A grand complication watch (or grande complication in French) is one that combines several complications. In watch-speak, a complication is a function that goes beyond telling the time, such as a chronograph, perpetual calendar, minute repeater, power reserve indicator, and so on. So a grand complication watch marries several of these complications to create a mechanical mastery.
It’s important to note that there isn’t one definitive rule as to what makes a grand complication timepiece — different watch brands have their own definitions. For example, Audemars Piguet defines a grande complication watch as one that must include a minute repeater, a split-seconds chronograph, and a perpetual calendar. This is based on the tradition of including complications from three families: timing, chiming, and calendars. Yet, other watchmakers follow a different set of parameters when developing grand complications. For instance, some grand complications include astronomical (or celestial) complications such as sky charts, sidereal time, sunrise, sunset, and so on.
What is certain, however, is that regardless of the specifics, a grand complication watch represents the very pinnacle of fine watchmaking. They’re rare, exclusive, and ultra-expensive. It’s a major flex both on the part of the manufacture that can create it and the lucky owner who eventually gets to wear it. If you want to discover some of the greatest mechanical timepieces ever created, here’s everything you need to know about grand complication watches.
Some of The Most Complicated Watches in History
As long as watchmakers have been producing mechanical complications, they’ve also been trying to combine them into one magnificent piece to impress their important clients. Many of the best watchmakers in the business continuously try to outdo their competitors (and their own archives) by releasing spectacularly complex watches, jam-packed with all the bells and whistles a collector could ever want.
In 1783, a secret admirer of Marie Antoinette commissioned a watch for the Queen from Abraham-Louis Breguet with the instructions that it had to be the most spectacular watch ever created. The watch, Pocket Watch No. 160, featured 23 complications and was only completed in 1827–four years after Breguet’s death, 34 years after Marie Antoinette’s death, and 44 years after the order was made. Remarkably, this Breguet grand complication pocket watch was stolen from a museum in 1983 and recovered in 2007.
The early 20th Century witnessed two American mega collectors, James Ward Packard and Henry Graves Jr., try to outshine each other with lavish commissions of Patek grand complications. However, the earliest known Patek Philippe grand complication, the Palmer Grand Complication pocket watch, was produced in 1898 and sold in 1900
Audemars Piguet released its first Grande Complication wristwatch in 1996 in its Jules Audemars collection, followed by a Royal Oak Grande Complication the next year.
Watch: An Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Grande Complication on Grey Market TV.
Historically Significant Grand Complication Watches
Some of the most historically significant grand complications include the following:
- 1735 Grande Complication (introduced in 1991): This Blancpain watch with a tourbillon, moon phase, perpetual calendar, minute repeater, and split-seconds chronograph, was the world’s most complicated timepiece for many years,
- Grande Complication Pocket Watch No. 1160 (introduced in 2008): A recreation of the Breguet pocket watch (no. 160) that was commissioned for Marie Antoinette
- Aeternitas Mega 4 (introduced in 2010): The world’s most complicated wristwatch, this Franck Muller watch has 36 complications, 23 indications, and 1483 parts
- Grand Complication 912.032 (introduced in 2013): The most complicated A. Lange & Sohne wristwatch ever made with a grand and small strike, a minute repeater, a perpetual calendar and a rattrapante-chronograph function with flying seconds
- Grandmaster Chime 5175 (introduced 2014): The most complicated Patek Philippe ever made with 20 complications, a reversible case, and two dials
- Pocket Watch 57260 (introduced in 2015): The most complicated Vacheron Constantin watch ever made with 57 complications
- Les Cabinotiers Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication 3600 (introduced 2017): The most complicated Vacheron Constantin wristwatch ever made with 23 complications
- Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 (introduced 2021): The most complicated Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso watch ever made with 11 complications and the world’s first with four functioning dials.
Modern Grand Complication Watches
Given how complex grand complications watches are, only the finest watchmakers can include them in their catalogs. These timepieces require an extraordinary amount of skill, time, and investment to develop–and companies typically make only a few of them per year. As expected, grand complications are generally the most expensive pieces in a company’s catalog, reserved only for the most affluent of clients. Expect to pay six to seven figures for a grand complication watch.
Some of our favorite modern grand complication watches include the following:
- Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon
- Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Grand Complication
- Breguet Classique Grande Complication Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar 3797
- Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Tourbillon Céleste
- F.P. Journe Astronomic Souveraine
- Cartier Rotonde Grande Complication Skeleton
- Girard-Perregaux Minute Repeater Tourbillon with Bridges
- Jacob & Co. Astronomia
See More: Unboxing An Insane Jacob & Co. Astronomia
The grand complication watch owners club is a highly exclusive one. These are not your everyday watches with a mass-market appeal–these mechanical timepieces are painstakingly crafted for serious collectors of high horology. Not only are they ultra-rare and exceedingly expensive but they also require great care on behalf of the wearers. Grand complications are to watches what hypercars are to automobiles; they represent the very best of the best.