Researching and learning – from fiction – that’s what I should have called this blog post!
I read a lot of books. Several a week… but nearly all fiction. And of those books, nearly all are genre fiction. Thrillers, cop stories, amateur sleuths, detectives from Canada, North America and around the world. I read them all. And I have to say I have always learned a huge amount (aside from who dunnit) - everything from geography to culture, languages, music, and yes, technology.
In one of my latest, “Dead Man’s Time” by Peter James, the term “complications” was used to describe part of a valuable watch. Wow, I thought. Same as the Apple Watch I so covet!
In case you were wondering, Peter James is an international best-selling British writer of crime fiction, and author of the Roy Grace series. Here’s the description of Dead Man’s Time, from his website: “A vicious robbery at a secluded Brighton mansion leaves its elderly occupant dying. And millions of pounds' worth of valuables have been taken. But, as Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, heading the enquiry, rapidly learns, there is one priceless item of sentimental value that the old woman's powerful family cherish above all else. And they are fully prepared to take the law into their own hands, and will do anything, absolutely anything, to get it back.”
The watch in question is a Patek Phillippe.
From Wikipedia, I learned that, “Patek Philippe & Co. (PP) is a Swiss ultra-luxury watch manufacturer founded in 1851, located in Geneva and the Vallée de Joux. It designs and manufactures timepieces and movements including some of the most complicated mechanical watches. It is considered by many experts and aficionados to be one of the most prestigious watch brands.”
The website for Patek Phillippe watches states, “A 'complication' is any additional horological function to the display of hours, minutes and seconds.”
“Complicated watches made by Patek Phillippe are assigned to one of two categories.
Complications: watches with one or several additional hands that have a timing function such as Annual Calendar, dual time zones, multiple time zones (World Time), power reserve indication, 10-day power reserve, indication of the state of wind of the movement.
Grand Complications: watches with astronomical indications such as perpetual calendar (with moon phases), perpetual calendar with fly-back retrograde date, astronomical calendar, small and grand strikes, minute repeater, chronographs and split-seconds chronographs, self-winding Annual Calendar Chronograph, tourbillon chronometer with 10-day power reserve, triple and grand complications, sidereal time, running equation of time, sky chart.”
A Forbes article from September 2013 stated that a Patek Phillippe Grand Complication sold for a record $2.25 million. Now we are into the territory of my Peter James novel!
And I see why Apple might want to adopt the term “complication” for aspects of its own watch.
In an article on ZDnet from September 2015, I read that “complications” are the feature that enable you to put information directly on the Apple watch face. The story notes. “Complications (as opposed to Glances) are a different beast, starting with the strange name that Apple has chosen. Many Apple Watch faces have tiny areas on the display that can show information at a glance. These info gizmos currently consist of calendar events, local temperature, and watch battery level but can be anything the developer wants to present.
“These can be selected by the user on the watch face selection screen by tapping on a Complications area and then spinning through the available information options with the Digital Crown…
“The uses for Complications are only limited by the imagination of the app developer. Properly conceived and executed they can be as useful as the Apple Watch Glances, perhaps more so given the in-your-face nature of Complications.”
After first finishing the mystery novel, and then looking up the above info, I now totally see why Apple chose the term “complications” for that type of functionality. I guess I wonder a bit about the marketing strategy, though. The association with the history and cachet of Patek Phillippe is perfect, and the use of the term makes sense in both the mechanical and digital watch worlds.
But how many of us potential Apple Watch buyers know enough about the high-end timepiece to make the connection?
How many of us just thought it a “strange name,” as did the author of the article on ZDnet?
Anyway, I am glad I know now. I feel like a real watch-technology insider. I just hope the price of an Apple Watch does not follow in the steps of Patek Phillippe!