is on the second indices between 1 and 2, it is 10 minutes past 1.
An exquisite and incredibly unique complication, a tourbillon feature improves the balance of a watch by helping eliminating accuracy errors caused by gravity and other forces. This is done by mounting the escapement and balance wheel in a rotating cage to contradict any effects of gravity. Tourbillons are usually only found in high quality and more expensive models.