While digital displays on watches may seem like a contemporary development, they’ve been around since the late nineteenth century when the Austrian engineer Josef Pallweber invented the jump hour mechanism. Rather than a traditional analog display with two hands, jump hour (also called jumping hour) watches use a rotating disc with hour digits revealed through an aperture in the dial. Every 60 minutes, the disc instantly advances to the next hour, hence the animated name. The digital display is often paired with a traditional minutes hand that sweeps around the dial or a subdial, or, for even more action, with a retrograde minutes hand that progresses along a linear track from zero to 60 and instantly snaps back with the start of a new hour.
At De Bethune, founders David Zanetta and Denis Flageollet draw upon the ideals of traditional eighteenth-century watchmaking and fuse them with patented 21st-century technical advancements, such as the brand’s self-regulating twin-barrel, triple pare-chute shock-absorbing system, and three-dimensional spherical moon phase that will remain accurate for 1,112 years. The DB28 Digitale ($115,000) incorporates this cutting edge micro-engineering with classical flourishes executed with futuristic flair. The dial, for example, features a silver-toned hand-guilloché barleycorn motif, and the star-studded sky that surrounds the moon phase and adorns the analog minutes display is rendered in blued, grade 5 titanium appointed with white gold stars. Ultralight polished titanium is also used for the patented case fitted with flexible spring-based lugs for a more comfortable fit.
DeWitt’s Classic Jumping Hour ($31,900), also blends tradition and innovation with its unusual asymmetrical dial layout that combines an off-center hour aperture with two intersecting sub-dials that track minutes and seconds. DeWitt is one of few watchmakers that produces its own dials, and that prowess is on full display with the Classic Jumping Hour’s beautifully finished, dimensional dial (available in blue, white and black), which stands out for its classical sunray pattern, rose gold appliques and engraving.
Van Cleef & Arpels’ Pierre Arpels Heure d’ici & Heure d’ailleurs, which translates to “Time Here & Time Elsewhere,” (price upon request) doubles down on the captivating action of a jump hour display with two hour apertures allowing you to track a second time zone, plus a retrograde minutes hand. Developed with independent specialist Jean-Marc Wiederrecht’s Agenhor (Atelier Genevois d’Horlogerie), which has worked with the brand on other so-called “Poetic Complications,” the complex mechanism set by a single crown packs a punch at the turning of each hour when the minutes hand snaps back to zero and both hour discs jump simultaneously. Suddenly, your steady two-handed watches may seem a bit dull.
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