Seriously complicated

By Sean Li, Revolution Editorial Director, Hong Kong

The word “complication” has a specific meaning in watchmaking: it’s a function that affects the time display, and not just how the watch works. The tourbillon, for example, is not a complication per se, but brands have used the term so loosely that it’s generally accepted as one today. For today’s purposes, though, allow me to use the word in its more widely understood definition, not the one that watch nerds will latch on to, as something that’s, well, complicated.

No one can argue that A. Lange & Söhne’s Triple Split is extremely complicated, by any definition of the word. The split seconds chronograph, or rattrapante, is arguably the most underappreciated complication; watchmakers have nightmares about them, for they are particularly delicate to assemble and adjust — and that’s just for a split seconds. Lange was the first maison to tackle the split minutes as well, with the legendary Double Split in 2004. The fact that it’s taken them 14 years to present its logical evolution, the Triple Split, which also tracks the split hours, gives you an idea of how difficult the challenge was. To do it in a watch that is virtually the same size as its predecessor only adds to the astonishment factor (it’s 0.3mm thicker, if you must know).

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A. Lange & Söhne’s Triple Split was revealed at SIHH in January 2018.

On a completely different track is the Ressence Type 2 e-Crown Concept. Here, Ressence’s unusual time display is augmented with technology, but it’s far from being a smartwatch in the “traditional” sense; it’s very much a mechanical timepiece at its core, just one that uses modern technology to address a very basic functionality: setting the time. The Type 2 e-Crown contains an electronic module, powered by a kinetic generator and photovoltaic cells, that will monitor the time you manually set on the watch and maintain it, for example, re-setting it to the correct time if you’ve not worn the watch for a while. It will even pair with an app to enable synchronization of your watch to the second, or simply to your local time zone. If there’s any doubt as to the complexity of this exercise, remember that the Type 2 e-Crown Concept has 500 parts, not far from the 567 parts of the L132.1 caliber in Lange’s Triple Split.

Untitled-2The new Ressence watch blends tech with tradition.

Ulysse Nardin may have captured much attention on social media with its erotic watches, but it’s the new Freak Vision that will appeal to the cognoscenti. As one of the first brands to embrace silicium, the material is used in the balance wheel, with a new twist of welded nickel micro components and silicium micro-blades added to it. The nickel blocks allow the balance wheel to be extremely light, while the micro-blades stabilize the amplitude, all in the interest of improved chronometry. It also receives UN’s own “grinder” winding system, which is twice as efficient as traditional constructs; it marks another milestone as it’s the first ever automatically wound Freak. The new aesthetic and improved ergonomics will undoubtedly draw new eyes to Ulysse Nardin’s signature complication.

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The new Freak by Ulysse Nardin is seriously complicated.