The first Grand Complication on a wristwatch: the success of IWC Shaffhausen

We already discussed about what a complication is in watchmaking.

Many watch collectors asked to famous watchmakers ultra-complicated pocket watches. Marie Antoinette, Leroy 01, Packard, Graves, are exciting moments of the race toward the most complicated watch.

Beyond those  incredibly high complicated watches, there was a current production of watches with many complications: Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Audemar Piguet, IWC, Lange, Breguet, Blancpain e few others were able to produce highly complicated watches already at the end of XX Century. This trend asked for a precise terminology to enable a fair comparison among watches. Because of this, the “Grand Complication” expression was born to indicate a pocket watch containing the maximum of the tradutional complications: perpetual calendar with moon phases, split seconds cronograph, minute repeater and grande (and petite) sonnerie.

On 1933 Patek Philippe, always in the complications’ forefront, fixed with the Graves a hardly beatable record (to be challenged at the end of the millenium… with the Star Caliber and the SkyMoon Tourbillon). Given this success, wristwatches became the testing ground. Results arrived soon: perpetual calendar with split-seconds cronograph on 1927, after 10 years a cronograph integrated with a perpetual calendar. On 1939 the first perpetual calendar with minute repeater and on 1951 the split-seconds cronograph with perpetual calendar.

On 1986 an “ébauche” from 1960 was completed for the Patek Philippe private collection: it contained for the very first time in watchmaking history, perpetual calendar, cronograph and minute repeater on a wristwatch. This was an exceptional result, that acquired higher importance after a similar challenge taken by Audemar Piguet, that never went over the prototype stadium.

In the meanwhile, inside the only Swiss watchmaking industry with an English name, a team of extremely skilled engineers carefully carried on an ambitious project, made by the fantasy and the resolution of Mr. Hannes Pantli, CEO of the International Watch Company.

The IWC “Grande Complication” was introduced at Basel Fair on 1990. It was the first automatic wristwatch with the three most important watch complications: cronograph, perpetual calendar with digital full indication of the year and minute repeater. The beautiful case, strong and masculine, cut into platinum, contains 614 pieces, many of them brand new. On the white dial gold hands for time and calendar indications dance together with the cronograph blue steel hands. The very special part of this watch is the minute repeater lever on the left side of the carrure, ready to translate the cold of a time information on delicate and worm tolls.

Tolls that declare, in a careful but unmistakable way, the patient supremacy gained in the 90s by Shaffhausen watchmakers with the caliber 79097. The current “Portuguese Grande Complicazione” is still equipped with the same caliber.

On this basis, on 1993 the “Destriero Scafusia” was born: it adds to the perpetual calendar and the minute repeater a split-seconds cronograph and a flying tourbillon with a titanium cage. A great wristwatch, made to celebrate the 125th anniversary of IWC.

The “Destriero Scafusia” was not as revolutionary as its predecessor: Blancpain introduced on 1991 the “Blancpain 1735”, at that age the most complicated wristwatch in the world thanks to its 6 complications: perpetual calenda, moon phases, split-seconds cronograph, minute repeater, quarter repeater and tourbillon escapement.


La "Grande Complication" IWC


Blancpain "1735" con sei complicazioni


Il Destriero Scafusia, IWC


La grande complicazione IWC su cassa Portoghese

Tags: Blancpain Did you know... IWC Watch history