What Exactly Are Watch Complications?

Time to Uncomplicate Watch Complications

Complications, complications…it sounds complicated but it really isn’t. A complication refers to one of the features or functions on the display of the watch which means it could mean the date display (e.g. Day-Date), a chronograph (stop watch feature), time zone display, or other indicators and hands that give you more details about time. So let’s uncomplicate watch complications:

Common Watch Complications

Date Complications

A date display is one of the spot common types of complications. These usually appear as the following:

Date window: A small box the displays numbers to tell you the date

Big date:  A larger window displaying numbers to tell you the date

Pointer date: Also known as a ‘Bankers’ date where the center hand points to the date somewhere along the dial

Subsidiary dial: A subdial embedded right on the watch face showing the date

Day-Date: Includes the name of the day and the date to the display

Triple Calendar: Includes the day of the week, month and year

Perpetual Calendar: Most complex calendar display that includes the date, day, month and year (including leap years)

Annual calendar: Cross between a perpetual and triple calendar where no leap years are included

Equation of Time (EOT): The ultimate of all calendar displays, includes a measurement of calendar time and solar time

Chronograph Complications

Watches that have a stopwatch built into them are often referred to as chronographs. Chronometers are watches that are certified to be very precise and accurate so you might come across those when searching for chronographs. Chronograph complications include:

Monopoussoir: A ‘one-button’ chronograph where you start and stop the stopwatch by pressing a single button

Retour-En-Vol: Also known as a Flyback, it’s engineered to reset and start from zero when you push a second button. originally designed for pilots where timing needed to be extremely accurate.

Rattrapante: Also known as a split-seconds chronograph, this watch has three push buttons right not the case and two second hands.

Tachymeter: Often used to measure speed in miles or kilometers per hour

Travel Complications

Frequent travelers can easily switch between time zones with a dual time watch where displays for two different time zones are powered by the same movement. Complications include:

Greenwich Mean Time (GMT): Displays two or more time zones

GMT with Independent Hour Hand: The regular hour hand moves independently of a 24-hour hand

GMT with Fixed Hour Hand: A ‘pilot’s watch’ and originally made by Rolex in the 50s. An additional hour hand makes its way around the dial every day so when it hits six it’s actually noon.

World Time Zone: A 24-hour display where the wearer can set the time zone from a list of 24 cities in different time zones.

Not So Common Complications

You might run across some other unique and interesting features of a watch as you start collecting and browsing. Some other complications that appear on the watch face include:

Moonphase: Shows a full, half, quarter, and new moon

Power Reserve Indicator: Tells you how much power is left in days or hours, depending on the watch

Jump Hour: The hour is displayed in a small window that changes every 60 minutes

Minute Repeater: Chimes out time when a small lever is activated. Often found in 18th and 19th century pocket watches

Alarm: Alarm time can be set independently of regular time to set the alarm

Blackjack: Master watchmaker Christophe Claret introduced the blackjack, roulette, and dice complications in a timepiece at Baselworld in 2010

Rotating Globe: The GMT 3D Titanium Globe watch by Greubel Forsey features a titanium dome that represents earth that rotates throughout the day to indicate the time of day based on location

The Tourbillon: A feature of very high-quality and rare watches, a mechanism that improves the balance of the watch to improve its accuracy


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