Watchmaking complication is how a watch functions for hours, minutes and seconds. Most people might consider “complication” a disaster they want to run away from. But for watchmaking, they are the watch's functions and what makes the watch special... and usually more expensive.

There are a variety of complications in watchmaking, from simple to more intricate and to higher 'grand' complications. And, of course, the more complex the complication, the more expensive the watch. As a watch lover, will you likely use these complications? Probably not, but they represent some of the heights of human ingenuity.

Simple complications include the dual and triple time zone functions, moon phase indication, and a simple calendar with a day or date. However, a little more sophisticated complication may include chronograph functions, world time watch, GMT and multi-hemisphere moon displays. High complications have the tourbillon, chiming watches or petite and grand Sonneries, perpetual calendars, and astronomical complexities like sidereal time.

It doesn’t end there; there is also a grand complication wherein several high complications are brought all in. Here are the 10 most popular complications collectors consider today.

Simple Watch Complications

1. Moonphase

Patek Philippe Moonphase Complication

Image Credit: David Duggan Watches

It might be a simple complication, but it is considered one of the most beautiful and romantic complications because of its moon phase function. As its name pertains, it shows the beauty of the different phases of the moon. Some moon phase indications have stars and constellations as background making them more complicated. The most complex moon phase functions show the moon's phases in both hemispheres.


2. Multi-Time Zones

 Rolex dual time zone watch in a bachelor's wrist

Image Credit: Watches You Can Afford 

This watch is perfect for those who travel often or those who need to know the time in another location. Dual time zone watches are usually preferred as they are simple and easy to use. Multi-time zone watches, however have other markings and arrows for the added zones.


3. Simple Calendars & Annual Calendars

Patek Philippe Annual Calendar Chronograph Full Set 2013 Ref. 5960R-012

Patek Philippe Annual Calendar Chronograph Full Set 2013 Ref. 5960R-012

Image Credit: Uhrenworld München

Many levels of the calendar can be showcased in a watch, and the simplest one is the day of the week and the date. Some also have pointers to point to the information. Usually, there are two small apertures opposite one another wherein the day and the date appear. For a higher complication, it is an annual calendar wherein the mechanical parts track the date.


4. Alarm

Jaeger LeCoultre Memovox Automatic Alarm Watch

An alarm watch is not easy to make as it requires a sound and reverberation system. It is particularly practical for busy people and for people who need to take prescriptions.


Medium Watch Complications

5. World Timers

Patek Philippe Ref. 5230R with Enamel World Map
Image Credit: Hodinkee
World timer is another beautiful complication as it offers the time in the 24 main time zones separated in hourly intervals. Interestingly, some watches even show the time in the other 12 zones at 30-minute and 15-minute intervals. Main cities in the world’s 24 zones are sometimes indicated on some world time watches. Some add a world map in the center for a more artistic appeal.

6. Chronographs

IWC Chronograph Watch


The main purpose of a chronograph is to time an event. It’s more like a stopwatch wherein it can start, stop, pause, or go back to zero. It usually has a monopusher to control but there are also fly-back chronographs where the timing hand automatically returns to zero.


High Watch Complications

7. Perpetual Calendar


Image Credit: Carr Watches

A Perpetual calendar is more than a simple calendar, it can track day, date, month, leap year and more automatically. Unlike a simple calendar, it takes consideration of the months with different end dates even February and leap years.


8. Tourbillons

Tourbillon Watch Complication


Tourbillon takes into account the effects of gravity on the watch when it is in a different position on the wrist. With the recent advancement, there are many tourbillons that note double and triple axis and even rotate at different speeds and angles.


9. Chiming Watches

Patek Philippe The Grandmaster Chime Reference 5175R

Patek Philippe The Grandmaster Chime Reference 5175R

Image Credit: Hodinkee

As its name implies, a chiming watch chimes the time on demand or automatically. Usually, it requires the push of a slide or button to activate. It can be minute repeaters, decimal repeaters or the Grand and Petite Sonneries. They all have silence mode of course.


10. Astronomical Watches

Bovet 1822 Récital 20 Astérium

Image Credit: Lifestyle Asia Hong Kong

This one is very sophisticated as it showcases various information about our planet and our solar system. What makes it more sophisticated is that some portray the planets in orbit and some can calculate information such as the equation of time, sidereal time and more.

These are only 10 of the most prevalent complications; however, knowing them may help navigate the seemingly endless combinations of watch complications. May it also help you realize the value and beauty of watches.



Wwatch complications are a testament to the art, science, and craftsmanship of watchmaking. Ranging from simple features like moon phases and calendars to more complex ones like tourbillons and astronomical displays, these complications provide a fascinating blend of style, utility, and technology.

Whether you're a frequent traveler requiring multi-time zone tracking, a busy professional who needs an alarm, or a collector appreciating the intricate planetary movements, understanding these complications can add to your appreciation of these exquisite timepieces. Remember, each complication is a window into the watchmaker's skill and the culmination of hours of painstaking work, making your watch not just a timekeeping device, but a masterpiece of human ingenuity.

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