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05 March 2024

Timed to perfection in price and intricate design

By Maha Obeid



If you are looking for a watch that really stands the test of time then the Grande Complication ticks all the boxes. It took seven years to develop, is dripping with jewels and – at getting on for a million dirhams – is one of the most expensive men’s timepieces in the market.


The Grande Complication was launched by the International Watch Company (IWC) in 1990 and only 50 are produced by the company each year. It costs Dh843,200 in platinum and Dh758,700 in 18-carat gold, and to date only six have been sold in the UAE.


Its appeal is as a collector’s item – watches of this calibre generally appreciate over time. Its quality is defined by the number of complications – which in mechanical watches refer to functions besides timekeeping.


“Our target market is a select group of discerning and genuine connoisseurs and watch lovers who excel in their fields of endeavour and appreciate true value and precious craftsmanship,” said IWC Regional Brand Manager Gianfranco D’Attis.


“The Grande Complication has 659 mechanical parts, 71 jewels and 21 functions and displays including a perpetual calendar for the next 500 years.


“There is a perpetual moon phase display made of polished goldstone representing a star-studded night sky. The synchronised interaction of 659 mechanical parts within such a tiny space is a miracle in itself.


“The Grande Complication is the smallest and simplest watch of its kind ever built. It has none of the mechanisms that used to be necessary to adjust the perpetual calendar display, for example.


“This means that the watch comes with none of the intricate devices used in the past to compensate for the vagaries of the Gregorian calendar, on which all our time and date-keeping is based.


“All those jewels ensure the watch performs perfectly without any form of manual correction and guarantee minimal friction and wear during use,” said D’Attis.


IWC was founded in Schaffhausen, northeastern Switzerland, in 1868 and the Grande Complication is the wristwatch version of the town’s astronomical chiming tower clock. The watch, which took around 50,000 hours to develop from the drawing board to the prototype stage, features an invention in the watch that ensures perfect chimes.


“Working inside the case are a chronograph and a highly complex device that chimes the time in hours, quarters and minutes on two gongs.


“Developing the striking mechanism was a technical tour de force. Initially the chimes were inaudible outside the case, so the glass was freely suspended on a membrane to enable it to amplify the vibrations produced by the gongs via a sound transmission pin.


“This invention is instantly recognisable by the slide on the left-hand side of the case. The slide activates the all-or-nothing feature, which ensures that the mechanism never chimes out an incomplete – and thus inaccurate – time.”


Only one of IWC’s has had more jewels than the Grande Complication.


“The Il Destriero Scafusia has 76, five more than the Grande Complication watch,” added D’Attis.


“The Il Destriero Scafusia is a limited edition of an exclusive design produced for the 125th anniversary of IWC in 1993. Only 125 where made – and all were sold before they were produced.”