Watch Out Now: Complications Simplified with Cartier

The First in an Eleventh-part Series.

Whether you opt for an inexpensive everyday watch or a limited-edition collector’s chronograph, the watch on your wrist plays a big part in defining your style. Undoubtedly, the best watch is going to be one that you wear, one that fits your budget and matches your lifestyle.

No matter what you’re looking for, now is the time to get it. In the ports of call, take advantage of tax-free, duty-free prices and pick up a designer watch for hundreds—even thousands—of dollars less than what you’d pay back at home.

So even if you’ve never thought about buying a watch before—or if you’ve thought about it and didn’t know where to start—rest assured it’s not as…complicated as it looks. We asked Keith W. Strandberg, the international editor of the industry-standard Watch Journal, to put together an insider’s guide to the world of fine timepieces.

And so, welcome to Watch Wednesday–it’s Watches 101 combined with a trend and news roundup.

In life, a complication is generally a bad thing. You’d never want your doctor to tell you there was a complication after a procedure. And a relationship status set to “It’s complicated” is a waving red flag. But in the watchmaking world, complications are a good thing. A complication is the term for any function in a watch other than the hours, minutes, and central second hand—basically, anything beyond the simple telling of time. They tend to have names such as “chronograph,” “tourbillon,” and “minute repeater”—complicated terms to explain features like built-in stopwatches and the ability to chime on demand. When you take into account the small size of your typical wristwatch and think about all the gears, screws, and other parts working together inside of it to power the functions, the “complication” name begins to make more sense.

Cartier, in a very short time, has established itself as a leader in high watchmaking. About ten years ago, the brand decided to legitimize itself with the ability to produce high complications in its own watchmaking manufacture. Which means Cartier is making its own complications in-house. The result has been impressive, and Cartier is now producing timepieces that feature the Big Three complications: tourbillon, minute repeater, and perpetual calendar.

The Rotonde de Cartier Astrocalendaire incorporates the perpetual calendar and tourbillon complications into a movement comprised of 382 parts, including fifty-one jewels.

It’s Not Complicated

The most common complications defined. Learn the language and you’ll sound like a seasoned expert.

Date Display: Does exactly what it says.
Chronograph: A stopwatch function.
Dual Time / World Time: The ability to display the time in more than one time zone—great for traveling.
Calendar: Displays the day of the week, the date, the month, and sometimes the year.
Tourbillon: A spinning, turning marvel that compensates for the effects of gravity on the movement, widely considered the ultimate complication.
Minute Repeater: Chimes the time on demand, originally invented to help people tell time in the dark.
Perpetual Calendar: The most complex calendar, stays accurate for decades without adjustment—even on leap years.

Anatomy of a Watch

Bracelet: The watch strap, which can be made of anything from leather or a range of metals to, yes, even rubber, a trend pioneered by Hublot.
Bezel: The outer part of the case that holds the crystal in place. Rotating bezels are often found on sports watches as they can be used as a reference for timing.
Crystal: The protective clear casing that covers the dial.
Crown: Used to wind the watch and set the time/date.
Case: The main shell that houses the dial and movement; typically made of a precious metal (silver, gold, platinum, or steel) but some watchmakers are experimenting with everything from space-age titanium to lightweight, scratch-resistant ceramic.

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