The 5 best high complication watches of 2022Borna Bošnjak
It’s nearly impossible to distil and encompass the variety and unique features of last year’s best complication into only five picks, but we’ll do our best to try, while having to include only a couple honourable mentions. Like any other year, established players in mainstream high-end watchmaking like Patek Philippe and A. Lange & Söhne introduced a myriad of pieces iterating, improving on and reinventing well-known complications. The left-handed 5373P (a first for Patek Philippe) and the new and improved Zeitwerk are both incredible pieces, yet the calibre of this list (pun intended) means neither make it in. This fantastic five comprising the best high complications of 2022 include a chiming chronograph, a tourbillon, a calendar complication, a grand complication, and finally – a total wildcard.
To get the honourable mentions out of the way, it’s a duo of industry legends. One is experiencing a well-deserved resurgence, while the other reaffirms their spot at the top. I’m talking, of course, about Parmigiani Fleurier and Patek Philippe. The intricately engraved La Rosa Celeste features an in-house, skeletonised continuous chiming movement with cathedral gongs, while the Patek Philippe 5470P pairs a stunning platinum case with a 1/10th of a second monopusher rattrapante chronograph.
Omega Speedmaster Chrono Chime
Omega, custodians of the mighty Moonwatch, presented their most complicated movement ever with their October release of the Calibre 1932. Developed with Swatch Group sister brand Blancpain, the calibre pays homage to two significant points in the brand’s history – the first ever minute repeater wristwatch from 1892 and the Omega split-seconds chronographs used for the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. Comprising a ridiculous 575 components and 17 patents, the Calibre 1932 can be found in either the 1932 Olympic or the Speedmaster Chrono Chime. While the pocket watch-inspired 1932 is certainly beautiful with its enamel dial, the aventurine bezel and dial with guilloche sub-registers in Sedna Gold of this crazy Speedy edge ahead just slightly. Sporting a split-seconds monopusher rattrapante chronograph, operated by a combination of a vertical clutch and column wheel, the chiming feature of this movement sounds the elapsed time of the chronograph. Similarly to a repeater, it’s equipped with three chimes – a low note for the elapsed minutes, a double note for each decimal second increment, and a high note for the seconds. Weighing in at 326 grams, the use of Sedna Gold is extensive, and rightfully so, considering the CHF450,000 asking price.
Grand Seiko Kodo
It’s no surprise that Grand Seiko’s Kodo made this list. That GS’ first production tourbillon is something special was clear from the moment our team laid eyes upon it at Watches and Wonders with “oohs” and “aahs” all round. In the few moments of silence, the 16th note beats of the cage combining the tourbillon and constant force escapement were a delight to hear. We had the pleasure of delving deeper into the Kodo with its designer, Mr Kawauchiya, who explained some of the inspiration and design considerations behind his brainchild. Created as the answer to the challenges of mechanical timekeeping, the Kodo mitigates the positional errors of the balance wheel and torque fluctuations from the mainspring by combining tourbillon and constant force escapement complications, respectively. Every technical aspect was carefully considered, such as the inclusion of a hacking function, which is rare in tourbillons, by way of a lever that contacts the tourbillon cage, stopping and restarting it. The choice of twin barrels that deliver the required amount of torque resulted in increased wear of the stop wheel. Grand Seiko prevents any faults by manufacturing the component from ceramic, a real challenge due to the micron scale of precision that’s required.
DRT Tempus Fugit
While the first two inclusions are likely familiar to many watch nerds, the DRT Tempus Fugit is something truly unique, in two ways. The first is an inclusion of a super-complicated secular calendar – essentially a perpetual calendar mechanism on crack. While your bog-standard PC accounts for leap years up to 2100, a secular calendar has the ability to correct for the other two exceptions to leap year calculation – allow me to explain. A leap year is counted if the year is divisible by four, unless it’s also divisible by 100. That’s why the pesky 2100 trips up so many PCs. However, there’s a third rule, which negates the first two if the year is divisible by 400 – the reason why 2000 was a leap year and 2400 will be. The secular calendar accounts for all of these pseudo-anomalous occurrences, correctly displaying the date until the year 9999. DRT doesn’t forget to have a bit of fun, however, next to all of this secularly complicated nonsense, featuring a life reserve indicator. Unique to every owner, the watch is programmed to display their life expectancy based on an algorithm developed by DRT. The idiot-proof (secured) secular calendar module was developed by Dominique Renaud of complication masters Renaud & Papi fame, which is then manufactured by young watchmaker Julien Tixier who also crafts the titanium case and all other components. Finally, the Tempus Fugit also hides the owner’s DNA sequence, as well as a secret message which will only be displayed once the life power reserve runs out. A little macabre, but a lot awesome. I highly recommend checking out the Watches TV video linked above, delving deeper into this piece with some awesome macro shots to boot.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Hybris Artistica Calibre 945
Taking the titles for most ridiculous name and most complicated watch of this list is JLC’s Master Hybris Artistica Calibre 945. Cased in 45mm of 18k pink or white gold, this 16mm tall behemoth encapsulates the latest and greatest of the watchmaker’s watchmaker savoir-faire. Differentiating from the white gold model, the 18k pink gold features a grisaille enamel dial, creating a chiaroscuro-like effect. The blue dial of the white gold model is particularly stunning, with a laser-welded micro-superstructure suspending a celestial disc above the Cosmotourbillon. Yes, you read that right – a Cosmotourbillon, which makes a full revolution around the dial in one sidereal day, while the disc printed with the sky of the northern hemisphere tracks the constellations’ position in real time, as observed from the Vallée de Joux. For reference, sidereal time is tracked in respect to constellations, rather than the Sun. Completing this stellar trifecta is a Zodiac calendar, while its grand complication status is cemented by a sonorous chiming complication, composed of trebuchet hammers, crystal gongs and a silent governor.
Cartier Masse Mystérieuse
I would consider myself to have a fair understanding of watch complications, but the Masse Mystérieuse just breaks me. How in the name of all that’s holy can an entire movement just spin freely like a winding rotor, while the hands stay still, set by a ordinary-looking cabochoned crown. Yes, I know that it has many sapphire discs that hide the piece’s trickery, and that the rotor is able to rotate independently from the hands via a differential, much like the one in a car. It’s just one of those things that I can’t fully get my head around, especially when looking at videos – kind of like that blue/black and gold/white dress from a few years ago (it was blue ok). The mystery starts with the operation of the crown, with keyless works hidden underneath the brushed hour track that engage sapphire discs on which the hands are placed. The real mindfuck is the rotor, seemingly spinning around the same pinion that connects the hands, though a closer look reveals one of the gears around which it rotates, winding the mainspring, while the hands stay in position thanks to a differential connected to the wheel train. This means that the crown cannot be used to wind the watch, making this Cartier more similar to 7s26-equipped Seikos than I thought possible.