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Roberta Naas on Jumping Time

This story originally appeared in the January/February 2018 issue of Elite Traveler.

The jump-hour watch has come a long way since its creation in 1882. Roberta Naas examines some of the more interesting and unusual manifestations of this innovative complication.

As watchmakers continue to create timepieces that are technically unusual and complex, we are witnessing a host of complications arise in the luxury market. One such category is the jump-hour (or jumping-hour) watch.

Essentially, a jump-hour watch is exactly as its name describes: instead of having an hour hand that slowly moves from one hour to the next, a jump-hour watch typically features an aperture on the dial through which the hour is displayed in numerical format. Each hour, as the 59th minute comes to a close and the 00 minute begins, that hour digit jumps to the next hour indication. In the absence of the hour hand, jump-hour watches are especially elegant because the dial is uncluttered.

Generally, a jump-hour watch works via a complex system of rotating discs, requiring extra discs, wheels and teeth inside the already complex movement. Most jump hours indicate the minutes via a typical minute hand that rotates around the dial.

Austrian engineer Josef Pallweber, who was seeking a way to make time telling easier, developed the concept of jump hours in 1882. Pallweber’s patented design consisted of a numerical display for the hours with a central minute hand. The method became the standard for jump-hour pocket watches throughout the late 19th and the early 20th centuries.

As pocket watches morphed into wristwatches in the early 20th century, watch brands miniaturized the system, and over the decades it evolved so that today we have several very interesting and unusual manners of incorporating the jump-hour mechanism.

This year IWC unveils its first-ever watch to feature jumping numerals in a digital display as part of its 150th anniversary Jubilee collection. The IWC Tribute to Pallweber Edition 150 Years watch offers jump hours and jump minutes. The dial is harmoniously designed with the jump hours at 12 o’clock, the jump-minutes aperture in the center of the dial and a small seconds dial at 6 o’clock. The watch is powered by an all-new three-disc movement, caliber 94200, that was five years in the making. The challenge the IWC watchmakers had to overcome was having to give the watch enough power to jump both the hours and minutes. The technically sophisticated solution has a patent pending. Crafted in 18K rose gold, just 250 pieces will be made.

German watch brand A Lange & Söhne, for instance, offers the complex Zeitwerk Decimal Strike watch, which defies the typical jump-hour watch in that it offers both jump-hour and jump-minute indications via harmoniously balanced apertures on the dial. This watch combines the brand’s top complications, offering not only jumping hours and minutes, but also a melodious striking mechanism that chimes the time every 10 minutes via two differently tuned gongs to indicate the hours and the 10-minute intervals after each hour.

Another brand that offers a unique take on the jumping-hour watch is independent Swiss watch brand Andersen Genève SA. Its Grande Jour et Nuit 2nd Edition timepiece houses a special historic and rare movement developed in the 1960s: the Frederic Piguet 15 lines. Twenty years ago, a number of these movements were discovered, and in 2002 Andersen Genève created its first Grande Jour et Nuit using the basic Frederic Piguet 15 lines movement and incorporating its own jumping-hour mechanism. Just 20 pieces were made. Recently, Andersen Genève was able to buy the 50 remaining Piguet 15 lines calibers and is creating the second limited edition of the Grande Jour et Nuit.

What makes this watch so different from other jump-hour watches on the market is the fact that it is equipped with a jumping-hour hand that jumps every hour on the hour. Herein, instead of having a digital indication of the hour that jumps, the ingenious watch mechanism features two hands of different lengths that indicate the hour on an inner arc for the night hours, and on an outer arc for the daytime hours. Every hour, one hand jumps to the next hour. The minutes are indicated via a subdial at 6 o’clock. Each of these jump-hour watches has a different approach to time indication, and each offers innate beauty thanks to technical prowess.

Images: IWC Tribute to Pallweber Edition 150 Years watch, appx $36,600*, available at IWC in New York, contact Dawn Simpson, boutique manager, +1 212 355 7271, iwc.comAndersen Genève Grande Jour et Nuit 2nd Edition watch, $54,000. Contact Pierre-Alexandre Aeschlimann, bureau@andersen-geneve.ch, +41 227 324 374, andersen-geneve.chA Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Decimal Strike watch in exclusive 18K honey gold, $125,600. Available at A Lange & Söhne in New York, +1 646 828 3150, alange-soehne.com

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