The science of measuring time is one of the oldest complex art forms in the world. Today, intricate timepieces have become dominant in the global luxury goods industry—and you don’t need to be an avid watch enthusiast to appreciate the attention to detail that goes into creating luxury timepieces.
We’ve assembled a list of some of the most intricate timepieces in the world. Whatever your level of expertise in the field, you’ll find that their beauty is easy to appreciate.
The Jaquet Droz Bird Repeater Geneva
The Jacquet Droz Bird Repeater Geneva immediately stands out with its unique face, crafted from gold, mother-of-pearl and black onyx and then hand-painted. Eight charming animations illustrate a variety of scenes, including a churning waterfall, a hatching egg and a bird spreading its wings. One almost needs a magnifying glass just to reveal the needle-fine details packed into its artistic facade.
Just beneath the surface, a complex minute repeater, one of the most complicated functions when it comes to horology, works almost magically to bring the scene to life with chimes and gongs. The finished piece is enclosed in an 18-karat gold case and finished with a black alligator strap.
The Patek Philippe Calibre 89
Dubbed the most complicated timepiece ever made, this pocket watch was created to commemorate the Swiss watchmaker’s 150th anniversary. Patek Philippe spent five years in the research and development phase alone. Watchmakers later took four years to physically manufacture the piece, which required meticulous assembly of 1,728 parts and 24 different complications. In addition to the time, the watch shows the times of sunrise and sunset, the signs of the zodiac, the seasons and more.
One of the four pieces created sold for $24 million at a Sotheby’s auction in 2014. At one million dollars per complication, this small wonder set a new standard in the art of timekeeping.
The Rolex Sky-Dweller
A high number of complications doesn’t always correlate with user-friendliness. But when it comes to master Swiss watchmaker Rolex, ease of use couples with exceptional design. The Sky-Dweller represents the most complex piece in the manufacturer’s roster—but every element contained within is crafted with the user in mind.
Take the dial, for example, which is carefully crafted by hand to ensure readability. Or the model’s 9001 movement (one of the company’s most complex), which works flawlessly in tandem with the piece’s inner elements to activate seven different functions and also execute a seamless wearer experience. Wearers can view the time in two time zones simultaneously. In this case, complications can be a good thing.
Rotonde de Cartier Grande Complication
While a skeleton facade may not be everyone’s first choice when it comes to luxury watches, it is popular among collectors who know a thing or two about complications, and who wish to display them. Thus, the Rotonde de Cartier Grande Complication.
Peering into the transparent exterior of this elaborate piece, it is nearly impossible to fathom the amount of precision it must have taken the Parisian company to condense 578 components (including 47 jewels) into such limited space. It is no surprise that it took the Maison five years to develop and 15 weeks to manufacture.
Audemars Classique Pocket Watch
Regarded as innovators since 1882, Audemars Piguet continues to honor the ancient traditions of a bygone era by manufacturing old-world creations. The Audemars Classique pocket watch is a tribute to the brand’s rich heritage. It contains 637 components and requires over 800 hours to finish.
Whether or not you understand the difference between automatic and manual movement, or can name the benefits of a self-winding mechanism, an up close and personal look at these intricate timepieces may inspire a whole new appreciation for the delicate art of watchmaking.