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Types of Watch Complications

These days, a watch is able to tell more than just time. It now serves as a multi-tool that offers additional functions that are usually referred to as complications.

A simple mechanical watch itself involves the engineering of many tiny components and by adding complications to a mechanical watch would require greater skills and attention from the watchmaker. Let us take a look at some of the complications we can find in a watch.

Date Display

The most common complication of a watch is the date display which, like what it sounds like, tells you the date. Though it sounds simple, the displaying of the date on a watch comes in various forms. One of which would be the Big Date display, usually separated into 2 windows side by side. It relies on discs under the dial, with the left going from 0-3 and the right from 0-9. This display provides the wearer a larger view of the date which makes it easier to read.

One important note for the date display is that many watches with a date complication need to be adjusted on months that do not have 31 days.

Day/Date/Month Display

Instead of telling only the date, this added complication shows the day of the week. It is usually done by having an extra window beside the date display.

Another complication we can find in a watch (in addition to the day complication) is the month of the year and the use of sub-dials is a common way for such complication. The hands of the sub-dials will move clockwise to indicate the date for the wearer.

These types of complications are favoured for their practical use and convenience. If you always find yourself forgetting the dates, having a watch with such complications will be perfect for you.

Annual Calendar Display

If it’s not enough to have the day, date and month display, this complication includes the display of the year - making it the annual calendar watch. Most watches have at least a span of 10 years for display and no, you do not have to throw the watch away after 10 years. The disc plate of the year can be replaced and you can continue using the watch for as long as you like!

Power Reserve

After the previous article on mechanical and quartz watches, we now know that mechanical watches are powered by wound spring. Then how do we know how much ‘power’ there is in the watch? Well, this complication does the job. It is able to indicate the ‘power’ of the watch by measuring the tension of the spring – a useful function that serves as a reminder on when to wind your watch.


A chronograph complication is basically the function of a stopwatch. It allows the user to independently measure a portion of elapsed time and is often used for races. A chronograph watch is usually operated by the extra buttons you find at the side of the watch and they control the start, stop and reset of the hand. You may also find other chronograph watches that operate in a different way.

There are too many other complications that go in a watch and these are only some of the common ones. While a watch is usually viewed as an accessory or a symbol of status, it is also a practical tool. The invention of such complications can only come from talented horological minds; always pushing boundaries to reach the full potential of a timepiece.

Specialized watchmaker, Arbutus, offers a range of watches that feature the complications mentioned in this article. You can check them out at

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