Insider's Picks: 5 Most Complicated Watches 2012

The horological equivalent of the supercar, every one of these wristwatches represents the dream of time

While reviewing the Girard-Perregaux Jackpot Tourbillon in July, we turned nostalgic for the days when brands would bowl us over with amazing complications and wicked technical twists. Such watches – the horological equivalents of supercars – once dominated the watch collecting discourse and appeared on the cover of every other watch magazine. Obviously, there is much more to say about just one of these watches than even an entire collection of simple two-hand watches.

Singapore recently played host to a series of wonderful chiming watches from Bulgari, shown exclusively at Malmaison by The Hour Glass, and this occasion reminded us that superwatches are alive and well, if a little more low-key today. With this in mind, we decided to compile a list of the most complicated watches of 2012. Our picks do not reflect largest number of complications – the Franck Muller Aeternitas Mega 4 has decisively settled this issue for the moment – but instead are all high-performance machines, engineered for both maximum performance and breathtaking beauty.

These watches are often multi-complication affairs but most importantly, again like supercars, they inspire the imagination and spark debate. We have already presented many of the star pieces of 2012 in our selection of notable novelties from the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie and Basel World, as well as our favorite tourbillon watches of the year. Doubtless, some of these must rank on the spectacular scale too; however, we wanted to give some space to five watches in particular that we have not showcased together yet.

Before we get to the stars of this story, the main event if you will, we take a moment to once again recognize the virtues of our favorites this year: the discreetly charming A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar, the deliriously complicated Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre à Sphérotourbillon, the mindboggling Harry Winston Opus 12, the theatrical Rotonde de Cartier Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon and the effervescent Van Cleef & Arpels Poetic Wish.

For the purposes of this list, we are also not including conceptual pieces. This means that the recently revealed Cartier ID Two for example is necessarily left out.

While the above watches primarily debuted at the SIHH this year, the majority of the five watches presented below were shown at Basel World, showing that the biggest watch fair of them all is not at all playing second fiddle in the complications stakes. 

  • Insiders Picks 5 Most Complicated Watches 2012 4Blancpain Villeret Calendrier Chinois TraditionnelIn this Year of the Dragon, Blancpain trumped other watch brands with this audacious watch, an entirely new spin on the perpetual calendar that presents the traditional Chinese calendar: traditional double-hour, day, month (with indication of leap months), zodiac signs and five elements with 100 celestial stems. The watch also shows normal hours, minutes and Gregorian date. To our knowledge, Ref 888 (note the significance of the number) is the first in the world to have this complication and Blancpain is certainly the only watchmaker to make this complication a regular part of the collection.
  • Insiders Picks 5 Most Complicated Watches 2012 5Bulgari Daniel Roth Carillon Tourbillon - Boasting an in-house movement called DR3300, this watch features a three-hammer striking mechanism. Although Bulgari does not say so, it is clearly the most complicated internally developed and executed calibre. The hammers (visible at 11 o’clock) sound out hours, minutes and quarter hours. Bulgari has gone a step further for this watch, adding a tourbillon into the mix. At the present time, this is the most complicated watch with a complete in-house movement from Bulgari.
  • Insiders Picks 5 Most Complicated Watches 2012 3Corum Admiral’s Cup Legend 46 Minute Repeater Acoustica - Not even included in the original press kit from Basel World, this watch represents a new level of technical savvy for Corum. With an unprecedented four gongs producing four notes representing hours and minutes, the Acoustica is an aural treat. According to the brand, the four gongs are stacked, with two of the gongs dial-side and two caseback-side. About that dial, well, there really isn’t one. This makes puts the CO 102 calibre front and center and shows off those gongs (at 10 o’clock). The watch employs a unique method to activate the repeater, which involves turning the bezel clockwise about 27 degrees.
  • Insiders Picks 5 Most Complicated Watches 2012 2Glashütte Original Grande Cosmopolite Tourbillon - If our modest list were ordered in terms of absolute technical wizardry, this watch would come first. Probably the most complicated watch of 2012, it is the first wristwatch to bring together the perpetual calendar, world time indication (for all 37 time zones) and one-minute flying tourbillon. Pitched as a traveler’s watch, Glashütte Original has made it so that the crown at 2 o’clock can adjust the date, day of the week and even month, backwards and forwards. Such simplicity is to be lauded in a watch with this much technical ambition.
  • Insiders Picks 5 Most Complicated Watches 2012 6Greubel Forsey GMT - 
    The only watch on the list from the SIHH, the Greubel Forsey watch is also the most humbly named. The clever watchmaking duo og Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey do not even acknowledge the tourbillon in the name! To be fair, the GMT is possibly the simplest watch from Greubel Forsey, essentially displaying multiple time zones. We have include this watch because of that striking globe at 8 o’clock, which is actually a proper globe that acts as the day/night indicator. This is probably the most inventive display of this kind, trumping even the the angled tourbillon 24 seconds at 5 o’clock.

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