‘Although it has been many decades since the pocket watch was in its prime, it still has its place in horological history. It might surprise you to learn that some of the most complex watches in the world were not wristwatches but instead pocket watches. Here, we’ll explore five of the most complicated pocket watches ever made.’
Vacheron Constantin Reference 57260
From 2007 to 2015, three of Vacheron Constantin’s master watchmakers worked tirelessly on a ground-breaking project. A special client, who has chosen to remain anonymous, commissioned the brand to create one of the most complicated pocket watches in the world. The result was the Reference 57260, featuring the brand’s calibre 3750 movement. The revolutionary pocket watch boasts some astounding statistics. It has 2,826 individual components, 10 patents, 31 hands, 85 unique prototypes, and 57 complications. Of the complications, 10 are brand new to horology. Each can be classified into one of four subsets: astronomy, the calendar, striking time, and the chronograph. It measures at a whopping 98m in diameter and 50.55mm thick and weighs nearly a kilogram. You may not actually want to put the Reference 57260 in your pocket. Still, it’s a pretty amazing work of art.
Patek Philippe Calibre 89
Patek Philippe developed the Calibre 89 pocket watch in 1989 to commemorate the brand’s 150th anniversary. They invested five years of research and development plus four years of production to complete the limited four pieces that were made. Although it was created nearly 30 years ago, it continues to be one of the most complicated pocket watches in the world. The Calibre 89 is comprised of 1,728 components and features 33 complications. It measures 88.2mm in diameter and 41.07mm thick, weighs in at 1.1kg, and comes equipped with a thermometer, a star chart, and 24 hands. The difference between each of the four variations is in the case material, with one each in white gold, yellow gold, rose gold, and platinum.
Henry Graves Supercomplication
Henry Graves Jr. was a well-known New York banker and watch collector in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. In 1925, Graves commissioned the brand to create his namesake pocket watch. It took three years to design and five years to manufacture before he received the one-of-a-kind model in 1933. It showcases 24 complications, including a perpetual calendar, sunrise and sunset times, Westminster chimes, and a celestial map of New York City as seen from Graves’s former apartment on the corner of 64th Street and Fifth Avenue. For over 50 years, the world’s most complicated pocket watch was the Supercomplication, until Patek Philippe introduced the Calibre 89. Still, it remains the most complicated pocket watch created completely by hand, without the help of any computers.
Breguet No. 160 Marie Antoinette Grande Complication
The Breguet No. 160 is a complicated watch with a complicated history. An officer of the queen’s guards and admirer of Marie Antoinette originally commissioned it in the late 1700’s. The intricate pocket watch ended up taking 44 years to complete. And, sadly, Marie Antoinette was executed before the watch was finished. At first, it remained with Breguet. In the late 1800’s, a private collector purchased the watch. Then, in the 1920’s, Sir David Lionel Salomons bought the infamous timepiece. In his will, Salomons left the watch to the L.A. Mayer Institute for Islamic Art, and there it remained until 1983. That year, a man named Na’aman Diller stole the watch and vanished without a trace. By 2004, Breguet believed the watch would be lost forever, so they began creating a replica. Then, in 2007, just one year before the reproduction was complete, the infamous timepiece miraculously resurfaced.
Urwerk UR-1001 Zeit Device Über Complication
Some might say pocket watches are passé, but the watchmakers at Urwerk would argue that’s just not the case. In 2011, they debuted the UR-1001 Zeit Device Über Complication pocket watch in a limited edition of only eight, individually numbered pieces. This one of the world’s most complex contemporary pocket watches. It boasts unique complications, like an hour satellite, retrograde minute hand, revolving satellite calendar, and 100 and 1000-year indicators. This modern marvel may not be quite as complex as some of its predecessors. However, the most impressive aspect of the pocket watch is its size, measuring an impressive 106mm x 62mm x 23mm.
The pocket watches described here represent some of the most interesting and revolutionary works of horological art ever made. They may seem a bit extravagant, but their place in the history of watchmaking is undeniable. If you’re interested in learning more about some of the complications mentioned and their application in modern wristwatches, stay tuned to our blog for a more in-depth look at how some of these intricate features work.