Grand Complications, Part 3

Sep 09, 2022,19:36 PM

In the previous 2 posts we considered what makes a Grand Complication, and the mental gymnastics required to conceive and design such a thing. Now we also have to think about actually making it.

We know that watches CONSUME TIME as well as DISPLAY TIME. Conceiving and making even a simple watch takes years. And lots of money. During the interval between conception and reality there are normally technical issues, marketing issues, sudden discoveries, competition, financial reversals, etc. Only a strong hand at the tiller can take a company through the storms and bring a Grand Complication watch to market.

Let me continue with the math examples I have used early. When moving from house to house, a truck hauls our stuff. We do some rough estimation and rent the proper size. Now we have to fit it all inside. Perhaps this image will convey the challenge.

A Citroen CX Wagon isn't a truck but for a family in Europe it used to be the equivalent. We went camping in Scotland with some Danish friends. Despite its immense size, their CX could barely cope with the stuff they deemed essential, and every time we changed campgrounds this same ritual happened, because overnight they would forget what fit where... (we had our own car and carried quite a bit less).

So likewise with a Grand Complication, in addition to CUBIC VOLUME, during the design phase, we have to worry about exact fitment (see above and below), assure everything is good for correct operation, proper service procedures and documentation.

Once that's settled, we also have to consider DENSITY.

NOTE: I went with a friend to deliver 120 cases of beer as a gift to the mechanics at a car dealership (before lawyers). The brewery forklift driver looked dubious when we showed up in a Ford F100 pickup. We thought the truck could carry the beer. The VOLUME would fit. But as the pallet was lowered into the truck bed, and the front wheels lifted up off the ground, we realized the DENSITY would not fit. The truck was rated to carry 1200 pounds - and the pallet weighed 2200+ (100 12-packs/pallet x 22 lbs/12-pack + 25 lbs/pallet=2225 pounds)

Which brings us to the question of How Much can a watch weigh? 


Let's look at some GC wristwatches

First, the FP Journe Astronomic. Can you decipher the back side?  In the technical data I learned the thread diameter of the stem, how many screws are in the watch, but not its weight.

How about this Vacheron Constantin? I don't even have to ask about the star chart -- even if you could explain it, I probably could not understand it. And I couldn't find the weight on the VC website.

An A. Lange Sohne -- this I can comprehend, as it is a perpetual calendar, moonphase, split seconds chrono with tourbillion. No weight listed.

The back side of this Patek Philippe seems a bit redundant. But could there be any 4 more dissimilar watches to choose from than these?

For any of the Grand Complications it would be necessary to have a cheat sheet on your closet door, for reference when you are winding it or strapping it on. Like this:

As for actually setting all the functions, keep the manual handy, bookmark the website page, or call the factory in Switzerland. Just don't do it in the evening after you have had a glass or two.


Let's look at a grand complication, double-dialed, astronomical/astrological gold pocket watchpocket watch from Patek Philippe - the model 89. This is one of four produced:

Let's say one of us had several millions to spend on a single complicated watch. We research the functions, we already know the brand. We go to Switzerland to check it out. But in the end, when we lift it we are shocked! We learn how much it weighs and wonder, "Can I really use this? Can I show it to my friends and family? 1 lb of gold and 1.3 lbs of movement?" This is a HEAVY decision.

Google says these items weigh roughly a kilo, the same as this watch
  • A Pineapple
  • Fennec Fox
  • Large Black-Footed Ferret
  • Ringtail Possum
  • A Half-Rack of Baby Back Ribs
  • Black-Tailed Prairie Dog
  • Cottontail Rabbit
Would you want any of them on your arm or in your pocket? 

No, I thought not.

Thanks for reading,


PS - I am leaning towards this one

  • Rectangular shape
  • Size: L 57 mm x H 18 mm x W 44 mm
  • 18K Rose gold 
  • Arch-shaped sapphire glass with anti-reflection treatment
  • Sapphire crystal sides and back with anti-reflection treatment
  • Rotating lugs 
  • Single-pusher crown
  • Water resistance: 30 metres 
  • Hysek HW80 caliber
  • Automatic, mechanical movement 
  • Roller retrograde jumping hours
  • Sweeping minutes
  • Perpetual Calendar with day, date, and month displayed on 4 rollers
  • Leap year on a disc at 3 o’clock
  • “Celestial sphere” Moon Phase display
  • Hand-painted Moon and “celestial sphere”
  • Second time band disc at 9 o’clock
  • Power reserve indicator roller at 3 o’clock
  • Seasonal Day-Night indicator roller at 9 o’clock
  • Hand-painted numerals on rollers
  • Rear-mounted flying tourbillon
  • Platinum micro-rotor, offset and decorated by hot-wire cutting
  • 2 barrels
  • 1080 components 
  • 186 jewels 
  • 61 bridges 
  • 7 ceramic ball bearings 
  • Autonomy: 45 +/- 3 hours 
  • Hysek Titanium balance wheel
  • Balance spring: PE4000 alloy
  • Frequency: 28,800 vph
  • Patent: CH00375/16

More posts: Ballon BleuFlying Tourbillongrand complications

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Comments: view entire thread


It's like TETRIS!

 By: patrick_y : September 9th, 2022-17:08
Apparently, adults are the ultimate TETRIS players! Not kids! First photo reminded me of my college days, moving between dorms and apartments in my car. And the last trip when I moved home, where I loaded everything into the car in a super precise manner.... 

Great post as always

 By: andrea~ : September 9th, 2022-17:28
What's the crazy watch at the end?

That's a Jorg Hysek Grand Complication (I added details to my original post)

 By: cazalea : September 9th, 2022-19:19
He's a artist and designer of desk accessories and office equipment -- things like note holders, pen rests, blotters, in trays, etc. "Born in 1953 in Berlin, from whence he emigrated to Switzerland in 1960, he graduated from the Central School of Art in L...  

Unfortunately proprietary straps come with some risks

 By: andrea~ : September 10th, 2022-07:43
Especially if the brand isn't a large one

I agree, with a touch of Christophe Claret

 By: doubleup : September 9th, 2022-22:13
Great write up as always! Keep them coming anytime! Fascinating

Wow, I forgot him

 By: cazalea : September 10th, 2022-04:10
Can’t find the red watch I remember ...  

My thoughts too.

 By: Watchonthewrists : September 9th, 2022-22:19

Great post my friend.

 By: Watchonthewrists : September 9th, 2022-22:19
Food for thought

Even if you have the cash...

 By: mdg : September 10th, 2022-01:25
...I think Muller requires you have a graduate degree from MIT in order to purchase the watch : )

Great post, thanks!

 By: smironov : May 11th, 2024-18:02