by | Dec 15, 2022 | Style, Featured, Watches

What is the most useful watch complication … and who does it best?

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Our love for mechanical watches is increasing as our need for them decreases. Today, we can get all of the information (and so much more) we need to live our lives from our smartphones. However, there is still something romantic about glancing at your wrist to tell the time from an instrument made of tiny gears, a mainspring and a balance wheel.

Watches can measure a lot of things. Any measurement outside of hours, minutes, and seconds displayed on a watch is known as a complication. The chronograph, date, moon phase, time zone, minute repeater, power reserve, calendar, and tourbillon are all complications that make your watch definitely more difficult for the watchmaker to create, and in most cases, more expensive for the consumer.

25th anniversary of the Panorama Date of the Glashütte Original

But of all these complications, are there any that make life easier in modern times?

There is only one complication that still beats using your smartphone for information. That is the date – simply what day of the month it is.  We all know the day, month, and year without checking. Whether it’s a leap year or not is information that is not of much use to the average person. The alarm on our phones is better than a minute repeater, and if you really wanted information about the moon I recommend searching google.

Even the chronograph, as cool as this complication is, we use more advanced instruments for timing things and measuring speed, distance, etc.  Even professional pilots do not use the Breitling Navitimer to perform all the necessary flight calculations.

Glashutte Original Panomatic Lunar 40
Glashutte Original Panomatic Lunar 40 2
Glashutte Original Panomatic Lunar 40 3 Copy

Top three images, Glashütte Original Panomatic Lunar 40

Multiple innovations have improved the date complication

However, when it comes to the date, there’s no beating the wristwatch. How many times have you had to fill out a form and a simple glance at your wrist would make life easier when putting down the date? Fumbling with your phone and tapping the screen a few times is an inconvenience.

Before the date on a watch, people would purchase a newspaper for that information. It wasn’t until 1915 that the first date on wristwatches was available.  Since then, there have been several innovations that have improved the date complication. The first wristwatch with a date window was patented in 1930 by Mimo (Girard Perregaux) and released into the market. In 1945 Rolex introduced the “jubilee”, the first automatic wristwatch with a date window.

Glashutte Original Senator Chronograph Panorama Date 40 Copy

Top, plus top image, Glashütte Original Senator Chronograph Panorama Date 40

There is still something romantic about glancing at your wrist to tell the time from an instrument made of tiny gears, a mainspring and a balance wheel.

Mark Harrison

Watch writer

What makes one watch superior to another?

When it comes to the date on a watch, there are a few things that make one superior to another.

  1. The speed at which the number changes is important. The quick switch is faster and more precise. Watches without quick change are not as pleasurable an experience because at midnight the new date is only shown after a transition of time.
  2. The quick-set date is also important.  This allows you to set the date, usually with the crown and sometimes a pusher. Without a quick-set, you must set the time with the hours and minutes until you get to the correct date. This is laborious process for even the most patient watch lovers.
  3. Size of the date. The date is best when it is large enough to be easily read. It should require no strain or effort to read.
Glashutte Original Sea Q Chronograph 43.2
Glashutte Original Sea Q Chronograph 43.2 2

Top, both images, Glashütte Original Sea Q Chronograph 43.2

There are different ways to display the date on a wristwatch. A pointer date, whether it’s a central pointer date or a sub-dial pointer date, is an elegant complication but is not always easy to read.

The date window is the best option. When it comes to date windows there are two types. There is the classic date window, with the date written on a single disc underneath the watch dial.  This is simple to read but sometimes a bit too small. Rolex has added a magnification to the lens that goes over the date window known as the “cyclops” lens.  Although this gives it a distinctive look (and is somewhat controversial) it does make it easier to read.

Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 46 Ref. Ab0137211C1A1 Rgb

Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust 41, Mint Green dial with Oyster bracelet

Glashütte Original: Best date complication

But the best solution is the Big Date complication. This date uses two separate discs, one for each numeral. It is an innovative way of displaying the date that accounts for ease of use in an aesthetically pleasing way.

We have concluded that the big date is the best version of the most useful complication on a wristwatch … but what brand does the big date best?

Happy 25th Anniversary to the Panorama Date of the luxury German brand Glashütte Original. Their innovative design of the date complication since its release in 1997 is still the best version in timepieces today. Lucky for us, they know that they have created something brilliant with the date complication that is used in so many of their watches. This iconic date separates them from all other brands.

Glashutte Original Seventies Chronograph Panorama Date 40 2
Glashutte Original Seventies Chronograph Panorama Date 40

Top, both images, Glashütte Original Seventies Chronograph Panorama Date 40

Glashütte Original uses two discs that do not overlap and comprise an inner disc with four digits (0-3) and a surrounding disc with 10 numerals (0-9).  From all angles, the date is easy to read and complements the rest of the dial. Even for the pickiest of watch enthusiasts, that turn their nose up at watches with the date window not matching the colour of the dial, they have several versions for you.

Furthermore, with a Glashütte Original, you get more than the best date complication that watches have to offer, you also get a great brand with in-house movement in all their watches. It is a true watch brand for true watch lovers. If you see someone with a Glashütte Original, you know they know “what time it is” in more ways than one.

“When it comes to complications of any kind, for me, it’s the tactile experience. Not how many functions can be integrated but the ease of use and precision that only accompanies ‘top of the food chain’ R&D,” says the head watchmaker at Knar, Michael Laskoski. “Whether it’s the disc in disc display or retrograde month indication on the annual calendar, in Glashütte Original’s date systems this is unmistakable.

“My favourite date complications are annual calendars. There’s an incredible balance of multiple executions happening concurrently with razor thin tolerances that occur in a functionally polished and tensioned system. The engineering/build quality and aesthetic appeal put me in my happy place. As a watchmaker functionally is rule of law, as an aficionado finish. Glashütte Original harmonizes both seamlessly.”

Knar Jewellery distributes Glashütte, Rolex and Breitling watches in Canada. 


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