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Baselworld 2019 - The Top 3 complicated watches

Baselworld 2019 The Top 3 complicated watches

Why the top three picks isn’t all about the most number of complications.

1. Patek Philippe Ref. 5520P Alarm Travel Time

Granted, the Patek Philippe’s Grandmaster Chime 6300G in white gold presented at the 2019 BaselWorld watch fair is the most complicated wristwatch in the brand’s current collection, what with its 20 complications. However, this is a model extension of the Ref. 5175 Grandmaster Chime in rose gold that made its debut in 2014 to commemorate the brand’s 175th anniversary (1839 to 2014). 

The Ref. 5520P Alarm Travel Time therefore deserves a little more attention as it is a new grand complication for Patek Philippe that required five years of development time. While it features the chiming system, it isn’t a repeater. It is an alarm mechanism that chimes along the same principles as a repeater because it utilises a hammer that strikes the gong.

“The alarm rings for 35 seconds and the chimes are similar to that of a minute repeater,” says Dirk Paulsen, director, C. Melchers GmbH who takes charge of Patek Philippe’s affairs in the region including China.

“The alarm strikes at the rate of 2.5 Hertz. We adopted the striking system of minute repeaters. The hammer strikes the gong that is attached to the caseband and the cadence is controlled by a centrifugal governor just as in minute repeaters,” explains Philip Barat, head of watch development at Patek Philippe.

Top 3 des montres à complications

Ref. 5520P Alarm Travel Time © Patek Philippe

Alarm mechanisms aren’t a new complication for Patek Philippe. For example, the alarm has been incorporated into its famed Calibre 89 pocket watch and the Grandmaster Chime wristwatch. However, this is the first time the alarm function is the key complication for Patek Philippe alongside another useful complication, the second time zone. 

The Calibre AL 30-660 S C FUS is new. “It is a new self-winding base movement for the alarm and two time zones,” highlights Barat adding that the travel time mechanism is the same used for the Ref. 5524 Calatrava Pilot Travel Time. The alarm setting display is in digital format and this is the first water-resistant watch with the striking mechanism for Patek Philippe. 

2. Bulgari Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Automatic

In terms of complications, the Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Automatic pales in comparison to the Octo Roma Grande Sonnerie Perpetual Calendar, said to be the most complicated watch Bulgari has ever made. Both timepieces were part of the brand’s 2019 line-up.

However, the Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Automatic has allowed Bulgari to stake its claim of having the world’s slimmest mechanical chronograph thanks to its 3.3mm ultra-thin case.

“It is not only a chronograph; it is the thinnest ever mechanical chronograph in watchmaking history. The self-winding movement is about 40% thinner than any chronograph ever designed in the Swiss watchmaking industry,” declares Bulgari’s CEO Jean-Christophe Babin.

Top 3 des montres à complications

Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Automatic © Bulgari

This marks the fifth world record in the ultra-thin segment for Bulgari over the past six years. It began with the world’s slimmest tourbillon in 2014, followed by the thinnest minute repeater (2016), the slimmest automatic movement (2017) and the thinnest automatic tourbillon (2018). 

Local time is indicated by the central hour and minute hands with the continuous sweep seconds on the 9 o’clock sub-dial. The Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT has a central chronograph seconds hand and its 30-minute chronograph counter is at 6 o’clock. Home time is indicated on the sub-dial at 3 o’clock where the hours are easily set by the pusher at 9 o’clock. This is a 24-hour sub-dial which means one can easily tell whether it is day or night for home time. Technically speaking, the home time display can also be used as a 24-hour chronograph counter.

3. Zenith Defy Inventor 

It was a toss-up between the Zenith El Primero 21 Carbon equipped with the 1/100th of a second chronograph operating at the high frequency 50 Hertz or 360,000 vibrations per hour and the Defy Inventor. After intense deliberations, the three-hand Defy Inventor emerged as the chosen one. 

Why? Zenith’s Defy Inventor is proof of concept for the Defy Lab that was presented in late 2017. The result of three years of research and development, the Defy Lab featured a ground-breaking innovation – a single component high-frequency oscillator made of monocrystalline silicon that replaces the need for the 30 or so components typically used in standard regulating organs. 

Top 3 des montres à complications

Defy Inventor © Zenith

Touted as the world’s most accurate mechanical watch, only 10 pieces of the Zenith Defy Lab were offered. When asked why back then, Guy Sémon, CEO of what was then LVMH Science Institute (now the TAG Heuer Institute), explained that this was the “launch” version and he has clearly made good on the promise that more offerings evolving from the Defy Lab will not only be launched but will be non-limited. The Defy Inventor marks the commercial beginnings of Zenith’s high-frequency oscillator on an industrial scale.

While the Defy Lab beats at the frequency of 15 Hertz, the good folks at Zenith have further tweaked and fine-tuned the regulating organ as the Defy Inventor beats at 18 Hertz. The Defy Inventor and its movement, the Calibre 9100 automatic movement, is triple certified – for magnetic insensitivity, thermal insensitivity and chronometric precision. 

“There is no comparison with existing systems in mechanical watchmaking and reliability,” says Sémon. One look at the pulsating dial and it is easy to understand why the Defy Inventor is extraordinary and special. 

“The Defy Lab finally gave birth to the Defy Inventor. It has introduced new levels of precision and technologies for us [Zenith] and even the watch industry,” highlights Julien Tornare, CEO of Zenith. 

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