Grande Complication - The Pinical of Horology - Part 2

by Marc-Andre Schmid

In the second part of our dive into the world of Grande Complications, we devote our attention towards some of the most important watches in the history of horology falling under this term, pointing out the colloquial summit the art of watchmaking has to offer.

 

Grande Complication of superlatives

Patek Philippe is definitely one of the top players when it comes to the art of incorporating multiple complications into a watch model. The manufacture has already built the most complicated watch of the century twice. The Grand Complications Ref. 5207P-001 is another example of why the name Patek Philippe is mentioned sooner or later in any report on watch complications. This model features a minute repeater, moon phase display, and perpetual calendar. The repeater, in particular, is one of Patek Philippe's specialties. Thanks to the platinum case, the minute repeater produces an especially bright sound.

Patek-Philippe-Grande-Complications-Ref.5207P-001-Zurichberg

 

5 Watchmakers for the restauration of one watch

The Grande Complication No. 42500 is a very special one-of-a-kind timepiece. It was presented by A. Lange & Söhne in 1902 and sold to a private individual from Vienna. After almost a century of being lost, the watch made its way back to A. Lange & Söhne, but in a very poor condition. It took thousands of hours of work by a team of five watchmakers to restore the watch and, most importantly, bring it back to its original functionality. The time invested in this vintage luxury watch definitely paid off: As a historically and culturally valuable treasure, the pocket watch is now exhibited in a museum.

A.Lange&Söhne-Grande-Complication-Nr.42500-Zurichberg

The 2013 release of the Grand Complication (Ref. 912.032) by A. Lange & Söhne was inspired by the Grande Complication No. 42500 and is, to date, the most complicated wristwatch produced by the company.

 

The "Marie Antoinette"

The story of Breguet's Grande Complication No. 160 demonstrates the many challenges that can arise during the production of such a complex timepiece. Commissioned in 1783 by Count Hans Axel von Fersen as a gift for Queen Marie Antoinette, the highly complicated pocket watch was designed by Abraham-Louis Breguet. However, the outbreak of the French Revolution, the tragic fate of the royal family, and Breguet's exile put the project on hold for seven years. It was not until 1827, four years after Breguet's death, that his son completed the watch, which has since been known as the "Marie Antoinette." At the time of its unveiling, it featured every complication known at the time. The watch became even more famous after a high-profile theft from a museum. It is now valued at 30 million US dollars.

Breguet's-Grande-Complication-No.160-Zurichberg

 

16 complications, 834 parts, 10,000 working hours

For its 250th anniversary, Vacheron Constantin created seven exceptional watches with grand complications. Among them, the Tour de I'lle features 16 complications, including a minute repeater, moon phase, sunrise and sunset indicator, and perpetual calendar. The watches are made of pure gold and consist of 834 individual parts each. It took more than 10,000 working hours to complete the models. At an auction, one of the watch models sold for a price of 1.56 million US dollars.

Vacheron-Constantine-Tour-de-I'lle-Zurichberg

 

The most complicated watch in the world

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Hybris Mechanica à Grande Sonnerie briefly held the title of the world's most complicated watch. It featured 26 complications, including an perpetual calendar with date, day, month, year, and leap year, a grande sonnerie, a petite sonnerie, and a power reserve indicator for both the movement and the striking mechanism. It was also notable for being the first wristwatch to fully play the melody of the Westminster chimes.

Jaeger-LeCoultre-Hybris-Mechanica-à-Grande-Sonnerie-Zurichberg

 

Work of art for 2,7 million US Dollars

Of course, there always has to be a watch or watchmaker who surpasses even the most complicated timepieces. Franck Muller, also known as the "Master of Complications," developed the Aeternitas Mega 4. It has ten more complications than the model from Jaeger-LeCoultre. The calendar built into the watch is valid for the next 1,000 years, while the movement itself consists of 1,483 components. Like the famous Grande Complication from A. Lange & Söhne, this watch is a unique piece. It was sold to a watch collector from the USA for a record price of $2,700,000 and presented in the presence of Franck Muller himself. Undoubtedly, this model has also earned a place among the most complex calibers of haute horlogerie.

Franck-Muller-Aeternitas-Mega-4-Zurichberg


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