22 April 2024


By In Brands, Technical, Vacheron Constantin

At Watches and Wonders 2024, Vacheron Constantin unveiled the Les Cabinotiers “Berkley Grand Complication”, now hailed as the world’s most complicated watch. This exceptional watch boasts an impressive 63 distinct complications and is crafted from 2.877 individual components, surpassing Vacheron’s previous milestone, the ref. 57260, introduced 9 years earlier, which held the title (until now) with 57 complications.

The watch’s name pays tribute to the esteemed collector who commissioned this horological marvel, Mr. W. R. Berkley, a prominent entrepreneur from New York. Mr. Berkley’s fervent enthusiasm for complex horology is further exemplified by his ownership of the ref. 57260, establishing him as the distinguished possessor of the world’s two most complicated watches.

Vacheron Constantin ref. 57260
Vacheron Constantin ref. 57260 – photo courtesy of Vacheron Constantin

Additionally, his collection includes the renowned “King Farouk” pocket watch, representing Vacheron’s pinnacle achievement from 1935 to 2005. By associating his name with this historic timepiece, Mr. Berkley joins the esteemed ranks of legendary collectors like Henry Graves and James Ward Packard, who commissioned extraordinary masterpieces in the 20th century from Patek Philippe, giving the brand the opportunity to innovate and become what it is today.

Vacheron Constantin King Fakour
Vacheron Constantin King Fakour – photo courtesy of Vacheron Constantin

The completion of this masterpiece required 11 years of meticulous research and development by Vacheron, meaning that the groundwork for its creation was laid even before the completion of the ref. 57260.

Mr. W.R. Berkley
How to understand this mechanical marvel

Les Cabinotiers “Berkley Grand Complication” stands as the epitome of horological complexity, representing the culmination of supercomplications in its category, alongside only few others. It features two distinct dials, each showcasing various complications. Within its elaborate mechanism, there lie nine categories of complications, each contributing to its remarkable functionality.

Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Berkley Grand Complication – Front side on the left and back side on the right – photo courtesy of Vacheron Constantin

The front dial presents the discernible regulator-type hours at the 12 o’clock counter. Meanwhile, the minutes are tracked alongside a unique retrograde seconds display, positioned on a 6 o’clock counter. The retrograde mechanism employs a system of two cams to gracefully orchestrate the return of the seconds’ hand to its starting position. Notable among its mechanisms is the visible spherical armillary tourbillon regulator, accompanied by a spherical balance spring, embodying the pinnacle of precision in timekeeping.

In addition to its chronometric prowess, the timepiece incorporates calendar functionalities, including the indispensable Gregorian perpetual calendar for daily temporal reckonings. However, its astronomical calendar and display transcend the ordinary, offering a celestial panorama calibrated to the coordinates of Shanghai (China). This calibration extends to the depiction of celestial phenomena such as the sky chart and the timings of sunrise and sunset, adding an astronomical dimension to its already impressive repertoire. Despite its complexity, the watch further boasts a three-column wheel, one-fifth-second, split-seconds chronograph.

Berkley Grand Complication – photo courtesy of Vacheron Constantin

The auditory symphony produced by the watch’s chiming functions is equally remarkable, revealing yet another facet of its mechanical virtuosity. An alarm feature, discreetly concealed within the timepiece, can be wound and set using a hidden crown, revealed with a subtle twist of the top bow. The alarm can sound with a single gong and hammer or, alternatively, with the grandeur of a carillon-striking mechanism, adding a melodious dimension to its functionality. Furthermore, the repeater function offers a repertoire of chimes, including the majestic carillon Westminster chiming function, accompanied by five gongs and five hammers. This auditory marvel extends to the inclusion of a grande et petite sonnerie, a minute repeater, and the convenience of a nighttime silence mode, between 10PM and 8AM, personally tailored to the preferences of its owner, Mr. Berkeley.

Berkley Grand Complication – photo courtesy of Vacheron Constantin

Undoubtedly, the most outstanding aspect of the watch is its Chinese Calendar complication. Crafting this feature posed significant challenges for Vacheron Constantin, requiring both technical expertise and a profound understanding of the intricacies of the Chinese calendar system. In essence, the inclusion of the Chinese Calendar reflects Vacheron Constantin’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of horological craftsmanship while paying homage to diverse cultural traditions. It took 12 months just to assemble the watch, involving an initial assembly to test the movement’s functionality before embarking on the meticulous process of finishing and final reconstruction.

