Historical Horology: The Dead Seconds Complication

Posted on 28 April 2013 by Patrick Kansa

 

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In today’s installment of Historical Horology, I’m going to take you through a brief overview of a complication that is rarely seen in today’s watches – the dead seconds (or dead-beat seconds) complication.

Now, when it comes to a mechanical watch, we more commonly look for how smooth the second hand sweeps around the dial, utilizing this as some visual measure of the quality of the movement – as well as separating it from the more common quartz movement (which more often then not tick as time passes).

But what if you could have an automatic that didn’t just have repetitive sound coming from the spinning balance wheel, but also as the seconds hand ticks to each mark on the dial, every second?  That is where the dead-seconds complication comes in.  As Ariel Adams put it:

Thinking about dead-beat second watches is interesting. They really date back to old pendulum clocks that ticked once per a second as well.

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So, with this movement, you get to not just have a miniature machine on your wrist, you’re also hearkening back to those big pendulum clocks.  Now, a complication like this doesn’t have a great specific utility to it, like others (say, day/date or 24-hour) have, and I’d put it firmly in the same segment as things like a tourbillon inhabit.

It’s not to say that it isn’t interesting in and of itself, and it’s one of those little peculiarities in our hobby that can carve out a little niche in your knowledge (and perhaps your collection).  If you’d like to read up some more on a more modern iteration, check out this article (here) over on ABlogToWatch.

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