jumping hour watch
VAGABONDAGE III Calibre 1514 - Sr: F.P. Journe

Watch 101: Instant Time Reading with the Jumping Hour Watch

Avoid the hassle of misreading the watch time with a jumping hour watch.

Date Published
November 25, 2021
Gnomon Watches
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Have you ever met a person with 7-year-of -experience being a watch lover but still suck at reading the time on a wristwatch? Well, it doesn’t always happen but whenever I’m in a hurry, like when I need to move from one meeting to another or when I’m in a rush hour, I always read the time in such an incorrect manner. I often get messed up when the hour hand isn’t exactly pointing out at the number or index. Even worse, I’ve had a terrible moment because of this problem – coming late to a project planning meeting in which I was the person in charge of the project. But that’s not a problem anymore since I met my lifesaver called a jumping hour watch.

This watch complication might not be fascinating enough until you dig deeper into how helpful it would be. At first, I never came across the idea of a watch with a minute hand only. Even I laughed at it when my friend suggested this watch complication. Why on Earth is there a jumping hour watch and do people really need it? It’s quite common for a jump hour to not be at the forefront of people’s minds. It does add extra functionality for a watch with its simplicity. Despite its simple contribution to the invention of horology, it never fails to pique my interest — a jumping hour watch for a person who often misread a watch.

What is a jumping hour watch?

No, the watch isn’t jumping around or the hands either. It refers to the mechanism where the watch doesn’t feature a standard hour hand. Instead, you would see a window at the 12 o’clock positions that might be mistaken as a date window but actually the hour aperture. This mechanism should be able to jump precisely once every hour. Most people tend to get a little bit confused when they see a jumping hour watch for the first time as whenever there is a number behind a window, it tends to be a date complication.

In simple terms, I would say that a jumping hour watch is a combination of a mechanical and digital watch. It takes after the mechanical watch dial design where the minutes are displayed in analog via one hand and implements the way a digital watch shows the hour on the dial.  Moreover, it’s also possible to find a jumping watch for the three watch scales (hours, minutes, or seconds) although the jumping hour is the most common one. This is what you call when creativity meets technology.

Which part of this watch’s complication jumps? The name is the reference to watch design that shows how the hour jumps to show the next hour precisely when the minute hand passed a complete revolution of 60 minutes.  Having this watch on my hand is actually a fast way to tell time because the hour is always being pointed and exactly says the number, the rest I need to do is just look at the minute hand. It’s as instant and simple as that.

How a jumping hour watch works

The concept used in today’s jump hour watch was developed by Austrian engineer Josef Pallweber in 1882. He patented a digital display used in pocket watches with jumping hours and minutes, then later sold it to IWC. Understanding how it works would make you better appreciate the craftsmanship of jumping hour watches. Although it might look simple, there are some major adjustments for the internal part to make it work properly. Part of the complexity in this watch complication is the control of the power. There is this additional part called an hour disc that’s in charge of displaying the hour precisely.

In contrast to a common watch that uses a constant force to make the whole process of watch movement work, a jump hour only needs energy for each hour. The sudden movement that indicates the end of one hour and the start of another needs a different mechanism – separated from the spring-wound mechanism – to hold the power back so that it would only be transferred only when it’s needed. The concept of making a sudden move for both the disc that controls the hour and the hand for the minutes in an accurate way certainly needs a large amount of torque. Its complex rotating disk consists of many complicated components and is surely a different process from a common mainspring.

IWC’ special tribute for Pallweber

As a pioneer of the jumping hour watch, IWC introduced its modern collection to pay tribute to Josef Pallweber for the 150-year relationship — thanks to its unique and exceptional innovation that breaks the norm of standard watch design. This special anniversary edition comes in three different versions, a rose gold-white dial, a steel case-blue dial, and a platinum-cased version with a white dial. It has a clean and simple dial but with quite a large case in 45mm. It doesn’t only have a jumping hour but also provides jumping minutes. 

The dial design takes over the central vertical position resulting in a more spacious and minimalist watch dial. Starting from the 12 o’clock position and moving down are the jumping hour, jumping minutes, and the sub-seconds dial. As the gem inside the watch is the manual-winding Caliber 94200 for optimal watch performance.  

The arrival of the legendary Vagabondage watch series

The journey of FP Journe Vagabondage should not be missed out when talking about a jumping hour watch. Its story began in 1995 when a die-hard French watch enthusiast asked for a new piece with an exceptional invention — a wandering hours watch. Back then, it didn’t receive much attention as it was abandoned by the brand that had commissioned the project. But the charity auction held by Antiquorum for their 30th anniversary in 2004 became the turning point where the Vagabondage became phenomenal. 

It has three series named as VI, VII, and VIII with each of them shaped in a tortue case. The first series of Vagabondage (VI) has an analog clock-like dial design with the current hour indicated within a white square frame. The minute hand is a pointer placed on one side that goes along with the hour disc.  As for the second series (VII), FP Journe took a different approach where the hour, minutes, and seconds are placed vertically at the centre of the dial. The hour and minutes are displayed digitally in two windows while the seconds hand is in conventional form. 

As for the third series, I’d consider this as the busiest dial among the other Vagabondage series. But the appearance of jumping seconds in this watch becomes the attractive point as the VIII is the first that introduced this feature — so, apparently, the VIII is always jumping.

Final thought

The words that I’m going to say might be biased as this watch complication truly helps me to overcome my little silliness in reading the time. Well, it doesn’t necessarily make for a person who gets difficulties in reading the time.  The simple, unique, and elegant minimalist dial are the main charm of the watch — making watch lovers fall for its persona. A jumping hour watch is a form of innovative craftsmanship in the history of horology. It defines and opens a chance that every possibility could happen as the watchmakers always come up with an innovation for a better watch design and performance.

Gnomon Watches first opened her doors for business online in early 2002, founded by bona fide horology suitors who share a profound passion for watchmaking and fine craftsmanship.

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