Chinese calendar super-complication

Understanding the complexity of integrating the Chinese calendar into a mechanical watch is essential to appreciating Vacheron Constantin’s latest achievement. Throughout history, timekeeping has been closely linked to celestial observations, with cultures worldwide developing unique methods to track time based on the movements of stars and planets. This influence is evident in modern calendars, including the Chinese calendar.

In the case of the Les Cabinotier Berkley Grand Complication, the conventional role of timekeeping takes a backseat to a deeper exploration of our connection to time, history, and the universe. Commissioning Vacheron Constantin to incorporate the Chinese Perpetual Calendar into the watch was no small feat; it involved unraveling one of humanity’s most intricate timekeeping systems.

Berkley Grand Complication – photo courtesy of Vacheron Constantin

The Chinese calendar, renowned as one of the oldest calendar systems still in use, operates on a lunisolar basis, meaning it combines lunar phases with solar seasons. This system introduces several complexities, including varying month lengths and the addition of intercalary months to synchronize with the solar year.

In the same way we did in the article about the Moser Chinese Calendar, let’s try to discover why it is so difficult to create a mechanical movement that features a Chinese Calendar, by explaining it.

  • Lunar Months: The Chinese calendar follows the phases of the moon, with each month beginning on the day of the new moon. Unlike the Gregorian calendar, which has fixed month lengths, Chinese months can have either 29 or 30 days.
  • Intercalary Months: To reconcile the shorter lunar months with the solar year, the Chinese calendar occasionally adds an extra month, known as an intercalary or embolismic month. This adjustment helps keep the calendar in sync with the seasons.
  • Chinese New Year: The most important festival in Chinese culture, Chinese New Year marks the beginning of the lunar new year. It falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice and can occur between January 21st and February 20th in the Gregorian calendar.
  • Zodiac Signs: The Chinese zodiac consists of 12 animal signs, each associated with a year in a 12-year cycle. The signs are: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. This year, 2024 is the year of the Green Dragon.
  • Celestial Stems and Earthly Branches: In addition to the zodiac animals, the Chinese calendar incorporates a system of celestial stems and earthly branches. The celestial stems are associated with the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, water) and have a yin-yang polarity. The earthly branches are linked to the 12 zodiac animals. Together, they form a 60-year cycle known as the Sexagenary Cycle.
  • 24 Solar Terms: The Chinese calendar divides the solar year into 24 segments, each approximately 15 days long, known as solar terms. These terms mark important agricultural milestones, such as the beginning of spring, summer, autumn, and winter, as well as other seasonal changes.

Despite millennia of refinement, the irregularities inherent in the Chinese calendar make creating a mechanical watch that accurately reflects its complexities a seemingly insurmountable task. Yet, Vacheron Constantin’s expertise and dedication have led to the development of a watch that not only tells time but also serves as a testament to human ingenuity and our eternal quest to understand the cosmos and our place within it.


In conclusion, the watch created by Vacheron Constantin represents the pinnacle of ultra-complicated watchmaking, starting from the challenges posed by the way the Chinese calendar marks time, and using it as a catalyst for innovation. To give you an idea, consider that only a few brands like Moser, mentioned before, or Parmigiani, with the Tonda PF Xiali Calendar, have managed to ensure their watches run correction-free for 12 years, while Vacheron has pushed the boundaries up to the year 2200.

Parmigiani Tonda PF Xiali Calendar – photo courtesy of Parmigiani

To achieve this, the brand’s watchmakers were aided by specific algorithms that, taking into account all the variabilities of the Chinese calendar, helped them engineer this sensational caliber. It is important to emphasize once again the role of the person who commissioned the creation of this project to Vacheron, Mr. Berkley, who will be remembered for his valuable contribution to the innovation of the watchmaking industry we so dearly love.

Written by Tiziano Patti

Born in 2002, I’m a young watch collector and enthusiast always looking to add new pieces to my collection.