This is one of those patent's that is so simple and obvious that I was a little surprised not to have seen it before. I think this could be useful on watches with a million little complications, but then the question becomes where do you put the function indicator?
In this patent, the crown is connected to an indicator dial on the face of the watch. When the crown is pulled out to its first position, a finger engaged with the sleeve of the crown pulls a rack attached to the function dial. This rack and pinion connects the function dial on the face to the crown.
One thing this doesn't account for is indicating how to turn the crown to adjust it when a given position on the crown controls two functions on the watch. I admit that every time I grab a day-date or a GMT watch with a date function I almost always rotate the crown the wrong way to adjust it first. As a result, my GMT watches are perpetually on some random timezone that I don't care a wick about.