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Timepiece Complication 101

By: Justin Mastine-Frost|February 2, 2015
Tagged With: Watches

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Moonphase

Minute Repeater

Tachymeter

Perpetual Calendar

GMT

Drift Angle Calculator

Rattrapante

Drift Angle Calculator

While it’s mainly useful for pilots, the design of the two external bezels makes the drift calculator timepiece quite the bold piece of wrist candy. The goal of a drift angle calculator is to compensate for wind blowing at an airplane from a lateral angle which would push it off course. By entering the wind direction on one bezel, and bearing via the second, the drift angle calculator will indicate how far a pilot needs to essentially “countersteer” to stay on course.



Hamilton Khaki X-Wind Limited Edition, $2,425

GMT

The GMT (short for Greenwich Mean Time) is by far the most common and perhaps the most practical of the bunch. Whether you work on the west coast and have dealings in NYC, or if you travel frequently and want to keep track of the time at home, a GMT watch has you covered. One set of hands is used to indicate your local time, and an independent hand is used to indicate the time in a 2nd time zone set on a 24-hour scale. In addition, many GMT watches display their 24h scale in two distinct colors, allowing its wearer to distinguish at a quick glance whether the 2nd time zone indicated is presently in the AM or PM.



Chanel J12 Chromatic GMT, Price upon request

Moonphase

These often elaborately painted indicators will display the various stages of the moon’s waxing and waning across the night’s sky, and although not the most practically useful of complications, they’re still quite beautiful to look at. The moonphase seldom translates to more modern and casual timepieces, but remains a staple in classic dress watch collections.



Zenith Captain Moonphase, $15,400

Perpetual Calendar

Calendar functions in standard watches are practical, however there’s always that fuss every time February or a 30-day month rolls around. Perpetual calendar complications go a step beyond this, having the ability to jump ahead the necessary days to maintain an accurate calendar for a century or more.



A Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual, $142,700

Complications_singles4

Rattrapante

Otherwise known as a split-seconds chronograph, a rattrapante contains two separate stopwatch mechanisms, which allow its user to time multiple events at once. Easily identified as a chronograph with a 3rd pusher (typically at the 10 o’clock position), a pair of second hands can be started or stopped by the primary chronograph pushers, while one of them has the ability to be stopped by the additional pusher. Useful for timing head-to-head races—or steaks.



Panerai Luminor 1950 Rattrapante 8 Days Titanio, $25,800

Minute Repeater

Unlike many other complications the minute repeater is designed to be heard, rather than read. A set of internal chimes are built into the mechanical movement which create a series of tones to indicate hours, half hours, quarter hours, and number of minutes past each quarter hour. Initially developed (in the days before luminous hands) as a means of telling time in the dark the minute repeater has now become a revered complication in haute horology.



Patek Philippe Minute Repeater, Price upon request

Tachymeter

Common on most chronograph watches, this fixed scale can be used to calculate either speed or distance. To time a moving object (a racehorse, say) pick two points one kilometre (or mile) apart, start the timer when the object departs one point and stop it when it reaches the second. The number where to second hand stops on the bezel will be the object’s speed.



Bulova Precisionist Chronograph, $850

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