02/01/2016
 2 minutes

Jump Hour Watches

By Christopher Beccan
Montre vintage à heure sautante Audemars Piguet - Photo : Bexsonn
Montre vintage à heure sautante Audemars Piguet - Photo : Bexsonn

Most of us are quite traditional when it comes to telling the time. We are used to looking at the hour hand, then the minute hand, then perhaps the often-forgotten seconds hand in. But we often forget about some of the more elaborate or artistic ways to tell time. Here I’m alluding to jump hour watches. These timepieces are clearly different from conventional timepieces in the way one reads the time, and in their craftsmanship, but where do they come from, and how exactly do they work?

Digital Pocket Watches

Interestingly, today’s jump hour watches are based on a concept that was developed and patented in 1882 by the Austrian engineer Josef Pallweber. He created a display for pocket watches that used digits on rotating disks in addition to the classic pointers. This became a popular complication for pocket watches throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The principles behind Pallweber’s mechanism appeared in wristwatches starting in the 1920s. Over the past few years, there has been gaining interest in mechanical watches with digital display, and manufacturers are finding numerous unconventional ways of displaying this complication.

Jump hour timepieces get their name from their design. The hour indication is in digit format and displayed via an aperture, which is most commonly found at the 12 o’clock position, though this can vary. The digit readout changes automatically every hour. This offers a visually exciting event that is rather special to watch. However, beware, if you blink, you may just miss it.

There are traditional jump hour timepieces like the vintage 1920s Audemars Piguet. This piece displays the jumping hour at 12 o’clock with a disk that smoothly glides through the minutes. Though this timepiece appears to be rather simple on the outside and even on the inside, there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.

Traditionally, the jumping hour indication works via a complex rotating disk system comprised of several hundred components within the movement. These watches are actually quite a difficult and time-consuming complication to build. Some pieces require multiple days to make due to the attention to detail required from the watchmaker. Thus, only a handful of manufacturers create jump hour watches as part of their regular range.

Modern Watches with Digital Display

However, there are some manufacturers that go beyond the traditional scope of the jump hour watch, adding additional complications, such as tourbillons or minute repeaters. Some even find ways to create unusual readouts for their timepieces. One such manufacturer is A. Lange & Söhne.

The Zeitwerk is seen as a masterpiece among the plethora of other timepieces Lange conjures up. It has two patents and offers jump hour alongside jump minute indication in a well-balanced and attractive package. The research required to build a timepiece that displays both jump hour and jump minute indication, and is able to synchronize precisely every hour on the hour, is quite astounding. If you are looking for a more traditional jump hour timepiece (and perhaps one that is kinder on your wallet), there are plenty of options that display the complication in an equally beautiful way.

A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk
A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk, Image: Auctionata

About the Author

Christopher Beccan

Christopher Beccan is the founder of the online magazine "Bexsonn," where he regularly writes about his two passions: extraordinary timepieces and whiskey. His work …

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