Usefull watch tipps

Date, second timezone, rotating bezel, chronograph and more

The date

The small complications: The date

Are you on the hunt for a decent timepiece?
A watch with date function is a watch, that assists us a lot in every day use.
Functions like this or a second timezone are not referred to as "small complications"
which is more than justified when seen in relation with complications such as the minute repeater or the perpetual calendar.
Although even those so called small complications have their good, practical uses.

Watches with date wheels provide variation

The most common extra on wristwatches is the date display.
Because most manufacturers choose the date "window", a lot of watch people don´t see the variety of possible solutions.

Starting with the regular date window, there are many different types to choose.
i.e. use a white date disc on a black dial that is easier to read
or choose the more harmonic way and go with a black date disc that looks nicely integrated to the dial.
A little odd on the other side is it, if the designers chose to use a cream date wheel with white date print.
It looks a lot more disturbing to look at than i.e. contrast colours.

Rolex took a pioneer role in the "date watches" with the first DateJust that launched in 1945.
Today this function of course is usual and the most used variant of the date display.

What type of date display is the most comfortable?

As an alternative to the date window, there is the date sundial.
A small hand on this sundial controls the display of the date.
In terms of readability, this may not be the perfect solution though.
However the best of that sort is the "big date".

Stylistically for this design was the Lange 1 built by the german manufacturer A. Lange & Söhne.
Not only the Lange 1 featured said date but also others of their models.
Many more of that kind from other manufacturers were to follow.

whilst A. Lange & Söhne used a two disc mechanism,
the swiss manufacturer Zenith uses three discs to run the date complication which is also patented to them.
The allows the biggest display possible in watches that have more complications.
The available space in the movement is small and thus it´s the easiest and biggest way to display the date.

Technically, this solution is relatively easy..

The setting is placed within two overlapping discs of those only the upper one has 6 numbers and cuts.
Due to the cuts the remaining 4 numbers are visible during time.
Because not all 10 numbers have to be on one disc, the print of them can be increased.

So all in all the big date is a beautiful and yet functional solution.
Aesthetics could only bug that during the first nine days, there is a zero or a white space on the first half of the spot.

A watch with a date can also be unpractical..

A lot more problematic than the big date watches are watches that have the date in a big window in that also the prior and following dates appear.
Due to the many visible dates, it can be hard to focus on which is the correct one. 

Second timezone

The most liked complication: Second timezone

The GMT-Watch, as the second timezone watches are also often referred to, shows additional to the home time the time of another timezone.
Intentionally the abbreviation GMT means "Greenwich Mean Time", the world time that refers to every time around the globe. 

Why is it also called GMT - Watch?

The intentional purpose of the GMT watches was to also show the GMT time.
Even if it is up to the buyer which timezones he uses, the principle of the idea has not changed throughout the years.
On some models, i.e. the Rolex GMT-Master II, the GMT is a part of the model name.
This watch displays the second timezone via an additional hand on the movement, the belonging 24 hour scale can be found on the bezel. 

Why are there even timezones? 

The history originated in 1876 on a rained train station in the midlands of Ireland.
There was the canadian engineer and railway director Sandford Fleming who waited forever for his train to arrive.
Because his watch was on another time as the clock at the station,
he realised that the world has not yet accepted the existence of uniform times but different time zones.

From place to place, the watches were adjusted after the sun height.

It was not a coincidence that Sandford Fleming stumbled on this problem.
Only after trains and steam power it was possible to do fast travels which caused the different times to be a problem for the travellers.
Fleming wanted to bring this to an end and brought up the idea to make the world times uniform.
Together with people of the same thoughts he has fought for the worldwide use of the time zones.

Base for this was a simple calculation:
Time jumps are made in full hours, (the easiest) thus the 360° of the earth were divided by the number of hours in a day: 24.
They got the 15 and they decided to limit each zone within 15 meridians (-> the same zone within those 15 meridians)
Why does the world time refer to Greenwich?

Based on the system those men have created,
the meridian conference in Washington decided (25 nations decided) the world time to be GMT (GreenwichMeanTime).
Reason for that is that the royal observatory was set to the international 0 Meridian in Greenwich.
The different time zones do not strictly follow the meridian lines but the political states and mountains etc.
Since 1919 the GMT is also named the Universal Time (short: UT).
What did the first GMT watches look like? 

In the beginning of the GMT watches, there was a second hour hand mounted on the watch that moved along in motion with the hour hand.
Although this has been proven to be useless since the introduction of the summer time.
More modern constructions allowed the second hour hand to be set via the crown and thus be independently adjustable from the currently set main time.
This was the birth of the universal world time watch that allowed free setting of any time parallel to the first set time. 

