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The Most Complicated Watch In The World

    Vacheron Constantin 57260

    To quote Avril Lavigne, “why’d you have to go and make things so complicated?”. Far from teen angst—the real reason for complications in watchmaking is the thrill of the chase involving competition and traditions in precision engineering. For some context, we’ve covered these “grand” or “ultra” complicated timepieces before by showcasing the Patek Philippe “Supercomplication” from the 1930s. That particular oversized pocket watch is the most expensive one, thus far, to be sold at auction—and it is still the most complicated watch made entirely by human hands—but it only scratches the surface in terms of mechanically superior pieces. Thanks to modern precision technology the watch world can bring even more complex visions to the forefront. The current king of complications is the Vacheron Constantin (VC) 57260. “57” in its model number stands for the amount of complications that this watch has. Like the Patek Philippe Supercomplication, and most other grand-complication watches, the VC 57260 is an oversized pocket watch. Having a larger housing makes sense for the amount of mechanical parts that exist in the timepiece (we’ll get to the specifics soon). “Timepiece”—it’s odd to use that name. A complication, in watch terms, is any function of a watch outside of timekeeping. With 57 complications VC’s 57260 could be considered a chimera of calendars, an intricate stopwatch, or perhaps anything but a watch. Ahead we’ll break down some of its various complications to lend some scope on how it functions.

    These are the official summaries of each complication as they’re listed on Vacheron Constantin’s website:

    6 Time Measurement Functions (tip of the iceberg); 7 Perpetual Calendar Functions (Gregorian); 8 Hebrew Calendar Functions (Golden Number in tow); 9 Astronomical Calendar Functions (including the Zodiacs); One Lunar Calendar Funcion (for Moon Phases); 1 Religious Calendar Function (for Yom Kippur); 4 Complications involving 3 Column Wheel Chronograph Functions (the fourth is the minutes counter); 7 Alarm Functions; 8 Westminster Carillon (Chime) Striking Functions; and 6 Functions listed as “Other”. Those functions include a power reserve indicator for the movement and the striking train (Big Ben condensed and labeled, basically).

    The watch movement, to continue running each of these functions, has a 60 hour power reserve. As one can imagine—there are a lot of parts to this mechanical beast. Combining each layered plate gives a grand total of 2,826 parts. This includes 31 hands on the dial. VC’s 57260 was finished in 2015 but its initial design and creation began eight years prior. Even with state-of-the-art machining tools, and the combined experience of multiple veteran watchmakers, it was a massive undertaking. On top of this, because its standalone design, no one knows the true price of the watch. Some estimate that it’s worth up to $10million (or perhaps more) due to its exclusive build. Whoever the client was, they were ready to pay top dollar to have one of the greatest—in terms of engineering—watches ever crafted. 

    Honorable Mentions

    As a quick aside here we’d like to honor a couple of great grand-complication timepieces: The Patek Philippe “Calibre 89” and the Franck Muller “Aeternitas Mega 4”. Patek Philippe’s commemorative follow-up to their 1930s “Supercomplication” (which boasted 24 complications) was, upon release, the most complicated watch in the world—with 33 complications. Getting its name from its 1989 release date, the Calibre 89 was released 27 years before VC’s 57260 watch. In the 27 years leading up to 57260 there was competition, however. A standout for us here at TimesTicking is the Aeternitas Mega 4—created by Franck Muller. This wristwatch was released around 2009 and still stands as the most complicated wristwatch on the market. It’s valued somewhere around $2.7million and unlike its other grand-complication competitors people can actually wear it on their wrist (if they’re lucky enough to find it out in the world). The Aeternitas watch, in terms of complications, boasts 36 respectively.

    For the sake of brevity we won’t dive further into these intricately crafted timepieces. We’ll likely save some of these watches—and likely more—for later posts. Doing so will hopefully highlight how each luxury watchmaker leaves their mark on the world of horology. Although these pieces are sold and distributed to the wealthiest in the world, their worth goes far beyond their price tag. Even with modern technological influence, the amount of drafting and designing that goes into each grand-complicated watch is staggering. If anyone comes along and tops Vacheron Constantin’s 57260, we’ll be sure to have something to say about it. In doing so we hope to explain these diverse timetellers in a way that’s not too—well—complicated.

    Times Ticking has been in operation for more than 30 years, since 1982. We have performed watch repair for customers both locally and internationally. If it Ticks! We KNOW it! Our team of watch repair technicians have a combined experience in watchmaking of over 120 years.

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