Today’s time-only watches can be prime examples of fine design, production and assembly. When viewing the miniscule size of certain movement parts, some being a fraction of a millimeter in size, a watchmaker will defend this technology by saying: “but that’s watchmaking”.
If that is watchmaking, then what is a Grande Complication? It’s watchmaking to a different degree, which approaches a difference in kind. It doesn’t have 18 jewels, or even 42 like IWC’s fine Portugieser Automatic, Reference 5001. Instead, the Portugieser Grande Complication, Ref. 3774, contains a grand total of 75 rubies embedded in its Calibre 79091 movement.
Having more jewels in and of themselves is not necessarily better. But here they are not for adornment, but because the movement has exactly 657 parts. Those micro-sized parts are needed to produce 21 total functions, and they’re placed in a case no taller than 16.5mm and 45mm wide.
It’s this very complexity that defines the Grande Complication. Although there is no uniformly accepted industry definition regarding what constitutes a “grand complication”, most claim, that the watch must include perpetual calendar and repeater functions. Here, IWC has accomplished more: with great complexity and yet simplicity of operation.
Begin with the basics. The watch tells the hours and minutes, of course. A sub-dial tells the seconds. But that’s for starters, because the Grande Complication also has a calendar. Which tells the day, the day of the week, and the date. The date includes the month, the year, and unlike almost every other watch, even the century.