The today´s GMT watch allows free choosing of time zones. 
We expect two independently adjustable time zones nowadays of a GMT watch, as we are used to use it.
But also because it gets to be a world wide watch, it does not apply to the universal world time watch since it does not display 24 time zones or more.
It is also needed that there is a clear display of the different times of the day on the GMT watch.
A traveller in Yokohama should have to know without heavy thinking what time it is in his hometown Greenwich, is it 9:00 am or 9:00 pm?

Rotating Bezel

The rotating bezel on GMT Watches

On watches with a second timezone, this sometimes is shown with the 24 scale on the bezel. An example for this is the Rolex GMT-Master by Rolex.

The rotating bezel on divers

Most often, you can find rotating bezels on diver watches.
On those it is mostly uni directional. This is because the diver reads the remaining diving time this way.
If the bezel is uni directional, it can only shorten but not make it longer which would cause high danger for the diver and his life.

The rotating bezel on Pilot-Watches

The second most often used rotating bezel is used on pilot watches. Here the ring has to be directional in both ways.
Especially pilots that fly according to visual flight rules use it as help regarding the navigation.
On start you sort the 0 to the minute hand so that the bezel counts the minutes currently flying.
If the route for instance changes after 13 minutes due to Landmarks and requires a change of route, you can track it via the bezel.


In everyday life complications are something negative, not so negative when you look at it in the world of watches.
Due to the complication on a watch, another function is added to the main one of the watch.
This can cause parts counts raising from about 60 to over 300 a movement.
The watchmaker is doing a very complicated job when building up a complication movement but how important it really is for you as a wearer?
That is something you personally have to decide, sometimes the fascination doesn´t lie in the use of the function
but the simple fascination in the function and for that what mankind has crafted here on such a small room.
The chronograph 

One of the most popular watch complications is the chronograph function. The function to measure a time lapse.
Due to the high amount of parts, the high work put into it and a lot of springs and internal parts, this complication is very hard and exhaustive to build.

The measuring usually is started with the upper pusher of the watch and same rules apply for stopping said measurement.
Once you are done with measuring the desired time lapse, you can reset the complication by stopping the chronograph and after that resetting it with the lower pusher.

To have the chronograph reset perfectly to zero, there are small heart shaped discs underneath the axis of the hands.
To use a chronograph function on a mechanic watch, the engaging and releasing of the blocked wheels has to happen at the same time.
This complex chronograph function can be solved by a traditional ratchet or a modern camcon.

The measured time of your chronograph function is displayed on the certain sundials.
Mostly one of them is displaying the minutes and one the hours, whilst the big second displays the running seconds.
A chronograph with sundials at 3 and 9 is called "Bicompax-Chronograph".
If there is another third sundial at 6, it is a "Tricompux-Chronograph".

Chronographs with automatic or hand wind movement? 

Chronographs with automatic movement were released rather late.
The manufacturer Heuer presented their first automatic chronograph with the Heuer Carrera in 1969.
The movement was built in collaboration with Breathing, Dubois-Dpraz and Hamilton, who also used the movement later.

The same time, Seike and Zenith worked on their first automatic chronograph movement.
The very exciting race between the two counterparties ended pretty much draw, because all movements were able to launch in 1969.

The most successful chronograph movement with automatic wind is the 7750 that has been produced since 1973,
it is built by the Swatch Group and their movement section - ETA. 

Manufactory chronographs

The high level with the building of chronographs is the development of the own chronograph caliber.
For luxury brands like Patek Philippe and A. Lange & Söhne this is actually mandatory.

They even add small refinements like a calendar function to make it even more complicated.

2009 Breitlind launched their first chronograph movement. The 01, that is officially certified for the brand.

6 years later, Breathing presented the manufactory caliber B14 in the Transocean Chronograph 1915.

The El-Primero-Caliber made by Zenith is one of the so called high speed oscillator
(36.000 half oscillations an hour (-> 5 Hertz) also it can measure one tenth of a second.
An amplitude of 28.000 an hour (-> 4 Hertz) means an accuracy of one eight of a second.
At 21.600 it is one sixth and at 18.000 it is one fifth.

Of course there are some more complications of this chronograph function..

Chronograph with Flyback function
Chronograph Rattrapante
Chronograph Foudroyante 

Power Reserve

The small complications: power reserve

As almost every other technical device a watch also needs energy to run.
This energy the watch takes from the in the spring housing sitting tension spring, via the crown and on automatic movements via the rotor.
The time, that it takes until a watch runs fully out without providing new energy is called power reserve.

It is not advised to let the power reserve of a watch run fully down, before you apply new energy.
The more tense is on the spring, the more even the watch is running.

Very useful with this complication is the display of the power reserve, especially in precious timepieces like Marinechronometer.

