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Watch Complications for dummies

One topic in the watch industry that I don't believe is something that can be easily understood by young people getting into watches is the different types of what are called ‘complications’. A complication can range from a window on the dial of the watch that displays the day of the week, up to a sub dial that shows the remaining power left in the watch before it requires a rewind. This is where I come in, and so I present to you, the aptly named ‘Felix’s guide to watch movements for the new watch aficionado’ and yes I am willing to admit my title might need a little work… but you get the picture.

Day and Date

Both the ‘Day’ and ‘Date’ functions are probably one of the cheapest and most common watch complications available on the market. Being featured on everything from £50 Swatch watches all the way up to the infamous Rolex DayDate (picture attached below). This complication is rather ironically named, due to its simplicity. It is simply one or two windows; in the case of the Rolex, that displays the current date and day.

GMT - Greenwich Mean Time

The GMT is a complication that can be found on a number of very famous watches, in particular two of the most popular watches of all time, the omega sea master and of course the Rolex GMT. The GMT manifests itself as an additional hand on the face of the watch. The use of this alongside the bezel allows the wearer to set a second timezone. This is good for international businessman, for example, as they may be uk based but have clients in Hong Kong, or family abroad in a different timezone, for example.

Power reserve

The power reserve is a complication that is found purely in manual watches. This is because manual watches by definition, are not continuously powered, no matter how long they have been resting idly. They require winding of some description. The power reserve is a sweeping arm that indicates how much power is left in the watch before it will need before being put back in the winder. This is not only a cool aesthetic complication, but also has substantial benefits for collectors or owners or multiple watches. This is purely because when you are rotating a collection of five watches, it can be very easy to loose track of which watches are charged and which ones need a wind. An exceptional example of a power reserve is the exquisite Lange 31, as shown below.


A chronograph is a complication that has been around for centuries, and can also be found in dive watches. It can also be found in pilots watches. A chronograph is, in laymen terms a stopwatch function built into the watch. It again, just like a GMT, is an additional hand on the watch, that rests at 12 o’clock. When needed, a pusher above or below the crown in most cases can be pushed, which sets the hand going, just like a stopwatch. It was originally used by divers to time the duration of their dive, but as you can well imagine, has a whole range of different applications in day-to-day life, and as a result can be found on a whole host of watches.


A Tourbillion, pronounced ‘tor-bee-youn’, is one of the most eye-catching complications used in watch making. This particular complication goes beyond functional use, like a GMT, and is dipping its toes in the ‘look at me I'm something cool and different’ swimming pool of watch design. A Tourbillion is effectively the rotor for the watch, encased in a circular housing, which spins at somewhere in the 20,000BPH range. The dial in a Tourbillion watch will be exposed in the dial, for the wearer and any admirers to see. There are a number of variations of the Tourbillion, and one of my particular favourites is a ‘Gyro-Tourbillion’ where the spinning Tourbillion is in cased in a gyro.

In summation, I really could go on and on with list, as the amount of complications out there really are vast. Hopefully though, the complications that I have focussed on in this particular list are ones that all of you are most familiar with. I also help that this short article has enabled you to ‘nerd up’ somewhat on your movement knowledge, and actually gain an appreciation for what that funny little spinning ball is in a watch, or something along those lines. And as always, thank you very much for reading. Any questions please do get in contact and we will get back to you.

Felix Arnold

Editor and Co-Founder

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