9 of the Best and Most Impressive Complication Watches of 2020
The pinnacle of mechanical watchmaking in 2020.
The end of the year is fast approaching, so it is time for MONOCHROME to take a look back at the watches we think should make our “best of” lists for 2020. The COVID-19 outbreak disrupted our lives… and, incidentally, the watch industry. Despite this situation, we’ve seen plenty of fascinating watches. We are starting with a round-up of the most complex and most innovative movements. From grandes complications to new escapements, here are some of the creations at the pinnacle of mechanical watchmaking for 2020.
Note: the Vacheron Constantin Grand Complication, despite the fact that it is, without a doubt, a truly impressive timepiece, is not included here as it is a commissioned watch.
Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Grande Sonnerie Carillon Super Sonnerie
The grande sonnerie is an Audemars Piguet speciality. However, seeing it in the case of the brand’s modern Code 11.59 sounds like a grand return. Although the foundations of the movement are those of the AP Grande Sonnerie Carillon, there is a major upgrade here with the Grande Sonnerie concept that generates superlative acoustics. The gongs are mounted on a ‘soundboard’ to optimize the sound propagation. Last, to add to the exclusivity of this impressive masterpiece of watchmaking, Audemars Piguet has decided to collaborate with one of the most respected artisan enamellers, Anita Porchet. More details here.
Quick facts: 41mm gold case – AP calibre 2956, in-house – hand-wound – hours, minutes, Grande Sonnerie and Petite Sonnerie Carillon, minute repeater– Grand Feu enamel dial – alligator leather strap – approx. CHF 725,000 – www.audemarspiguet.com
Bernhard Lederer Central Impulse Chronometer
We are dealing here with the very essence of watchmaking and chronometry. With his Central Impulse Chronometer, Bernhard Lederer completed the work of the natural escapement as interpreted by George Daniels. Just like the British master watchmaker, he installed the two escapement wheels at the end of two separate gear trains, each with its own barrel. Lederer added a 10-second constant force remontoire on each of these independent gear trains. These aim at maintaining chronometric precision equalizing the torque variations in whatever the state of wind. Not just a fascinating development, according to the German master watchmaker the new movement would be precise to +/- 0 second per day with remarkable stability over its power reserve. More details here.
Quick facts: 44mm gold case – hand-wound calibre – hours, minutes, small seconds, two barrels, two independent gear trains, two remontoirs d’égalité, natural escapement – alligator leather strap – CHF 128,000 – www.bernhard-lederer.com
Bovet Recital 26 Brainstorm Chapter 2
A signature Bovet cocktail of horological fireworks and exquisite finishings, the Recital 26 Chapter 2 won the ‘Mechanical Exception’ prize at the prestigious Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2020 (GPHG). Inside its ‘writing slope’ case made from sapphire crystal, the R26 packs an impressive combination of complications: a double-face flying tourbillon, a precision moon phase indicator, a second time zone with world time, and a lateral power reserve indicator. The ‘sunshine’ version pictured here literally shines by day and glows by night thanks to the creative use of Super-LumiNova. More details here.
Quick facts: 47.80mm sapphire – grade 5 titanium case – hand-wound calibre 17DM06-DT – hours, minutes, seconds on the tourbillon, hemispherical moon phase indicator, universal time with indexable second timezone, power reserve indicator – yellow rubber strap – limited to 7 pieces – CHF 365,000 – www.bovet.com
Breguet Classique Double Tourbillon 5345
Breguet introduced a new ‘openwork’ version of its signature double tourbillon. A bold and mechanically fascinating statement, the watch showcases impressive watchmaking and decoration skills. It 738-part mechanism sets the whole plate in motion through a central differential to indicate the hours. The back of the watch is as effusive as the dial. Composed of four bridges in solid gold, the movement’s back is entirely hand-engraved with the façade of A.L. Breguet’s house at 39 Quai de l’Horloge in Paris. More details here.
Quick facts: 46mm platinum case – calibre 588N, in-house – hand-wound, double-tourbillon connected by a differential on the main plate indicating the hours – alligator leather strap – CHF 628,000 – www.breguet.com
Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph
With the release of the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic, Bvlgari consolidates its sixth world record for thinness in six years. The latest Octo comes in a 42mm x 7.40mm sandblasted grade 5 titanium case, a classic look for the collection. Only 3.50mm in height, the automatic ultra-thin skeleton movement is wound by a peripheral rotor. The chronograph mechanism is driven by a column wheel while an oscillating pinion is used to engage/disengage the chronograph. Like its predecessors, this Octo Finissimo Tourbillon chronograph remains very comfortable on the wrist and it looks spectacular with its sharp and edgy design. More details here.
