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Thread: The impossible complication

  1. #1
    Master RustyBin5's Avatar
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    The impossible complication

    In 1989 Patek released the Caliber 89 for its 150th anniversary. A spectacular watch and one of the most complicated ever made, it included 33 complications including
    Day of the month
    12 hr recorder
    Day of the week
    Second time zone hour
    Moon phase display
    Winding crown position indicator
    Century, decade and year displays
    Leap year indicator
    Power reserve
    Month
    Temperature
    DATE OF EASTER
    time of sunrise
    Equation of time
    Star chart
    Sun hand
    Time of sunset
    Split second hand (rattrapante)

    Date of Easter deserves a special mention though as most people think it is impossible to truly have this as a complication (at least perpetually). The caliber 89 does have an estimate of the date from 1989 to 2017 which is hugely impressive in itself. Why? Because Easter falls on different dates each year, landing on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring (spring equinox). The range of dates Easter can be is therefore March 22, April 25 or anywhere in between.

    Patek “solved” this by having a program wheel with notches in it. Each year the wheel advances one position and the depth cut in the wheel shows a different date. (this pic from Hodinkee shows the original patent drawings for the Easter mechanics).

    The Julian calendar was a little “simpler” . The Easter dates would repeat every 536 yrs but this isn’t the case with the more accurate Gregorian calendar which Pope Gregory XIII introduced to sort the calendar drift across seasons that the Julian calendar suffered from.

    The closest I can see is the Strasbourg clock. A massive horological wonder in the city’s cathedral. It manages to do it but it’s just not practical in a watch.

    The recent Vacheron 57260 has since eclipsed the Patek in number of complications, boasting a mind boggling 57 .

  2. #2
    The dates of Easter are effectively stored in the watch - these are transferred to the display but as a complication doesn’t seem that impressive (IMO).

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Kingstepper View Post
    The dates of Easter are effectively stored in the watch - these are transferred to the display but as a complication doesn’t seem that impressive (IMO).
    A lot of these complications seem rather pointless - and pretty much piggy backed on a Grand Complication (i.e. repeater, perpetual calendar and chronograph). But heck if you can, then why not!!!

  4. #4
    Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by crazyp View Post
    A lot of these complications seem rather pointless - and pretty much piggy backed on a Grand Complication (i.e. repeater, perpetual calendar and chronograph). But heck if you can, then why not!!!
    Time of sunrise and sunset is actually a really good one - at least it is if you are in the film business.

    The other complication I’d really like is a countdown timer, much more useful than an alarm or chronograph, for instance for cooking, parking meters, when that eBay auction is finishing, when that conference call is starting or it’s time to leave for that meeting... It’s the one I really use on a daily basis on the phone. Very hard to create in a mechanical watch though. One of the best uses for Siri, as in ‘Hey Siri, set a timer for 6 minutes’, or even just, ‘Hey Siri, six minutes’. But I digress...

    Easter, that’s quite a challenge. Interesting clocks!

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Itsguy View Post
    Time of sunrise and sunset is actually a really good one - at least it is if you are in the film business.

    The other complication I’d really like is countdown timer, much more useful than an alarm or chronograph, for instance for cooking, parking meters, when that eBay auction is finishing, when that conference call is starting or it’s time to leave for that meeting... It’s the one I really use on a daily basis on the phone. Very hard to create in a mechanical watch though. One of the best used for Siri, as in ‘Hey Siri, set a timer for 6 minutes’, or even just, ‘Her Siri, six minutes’. But I digress...

    Easter, that’s quite a challenge. Interesting clocks!
    Sunset/sunrise is useful - the best implementation has to be Ochs und Junior's (though the company has gone to pieces). I haven't seen how it works on this watch. I assume factory set for location.

    As for a timer - we do have some regatta based ones for race starts (I'm thinking of the Yachtmaster II)?

  6. #6
    Master RustyBin5's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Itsguy View Post
    Time of sunrise and sunset is actually a really good one - at least it is if you are in the film business.

    The other complication I’d really like is a countdown timer, much more useful than an alarm or chronograph, for instance for cooking, parking meters, when that eBay auction is finishing, when that conference call is starting or it’s time to leave for that meeting... It’s the one I really use on a daily basis on the phone. Very hard to create in a mechanical watch though. One of the best uses for Siri, as in ‘Hey Siri, set a timer for 6 minutes’, or even just, ‘Hey Siri, six minutes’. But I digress...

    Easter, that’s quite a challenge. Interesting clocks!
    Easiest countdown timer is just to set your 12 o’clock bezel pip to the time you want to countdown to. Not perfect but simple enough

  7. #7
    Craftsman
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    Similar in concept to 'look up tables' used for logarithms, sine, cosine etc. since time immemorial.
    Simple but clever application of a time tested method in a new application. Not sure if it's patent worthy but cool nonetheless.

    If I'd bought one of these I'd expect that the program wheel would be changed out at service time so that the date of Easter was always correct.

  8. #8
    Master RustyBin5's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by julian2002 View Post
    Similar in concept to 'look up tables' used for logarithms, sine, cosine etc. since time immemorial.
    Simple but clever application of a time tested method in a new application. Not sure if it's patent worthy but cool nonetheless.

    If I'd bought one of these I'd expect that the program wheel would be changed out at service time so that the date of Easter was always correct.
    That’s what they did. They only made 4 so when 2017 came the 4 needed a service to replace the wheel with a new notched wheel for the next 20+ yrs. wonder if it was included in the price

  9. #9
    Master alfat33's Avatar
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    The programme wheel seems to me a stored programme device like a music box or maybe even a Jacquard loom. In that sense it is closer in concept to a digital watch with a microprocessor in than a mechanical watch.

    A development would be to have date disks that are changeable by the owner. Perhaps you could insert different disks into a slot in the side of the watch case.

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