After the manufacturer Breguet has presented a prototype in 1933, Jaeger-LeCoultre made it open to the open mass in 1948.
The world wide first watch, that showed the power reserve, it was called powermatic.

The watch manufacturers started to use the power reserve display, because the customers of those watches didn´t trust the automatic movements yet.
They were scared that the watch will occasionally just stop.
The solution for this was to show the power reserve via a display on the dial.
Jaeger-LeCoultre printed these "sundials" with hour marks and made it very easy and accurate to track the current power reserve.
Since then this display is also often used in automatic watches, although it would not be of much use.

Other than that mostly a hand takes the job of indicating the power reserve. It is connected to the winding mechanism via a gear.
If you wind, the hand goes to the end of the scale and the longer it runs down, the more it will move towards the other end of the scale.

Very interesting is the function of the power reserve on hand wind or automatic watches with long power reserve.
Thus a timepiece with an eight days power reserve does not have to be punished with heavy and often winding.
Also people that find it boring to see regular hands to present the power reserve have many different alternatives to choose from.
The power reserve is a function for all price segments.

It is not only reserved to be used in expensive timepieces, it can also be found in rather cheap watches, at around 400 Euro.
Here there are ETA or Sellita movements used. 


The Flyback Chronograph combines the stop, reset and start in one single process.
It´s hands are basically flying back with one press.
Whilst you have to use the pushers three times on regular chronographs, you can do it all with one on the Flyback Chronographs.
Where does the Flyback Chronograph come from? 

The Flyback chronograph was firstly patented by Longines in 1936 in the caliber L13ZN.
The function was appreciated by many pilots so they could quickly start new measurements whilst being in blind flight in the cockpit.
Thus the Flybacks have been used in military use very early.
With the Blancpain 2185F and the Breguet Type XX Aronavale the Flyback function has had its renaissance in the more modern time.

What other names exist for the Flyback Chronographs? 

Flyback is the most commonly used name for this complication, less known are i.e. "Permanent zeroing" and "retour en vole".
Today the Flyback Chronograph is mostly used in very beautiful watches if looked at the newest pieces in 2015.
Not only Pilot watches and sports watches are making use of the function but also very elegant timepieces are equipped with the complication.


The Rattrapante Chronograph is also referred to as the double- or slave pointer Chronograph.
It has an additional hand, the double pointer, that allows the stopping of interims.
For that this hand runs as a secondary hand underneath the regular chronograph hand and can be disconnected when stopping.

Often the second hand is controlled via an additional pusher at 10.
Both hands are started together, if you push the pusher, the second hand is stopped whilst the chronograph hand continues to move and can still be manually stopped at any point.
Another push let´s the just stopped hand slip back underneath the chronograph hand and keep them running simultaneously.


The chronograph with the second foudroyante -> flying seconds has a stop display for the seconds which hand makes one full spin in a second.
Depending on the mainspring frequency this spin is divided in steps, this function allows the measurement of quarters, sixths or eights of a second.

Moon phase

The moon performs a certain attraction to us as it is the nearest celestial body to the earth.
It causes tides, inspires poets and acts as a symbol of the unattainable.

The humans started to focus on the moon very early in the time, take advantage of the regular cycles for the use of time lapses and as a base for the first calendar.

Already in the early 16th century, certain wall clocks can show its position.

In the 1980s the swiss manufacturer Blancpain made the Moonphase function shine again, after it has been lost out of sight for many years.

They have launched the Caliber 6395 with the smiling moon next to the signs of the calendar on the dial.
The watch was such a success, that many other manufacturers followed with building moon phase watches.
The classic moon phase can be rounded to 29,5 days.
Thus you simply use a wheel movement with 59 teeth for twice 29,5 days.
On the disc of the wheel there are two different opposite moons of which only one can be seen on the dial at a time.

The wheels forward one tooth a day to display the moon phase correctly.

This kind of moon phase display is off for 8 hours every year and even 1 day every 3 years.
For those instances, there is a simple button that can correct the wrong display of the phase.

You can also find moon phases on lower budget watches since it is not a too price intensive complication to fulfil.
Of course there is room to the top.
The more complicated mechanisms only require a correction of the moon phase once every 100 years!
And it´s only a day off in those 100 years.

Thus a correction on the Große Lange 1 MoonPhase made by A. Lange & Söhne, that was presented in 2014 will be necessary in 122, 6 years.

The Richard Lange Ewiger Kalender "Terraluna" with orbital moon phase displaying,
that was also presented at the SIHH 2014 has to be corrected in 1.058 years also only 1 day.

The record is held by Andreas Strehler.
his built out of 4 components complicated moon phase has a needed correction of a day once every 2 million years.
That is true horological performance at the highest level.

Often precise moon phases are combined with other complications such as the perpetual calendar.