A look at the world’s most complicated watch: Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers - The Berkley Grand Complication

With 63 complications that include the Chinese and Gregorian calendars, The Berkley Grand Complication is the most complicated pocket watch, created by Vacheron Constantin
It was in 2015 that Vacheron Constantin introduced its single highly complicated watch with the release of the Reference 57260, which featured 57 complications including the Gregorian, Judaic, and lunar calendars. The brand has now outdone itself  with the creation of its new ‘most complicated watch ever’ Les Cabinotiers - The Berkley Grand Complication, with 63 complications distinguished by the presence of the Chinese calendar programmed until 2200. This masterpiece was brought to life by the brand’s three master watchmakers over a course of 11 years where the assembly of the movement alone took about a year, including a trial assembly. 

This single most-complicated watch has been designed and created for billionaire William R. Berkley, owner of the W. R. Berkley Corporation, an insurance holding company, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees for New York University. The watch is named after him.

Powering this timepiece is the double-sided Calibre 3752, assembled from 2,877 components, 245 jewels, 31 hands, and 9 discs. The 63 complications are spread across nine categories — Time measurement and regulation (9 complications), Gregorian perpetual calendar (7 complications), Chinese perpetual calendar (11 complications), Chinese agricultural perpetual calendar (2 complications), astronomical indications (9 complications), split-seconds chronograph (4 complications), alarm functions (7 complications), Grande Sonnerie (8 complications), and additional functions (6 complications).

Time measurement in the watch involves regulator-type hours, minutes, and seconds for mean solar time; day and night indication for reference city; world time indication for 24 cities where the second timezone comes in 12-hour display with respect to Northern and Southern hemispheres, and includes day and night indication. There’s an armillary sphere tourbillon whose regulator with spherical balance spring is visible.

The Gregorian perpetual calendar shows days of the week, months, a retrograde date, number of the day of the week, and indication for the number of the week within the year as per ISO 8601 calendar, and leap-year indication along with four-year cycle.

The primary innovation of Les Cabinotiers - The Berkley Grand Complication lies in its integration of the traditional Chinese calendar into a perpetual calendar format. This required the development of complex algorithms to accurately model the irregularities inherent in the Chinese calendar system, including variations in year and lunar month durations as well as shifting first days of the year.
Additionally, the watch includes a display indicating the variable date of the Chinese New Year, a significant achievement given its fluctuation between January 21 and February 21. The front face of the watch provides various indicators of the Chinese calendar, including the determination of normal or embolismic years and the length of lunar months. Chinese characters are used for date, day, and month displays, along with a representation of the sexagesimal cycle, a foundational element of the Chinese cosmological model.

Astronomical indications in the watch are calibrated for Shanghai that include a sky chart, sunrise and sunset time, and length of the day/night. Also featured are the sidereal hours and minutes and equation of time, and phases and age of the moon requiring one correction every 1027 years
The chronograph movement features split-seconds function and drives the 12-hour and 60-minute counter. There’s an alarm function, with a strike / silence indicator, which chimes with the strike of a hammer against a single gong. The alarm function is coupled to the carillon striking mechanism and the striking allows the choice of Grande or Petite Sonnerie. Adding to this is an alarm power-reserve indication and there’s the system to block the striking when the power reserve of their respective barrels (of Grande or Petite Sonnerie) is exhausted. 

Furthermore, there’s the Westminster Carillon chiming involving 5 gongs and 5 hammers. The watchmakers at Vacheron Constantin incorporated a Grande Sonnerie mechanism with a Westminster carillon into Calibre 3752. This mechanism reproduces the melody of the bells of Big Ben, located on London's Parliament Tower, in four sets of four notes played at various pitches, with an additional note indicating the hour. This chime can be activated at any time by engaging the minute repeater lever positioned on the case middle at 6 o'clock.
At last, further features of the watch include power-reserve indication for the going train and the striking train. There’s a winding crown position indicator and winding system for the double barrels, incorporated with a hand-setting system in two positions and two directions. There’s also a concealed flush-fit winding crown for the alarm mechanism.

The watch is crafted in 18K white gold with a diameter of 98mm and weighs 980g. The metal dial is opaline-sliver toned and features a total of 19 hands at the front and 12 at the back. It comes with a corrector pen and a magnifying glass.

Images: Courtesy Brand

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