The watchmaker (English version)
There is a particular aspect of a mechanical Fine Watch that is reserved for Master watchmakers, and that is its "complications".
For a watchmaker, complications are indications and functions other than the basic hours, minutes and seconds:
- calendar indications (date, day, month, leap year);
- geographic indications for measuring time in different time zones;
- chronograph functions for measuring very short intervals;
- astronomical indications showing moon phases or the movement of other celestial bodies;
- “repeaters” that sound the hours on demand by means of tiny hammers striking gongs or chimes.
The minute-repeater is one of the finest expressions of the watchmaker's art. It supposes a complete understanding of the properties of metal and reverberation for the gongs, and the creation of tiny, functioning hammers. Another feat of Fine Watchmaking is the tourbillon. Patented by Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1801, it consists of an intricately-crafted cage which carries the movement's regulating organ (the balance and its spring) and the escapement (which transmits energy to the balance). By rotating on its own axis, this cage cancels out variations in rate caused by gravitational pull. To conceive and construct a tourbillon remains one of the outstanding achievements of the Master watchmaker's art.
Some watches combine two, three or even more of these complications. They are referred to as grande complication watches.
These various indications are displayed either by means of hands which progress around a dial or, in the case of retrograde hands, spring back to their starting-point to measure a new period of time, or by means of numbers shown in apertures (the date, for example).
It takes a Master watchmaker months of patient hand-crafting to assemble just one of these exceptional mechanical systems. They demand knowledge beyond the realm of watchmaking to encompass astronomy, science, metallurgy, or micromechanics. They also call for artistic flair... and an experienced hand.
These superbly decorated and finished movements can be "skeletonised", where the plates and bars are cut away, engraved, even set with precious stones or diamonds to reveal the movement's parts in all their splendour.
THE PROFESSION INVOLVED IN THE CREATION OF COMPLICATIONS