Lifestyle

02 December 2013

Inside a watch masterpiece 

A wristwatch slowly taking shape at a small-town workshop in the heart of Germany's luxury watchmaking industry will soon become the most expensive German watch ever made.


Called the Grand Complication, its 1.9 million euro price tag itself explains why only one can be made in a year – and why only six will ever be produced, according to its creator, A. Lange & Sohne of Glashütte, on the Czech border. That means only the most determined and deep-pocketed collectors of premium watches will ever own one.  

A watch is defined by its functions, and such premium watches share common characteristics. “Complications,” as they are called, actually are features that carry out tasks more difficult than simply telling time with an hour, minute and second hand. 

Based on a pocket watch made by the original Lange et Cie firm in 1902, the Grand Complication has 14 functions and seven complications. Because it must be built by hand with 876 handmade parts, Lange’s craftsman – only one has the required skills – requires at least 12 months to create a single watch. The first will be ready at the end of 2014.

Makers of premium watches are prone to pack their products with a rich array of complications, which can accomplish feats such as accounting for leap years and providing mechanical ring tones. To be designated a “grand complication,” the watch must have a perpetual calendar, a chronograph and a minute repeater. 

Workmanship is the prime attraction of premium watches. Even in the digital age – or especially in the digital age – it’s hard to deny the appeal of a timepiece built by hand much as it has been done since the 17th century.