When we use the word ‘complications’ in watchmaking we are not referring to difficulties or problems, we are in fact talking about the parts of the watch that make the mechanics more complicated – such as a day window, or a month display. These additional bits of information display often require extra cogs, wheels, gears and springs, and literally make the watchmakers job more complicated to make, but with a poetic beauty, make our own lives simpler with the additional functions.
The heights of ultra complicated watches reached famously by Patek Philippe, Vacehron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, Jaeger-leCoultre to name a few, are often seen as a venture not worth pursuing by most brands. They are actually too complicated for most manufacturers to repeat well.
Rolex has not widely been known for it’s complicated movements, but more for it’s precision and durability, however that is not to say they have not contributed worthily to a few areas of time telling complication.
I wanted to draw attention to two models in this article; the Rolex Day-Date and the Rolex Skydweller.
Firstly the Rolex Day-date is one of Rolex’s most praiseworthy and early notable creations. Made in-house and fully patented by Rolex, they worked throughout the 1950s tirelessly to make up for lost time in this movement. In 1956 they released their first edition, and it wasn’t until 1969 did it receive it’s “Presidential” dubbing, when it was released with it’s obviously recognisable concealed folding clasp. Dignitaries, presidents and businessmen alike loved this addition to the market, for it’s convenient day display and Rolex durability and reliability, and showy looks with all its jubilee bracelet facets.
Jumping to the present day, the Skydweller is another Rolex complication that is widely loved and about to get even more popular. In 2012 the model was announced at BaselWorld and became a huge talking point. It’s novel month readout alongside the hour numerals (and the astonishingly cool) bezel setting mechanism made quite a stir. Firstly the busy dial and unusual crown-bezel setting mechanism are completely new to the Rolex collector. Secondly the complication itself is impressive. As an annual calendar the watch tracks time throughout each month, not needing to be reset each month as it automatically calculates the correct date. It’s not easy to make one of these instruments, and especially hard to do in a new way. While the watch was only originally released in yellow, white and rose gold, there is a new addition to the family coming at a much more affordable price. Yes that’s right – a mouth-watering steel version. Announced at BaselWorld 2017 – now that is something to look forward to.