Giving “It’s Complicated” A Whole New Meaning…

Consider the following scenarios: Someone approaches you and explains that they have something that you want, and they are willing to let it go for a decent price!  Generally speaking, that would be something we considered a good thing, right?

Now, take the same scenario, and add one small variable to it. Let’s pretend now that the individual approached you, and wanted to sell you something that you wanted, but this time…they describe it as very complicated. Would that deter you from the purchase? What if we told you that there is an item that frequently makes the rounds in the world of antiques, and the more complicated, the better? Would that “tick” you off? What could we be “tocking” about?


Clocks and watches (if you didn’t already know) generally speaking, have a gauge of “complication”, and the more complicated the better!  In fact, in Horology (the study of timepieces), the internal workings of watches and clocks are called “Complications!” This is true of any clock or watch and describes any part other than the specific pieces dedicated to hour and minute. Furthermore, the more “Complicated”, the better! If only Women (or Men, depending on which angle you are looking at it from) were likes watches; the more complicated, the more valuable! For the present, and for the purposes of this piece, the lens through which we are looking only pertains to the clocks and watches with true cogs, gears, and mechanical parts. Digital, electronic or satellite clocks / watches aren’t included in this grading, and are separately considered.

There are generally speaking three “categories” which complications fall into, and while it isn’t a set-in-stone, steadfast rule adopted by all makers, it is generally accepted. (c)

–          Timing Complications

  • A Second Hand Chronograph, Independent of the first

–          Striking Complications

  • Quarter Repeater, or Alarm Setting

–          Astronomical Complications

  •  Calendar, Moon Phases, or other time-variable relations

When one achieves all three of these variables, within a single entity, they are qualified as having created a “Grand Complication.”  In fact, the Most Complicated Pocket watch, ever created without the assistance of computers….meaning, by hand, features 24 complications, 920 parts, and sold recently at auction for nearly 24 Million Dollars (USD $24 Million). (c) In fact, this watch, among only a handful of others, have achieved the level of watch-making / clock-making, known as “Super Complication.”

Now that we know all of this, perhaps the next time we take a look down at our wrist, or up on the wall, we might have a stronger appreciation for the true art of clock making! Stay tuned to our upcoming auctions, as in many of them we will have clocks, watches, watch parts, bands, and accessories for your consideration! Stay complicated!

~Jeff S (Antiques & Collectibles Research and Evaluation Specialist, Pot Of Gold Auctions)

*Citations and Credits Linked (c)