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In Focus: What is the Retrograde Function in a Watch?

People love having watches in their collection for a variety of reasons: A watch's handsome looks, the engineering behind a watch's movement, or just simply to keep track of time. But what sets some watches apart from others? Outside of overall design, one could say it’s the complications of the mechanical movement. Today we explain what the "retrograde" function is and what role it plays in our watches.

The history of the retrograde complication dates back to its use in pocket watches in the late seventeenth century. However it was not until the late twentieth century when it started to become a popular addition to wristwatches. So what is the retrograde function? Simply put, a retrograde display doesn’t indicate anything in a circular fashion (be it the day, the date, the month, etc.), but rather in a semi-circle or arc. And because it doesn’t conform to a circular design, the indicator hand will bounce (or “jump”) back to the beginning when it has finished the sequence. A great example is the Orient Star Retrograde, which uses the retrograde function to display the day of the week. The indicator is in the shape of a quarter circle, and the hand will jump from Sunday back to Monday to denote the start of a new week.

So what kind of role does this function play in a watch’s design? Some watches (like our Orient Star Retrograde) employ the retrograde complication as a part of a collection of different registers (eg. day and date). Other watches in the market feature the retrograde more prominently, with some employing it as the only time-telling mechanism. Because of the distinct shape of the retrograde complication in general, its presentation can be contoured to fit into a variety of dial designs, making it one of the more unique features found in watches today.RETROGRADE GIF


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