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Feature: These watches are MUCH more complicated than they look

Looking at the timepieces below, you’d think there’s very little watch wizardry going on beneath their dials. With no extra hour hands, pushers flanking the crown or clusters of subdials, they’re definitely not among the multi-tasking Swiss Army Knives of the horological world. And yet these fuss-free watches are more technically accomplished than their looks suggest.

Here’s why they’re special…

H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Perpetual Calendar

H. Moser & Cie is the irreverent brand that made the timepiece that looked just like an Apple watch. It’s also responsible for one of the most pared-down perpetual calendars around. This minimalist masterpiece seems to show nothing more than regular time, date and a power reserve display at 9 o’clock. However, the rather stubby-looking hand poking up towards 12 o’clock is actually a month indicator, while the leap-year is displayed on the reverse. Also worth mentioning is the duration of its power reserve, a brag-worthy 168 hours.

Rolex Milgauss

No doubt there are Rolex fans who purchased the Milgauss because of the unorthodox colours and playful lightning-bolt seconds hand—which has been likened to something from a comic strip. But this time-only watch was once a serious bit of kit used by the likes of engineers, technicians and other workers exposed to high magnetic fields, which can cause a watch movement—especially its balance spring—all kinds of problems. To combat this, Rolex protected the Milgauss’s movement with a soft iron cap, plus components that are amagnetic. Of all Rolex models, only the Air King also boasts this feature.

Patek Philippe 5101P 10-day Tourbillon

Image courtesy of Bonhams

Image courtesy of Bonhams

It would be easy to mistake this art deco-style Patek Philippe for a model from its dressy Gondolo collection, but it’s more impressive than that. The text on the dial gives this watch away as a tourbillon, the device famously invented by Abraham-Louis Breguet to nullify the effects of gravity on the movement’s balance. Unusually, Patek Philippe took the decision not to display the tourbillon on the dial side—which is what most brands do—claiming that exposure to ultraviolet light degrades the device’s lubrication oils.

A.Lange & Söhne Saxonia Thin

The epitome of stealth wealth is a dress watch so plain that it makes a jam-jar lid look ostentatious, yet is actually made from white gold and runs on a movement hand-embellished by Saxonia’s master craftspeople. At just 5.9mm thick, the case of this Saxonia Thin is the brand’s most slender ever, and the dial is argenté-coloured—a light silvery grey. So far, so delicately subtle. However, flip it over and you’ll find clusters of blued-steel screws and rubies, crisp Glashütte striping and, the piece de resistance, a unique hand-engraved balance cock that was lovingly chiselled by highly trained artisans. It’s what this exceptional brand is all about.

Carl F Bucherer Manero Peripheral

Flip over this classic-looking Carl F Bucherer Manero Peripheral model and you’ll find a type of movement that’s as rare as snowflakes in the Sahara. Most automatic movements feature a semi-circular oscillating weight—or “rotor”—that obscures half the movement. The use of a micro-rotor means you get to see more of the movement. But another—albeit seldom used—option is the barely noticeable peripheral rotor, which runs along a track on the periphery of the movement, thus leaving an unencumbered view. Vacheron Constantin produces similar movements if you’re seeking something higher-end.

Ochs Und Junior Perpetual Calendar

Ochs Und Junior is the brainchild of Swiss watchmaker, Ludwig Oechslin, who founded the brand in 2006. He’s since been busy tearing up the watch-design rule-book with his innovative yet inexpensive timepieces whose dials look—dare we say it—a little like the plughole in your kitchen sink. This version is a perpetual calendar like no other, with the outermost small dots used to indicate both date and minutes (at 2-minute intervals), and the month indicated by where the outermost of the four dots in the central circle point to. That’s not all. The small circle above the central circle is the power reserve indicator and the one beneath the central circle is the running seconds. Yes, this watch probably takes some getting used to…

Glashütte Original Alfred Helwig tourbillon

Here’s another “stealth tourbillon” from the esteemed Saxon watchmaker Glashutte Original, which has decided against displaying the device through an aperture in the dial side. This is in keeping with tourbillons from the distant past, which were also concealed. What looks like an elegant but relatively unremarkable rose gold dress watch is elevated to haute horlogerie status by the presence of the tourbillon, which can only be viewed through the open case back amidst a striking backdrop of superbly executed Glashütte striping.

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