Quick facts: 42mm diameter x 7.40mm height –grade 5 titanium case– calibre BVL 388 automatic ultra-thin movement with peripheral rotor – mono-pusher chronograph – titanium bracelet – EUR 155,000 – limited edition of 50 pieces – www.bulgari.com
Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 2RE
Although the brand’s focus remains the same – precision chronometry – the second Berthoud collection comes with a new case and a new calibre. The Chronomètre FB 2RE picks up the shape of Berthoud marine clocks and their modular construction. It is based on a cylindrical container fitted with short, tapering lugs secured to the case by stylised bolts. Time is displayed on a traditional Grand Feu enamel dial combining Roman numerals for the hours and Arabic numerals for the minutes. Its spectacular movement combines a fusée-and-chain and remontoir d’égalité, two mechanisms to regulate the driving force delivered to the oscillator. Visible via the exhibition caseback, the finishing is spectacular. The Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 2RE took home the ‘Chronometry’ prize at the GPHG 2020. More details here.
Quick facts: 44mm gold case – calibre FB-RE.FC, in-house hand-wound, constant force with fusée-and-chain transmission and remontoir d’égalité, COSC-certified chronometer – Grand Feu enamel dial – alligator leather strap – CHF 210,000 – www.ferdinandberthoud.ch
Jacob & Co. Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon
Jacob & Co. has managed to create some of the wildest, craziest and most complicated watches of the past years. Designed to reproduce the Bugatti 16-cylinder engine in a timepiece, the ‘Chiron’ is regulated by a 30º inclined tourbillon. Push the right-hand crown of the timepiece and the engine comes to life – the crankshaft turns and the 16 pistons pump up and down, just like a true engine. More details here.
Quick facts: 55mm x 44mm titanium case – hand-wound calibre JCAM37 – hours, minutes – 1-minute tourbillon cage 30° inclined – W16 engine in a sapphire block, animation on-demand (pusher on the right) creating a rotation of pistons and crankshaft – power reserve indicator at 3 o’clock – rubber strap – CHF 280,000 – www.jacobandco.com
Patek Philippe Grande et Petite Sonnerie 6301P
The grande sonnerie and petite sonnerie hold a special place in the world of Haute Horlogerie. There is only a handful of watchmakers capable of manufacturing such works of arts, often regarded as the ultimate horological complication. The 6301P is the first stand-alone grande et petite Sonnerie wristwatch from Patek Philippe (and the brand’s second grande et petite sonnerie wristwatch after the Grand Master Chime). Remarkable for its understated elegance, refined finishes and technical exigence, this exquisite timepiece focuses the attention on its complication. Another high note for Patek. More details here.
Quick facts: 44.8mm platinum case – hand-wound calibre GS 36-750 PS IRM – hours, minutes, small seconds, jumping small seconds, movement power reserve indicator, strike work power reserve indicator, grande sonnerie, petite sonnerie, minute repeater – Grand Feu enamel dial – alligator leather strap – Price on request – www.patek.com
Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept
The Piaget AUC is the thinnest mechanical watch ever at just 2mm! Strictly speaking, this mindboggling timepiece is not a complication, but achieving this amazing slenderness involved a radical re-engineering of the architecture of a watch, fusing the movement’s mainplate, the case and the bezel into one single component. Originally presented in 2018 as a prototype, the AUC is now available in the frame of customization service. It allowed Piaget to take home the Aiguille d’Or, the top prize, at GPHG 2020. More details here.
Quick facts: 41mm x 2mm – cobalt alloy case – hand-wound calibre 900P-UC – hours and minutes – alligator leather with Kevlar insert or textile strap – CHF 410,000 – www.piaget.com
Considering how pointless a lot of these very expensive watches seem it is a revelation to see a genuinely innovative timepiece which although expensive would be easy to live with. The Bernhard Lederer Central Impulse Chronometer is a fascinating piece and, if you ignore the open face model, a nice looking watch.