Feature: This Unbelievable Watch Is The World’s Most Complicated
Back in the late 90s, if you had money to burn and wanted a watch that looked like no other, one whose dials made the Rio Carnival look like an Amish funeral, you wore one of two brands: Alain Silberstein or Franck Muller.
These were watches with the volume turned up LOUD . Indeed, Alain Silberstein was heavily influenced by the ever-colourful designs of the Swatch brand, while none other than Elton John declared Franck Muller ‘the Picasso of watches’.
They boasted large cases, eye-watering palettes, and seemed to radiate the belief that the quartz crisis was history and mechanical watches were back with a vengeance.
Franck Muller's record-breaking Aeternitas Mega 4 watch
While the latter proved to be true, Alain Silberstein somehow fell by the wayside, while the far more technically accomplished Franck Muller had its thunder stolen by a brand that brazenly took its signature tonneau case and dazzling dials and ramped things up a level.
We are, of course, talking about the watch star du jour , Richard Mille. Yet despite being somewhat eclipsed by Richard Mille in recent years, Franck Muller has proved it can still bring out the big guns when it needs to.
Richard Mille was founded in 2000, three years after Franck Muller. Yet the former now sits at the highest echelons of the luxury watch industry while Franck Muller has been shoulder-barged to the horological margins.
Franck Muller himself is no longer at the helm of the company, preferring to live the quiet life in Thailand. And in 2009 when Richard Mille was beginning to make its mark on the industry, Franck Muller chose to scale down its operations in the face of the economic crisis, putting its expansion plans on hold.
So it was a pleasant surprise when in 2018 Franck Muller, seemingly in an attempt to remind the industry of the brilliance it’s capable of, released a mind-boggling model that remains one of the industry’s greatest achievements.
The Aeternitas Mega 4 packs in an astounding 36 complications
Rather than compete with Richard Mille’s A-list clientele and outlandish dial designs, it focused on traditional complications, finding a way to accommodate an astounding 36 of them in one stunningly executed watch that comprises 1,483 components.
The result? The phenomenal Aeternitas Mega 4, a watch that sold for the best part of $3 million on its release.
A Lotta Watch
It’s probably easier to tell you what the Aeternitas Mega 4 doesn't do than what it does. Just look at the thing! With more pushers than a crystal meth convention, it’s a function-rich watch that could keep you entertained through decades of solitary confinement in a bare prison cell.
Still, we’ll cover some of its more useful and interesting features, the most prominent of which is the flying 1-minute tourbillon—visible through the dial at 6 o’clock— something whose omission would be almost criminal in a haute horlogerie watch at this price.
Elsewhere, it would be hard to place a pen nib between the various function displays, which are ingeniously positioned on the dial as to keep an impressive symmetry.
Naturally, there’s a perpetual calendar, shown via retrograde displays at the top of the dial and a circular week-day indicator at 9 o’clock, as well as a leap year indicator. Neither your grandchildren or their grandchildren will need to worry about re-setting the watch at any time, though, as it’s all set up to run accurately for, oooh, about a thousand years.
It goes without saying that such a high-end masterpiece features a flying tourbillon
A watch like this couldn’t be without a chronograph function, of course, and Franck Muller has cut no corners here, providing a split-second chronograph, no-less. The start/stop chronograph pusher is integrated with the crown, while the pusher at 3.30 activates the flyback function.
There are also two 24-hour displays, a moonphase indicator and equation of time indicator. Amazingly, all the displays–whether digital, retrograde, fan-form or conventional circular sub dials–seem to work in aesthetic harmony. The movement makers undoubtedly deserve credit for their masterpiece but so do the designers. A mountain of paracetamol must have been consumed by all of them in the five years it took to bring this huge, migraine-inducing project to fruition.
Music, Maestro, Please!
Yes, they’ve also managed to make this watch a musical one, with a symphony of four hammers and four gongs. Frankly, we would have been perfectly content with a mere minute repeater. But no, the Aeternitas Mega 4 also features both a grande and petite sonnerie.
This means you can play its melodious Westminster chimes on demand when in minute repeater mode–or just wait for it to chime on the hours and quarter hours in grande sonnerie mode. In the petite sonnerie version, the hourly chimes are not sounded. You can also set it to silence mode if all that intermittent chiming gets a bit too much.
The watch comprises a mind-boggling 1,483 components
All chiming functions are operated by the two pushers at the top left of the case, with a fan-form display at 2 o’clock to indicate whether you’re in ‘Petite or ‘Grande’ sonnerie mode.
With such an abundance of pushers—could this itself be some kind of record? — it’s kind of inevitable that you’ll go to time your breakfast boiled egg using the chronograph and accidentally set off the chimes instead. That said, we can think of worse things to listen to in the kitchen first thing in the morning than the soothing gongs of a minute repeater.
The Noah’s Ark of Watches
Have we left anything out? Probably. But then the Aeternitas Mega 4 has so much going on that any potential buyer probably needs some kind of one-on-one tutorial from the manufacturer before they can take it away.
The individual parts of the watch - best not try to service it yourself
If the Almighty were to wipe out all Swiss watchmakers in a devastating flood, this is probably the watch you’d want to stash away in a box at the summit of Mont Blanc, to be retrieved and used as a guide when the industry was able to start up again. It’s a Noah’s Ark of a watch, a timepiece that features all the classic complications of the last 150 years, and in a not-too-big 42x61mm case—platinum, naturally.
Over to you, Richard Mille.
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