What is the concept of complications in watchmaking and how do they enhance a watch’s functionality?

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The Chronograph is, in my belief, the most difficult complication to perfect. The complexity is beyond what many understand.” Kari Voutillainen

The “Laptimer Michael Schumacher“, reference 26221FT.OO.D002CA.01, is the first mechanical chronograph with alternating consecutive lap timing and flyback functionality, and its new caliber 2923 is from Audemars Piguet (AP). Cal. 2923 is the product of over five years’ worth of work and features no less than three-column wheels. One column wheel, located at the six o’clock position, controls the chronograph sequence, while the two at the 12 o’clock position control the lap timer. This wristwatch was designed specifically for use in motorsport and makes it possible to measure and record a series of consecutive lap times. The entire mechanism is exceedingly complex, and the reason why AP is one of the greatest complication specialists in the history of horology.

The Split-Second Chronograph, also known as rattrapante, is a real challenge in watchmaking, a venture few dare to undertake due to its complex mechanics. At its core, a traditional split-seconds chronograph allows the measurement of intermediate times, without interfering with the ongoing timing. Pressing the split-second push piece halts one hand to read an intermediate time, while the other hand continues its course. A second press re-synchronizes the stopped hand with the moving one, resuming the timing.

The Laptimer’s movement was developed by APRP (Audemars Piguet Renaud Papi) which is the manufacturer of Haute Horlogerie of AP. The hand-wound 2923 is truly a masterpiece and took 5 years to develop. The Cal. 2923 elevates the rattapante concept to new heights. It employs a single chronograph to drive two central hands, each controlled independently via three push pieces. The first, positioned at two o’clock, operates the start and stop functions of the chronograph; the second at four o’clock resets it; and the crucial third at nine o’clock governs the unique mechanics of the Laptimer.

Upon pressing the third button, one of the two concurrently running hands stops, resetting the other, which enables the recording of one lap time as another begins. Retaining the first lap time for reference is as simple as pressing the four o’clock button, activating a flyback mechanism that resets the running seconds to zero, and starting anew while preserving the initial lap time. Alternatively, pressing the nine o’clock button again resets the stopped hand and recommences the timing for a new lap, pausing the other for lap time recording. This system also permits the use of both second hands in tandem for standard chronograph functions with flyback function.

Parallel-set twin mainspring barrels provide a nice 80-hour power reserve. Linear torque transmission is ensured by conical gear train teeth, that mesh seamlessly with precision through each movement cycle. The introduction of a new oscillating wheel coupling mechanism eradicates jerkiness when starting or stopping the chronograph. The Cal. 2923 also uses solid lubricants over traditional options for smooth operation.

This marvelous movement measures 34.45 mm (15 1/4 ligne) in diameter with a height of 12.70 mm. It consists of 413 components including 34 jewels. Its meticulously finished and features a maillechort mainplate and central bridge, with a blackened titanium upper-bridge, black polished steel column-wheels, and beveled, linear-grained bridges.

Case diameter is 44 mm and is made from forged carbon, with titanium accents and ceramic and pink gold push pieces. On a 7.5 inch wrist, the lap timer wears bigger than its actual size and feels more like a 48 mm watch. However, thanks to its forged carbon case construction, this fascinating $230k watch feels very light.

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