Back to Basics: What is a Jump Hour Watch?
A jump hour watch, also known as a digital or jumping hour watch, is a timepiece that displays the hours in a unique and unconventional way. Instead of using a traditional hour hand that sweeps past the dispersed hour markers spanning the circumference of the dial, a jump hour watch relies solely on one window in a fixed spot to read the hour.
The Jump Hour features a digital hour display in a window at the top. A series of discs in different configurations are housed under the dial and 'jump' instantaneously each hour, hence where the name 'Jump Hour' derives from, to be displayed in this window.
For many, reading bold, large numerals displayed in one spot is much more appealing than seeking a thin hour and minute hand - though this traditional method of course has it's charm.
This digital format creates a visually striking, clean and concise dial, which is aesthetically pleasing and offers a precise, simple way of telling time.
Who First Created the Jump Hour Watch?
The exact origins of the first jump hour watch are subject to debate, however it was the Austrian engineer, Josef Pallweber, who often gets the credit for pioneering the jump hour watch. By the age of 25, Pallweber patented the new way to tell time and then granted the license to IWC in 1883.
"Starting in summer 1884 and for the next few years,
IWC produced many of these Pallweber pocket watches.
IWC’s sales records show that there were about 16,590
of these watches made and sold until the 1890s."
— Movement Pallweber II, 1884, Courtesy of IWC.
— IWC catalogue 1885 advertising Pallweber watches, Courtesy of IWC.
While the space taken up on an analogue dial doesn't leave much room for artistry, the compact digital windows of a Jump Hour watch on the other hand allowed space to integrate wonderful hand-painted designs, which we can see on IWC's Pallweber pocket watches, that typically used an enamel base.
"IWC Pallweber watches were intended to be heirlooms.
They were cutting-edge by 19th century standards but
still evoked the finest handcrafted traditions."
— Pocket watch with a Pallweber III movement and a rare hand-painted dial, 1887,
Courtesy of IWC.
IWC’s Pallweber pocket watches were only produced and distributed from 1885 to the early 1890s. Other companies followed suit, and produced digital pocket watches until about 1910.
Later, Jump Hour watches saw a resurgence in popularity in the early 20th century, in line with the 1920's Art deco movement, which had a particular liking for technological progress alongside luxury and glamour. Brands like Patek Philippe, Cartier and Audemars Piguet (pictured below) welcomed back the alternative and forward-thinking design of the Jump Hour.
Patek Philippe's 150th Anniversary: A Limited Edition Jump Hour
Patek Philippe, one of the most prestigious watchmakers in the world, celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1989. This milestone marked a century and a half of excellence in horology. Throughout its history, Patek Philippe has been at the forefront of watchmaking, introducing groundbreaking complications, innovative designs, and unparalleled craftsmanship.
It was only right then that in celebration of its 150th anniversary, Patek Philippe released a limited edition jump hour watch, the reference 3969R. Only 450 of this model were ever produced to honour the occasion. This exquisite timepiece is a testament to the brand's unwavering commitment to pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the world of haute horlogerie and changing conventions.
The reference 3969R features a stunning 18k Rose Gold Tonneau-Shaped case measuring 28 x 38 mm, making it an elegant and compact watch suitable for both men and women. The hour is displayed in a large, bold font, ensuring excellent legibility. The minutes are indicated by a traditional minute hand, which moves continuously around the dial.
- The caseback displays the elegant engraving "Patek Philippe Genève - 150th Anniversaire
- 1839 - 1989" along with the unique case number.
The minute track is printed in black around the edge of the dial, but undebiably the jump hour display located at the 12 o'clock position is the standout feature on this watch. The subtle silvered dial allows the bold digits of the hour window to take centre stage, honouring the clean aesthetic of this mechanism which deserves to be celebrated in it's own right.
Inside the reference 3969R beats the Caliber 215 PS mechanical movement, a testament to Patek Philippe's commitment to precision and reliability. This hand-wound movement is meticulously crafted and decorated, showcasing the brand's exceptional watchmaking expertise.
As with all Patek Philippe timepieces, the reference 3969R is a true collector's item, but this one especially so. With it's limited availability and unique jump hour display, this watch is a must-have for any watch enthusiast or collector, who appreciates history, mechanics and artistry.
Our offering pictured comes complete with: the Patek Philippe leather folio, Certificate of Origin dated 1989, Limited Edition Certificate, Geneva Certificate, Certificate housing a Patek Philippe medal to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the company (1839-1989), the Patek Philippe burgundy outer box and inner leather display box.
You can view our Patek Philippe Jump Hour reference 3969R here.