Interesting Watches 101: Vacheron Constantin Jumping Hours

When you consider the concept of ‘interesting watches‘ you could be taking about any number of factors including brand, movement, watchmaker, heritage, design, individuality, appeal, price, I could literally go on for a whole article listing themes that make a watch interesting but what the Vacheron Constantin Jumping Hours does and does so well, is epitomise interesting.

The Vacheron Constantin Jumping Hours was released in the 1990’s but premiered as a wrist watch back in the 1930’s when it belonged to a fascinating family of watches created by a man named Robert Cart. Robert Cart was born in 1871 but left his career as a watchmaker until he was 49 years of age when he founded his manufacturing operation in 1920. Cart used his time valuably earning the Geneva Seal and soon patented a unique jump-hours complication where the hour indicator moved around the dial to also indicate minutes, this he named the Heures Sautantes or Jumping Hours which was first featured on pocket watches in the 1920’s. Cart soon followed with the Heures Sautantes Type II where the jump-hours indicator remained at 12 o’clock while the minute pointer mysteriously moved around the dial, visible only through a narrow slot. A number of dominant swiss brands recognised his ornate design and distinct mechanical flare and placed orders with Cart to produce watches under their brands, including Gübelin, Breguet and Vacheron Constantin.

Vacheron Constantin commissioned Cart’s Type II movement for a series of pocket watches in the late 20’s that attained iconic status with the brand. In the 30’s Vacheron released a rectangular version of the Type II as a wristwatch. During this time Cart also made pieces for high end brands catering to the super wealthy under other labels such as Gübelin and Sandoz. Over the years until his death in 1964 Cart continued to make alternative display complications and more conventional watches for Vacheron and Breguet. His son Robert Jr. continued the family legacy producing interesting wrist watch complications until he died in 1978. Within a year the company name was acquired by the Swiss conglomerate DIXI Machines SA who, having made a rather poor decision to sell Zenith sought to re-invest in horology with Cart, Zodiac and Moser. Unfortunately, as the story so often goes with big business, the name Robert Cart and the heritage that went with it was assigned to a selection of poor quality wristwatches where it was soon disregarded and forgotten about all together.

Vacheron Constantin introduced the Jumping Hours or Chronoscope as it was dubbed by auction houses and retailers in 1994. While its styling was a clear hommage to Cart’s Heures Sautantes, the inner workings were thoroughly updated with the caliber 1120 automatic movement powering Vacheron’s own in house jump-hour mechanism. Personally I think the watch is stunning, the art deco stylings paired with the intriguing dial make this a very interesting watch and quite frankly a timepiece that’s going to draw some inquisitive eyes and some even more inquisitive questions. This watch captures the tradition of watchmaking in all its entirety and does so effortlessly. Apply any of the words I used in the first sentence of this article and you’ll understand why this watch is not only interesting but an important part of the foundations that built the watch industry to what it is today. Add to the fact that at this very moment in time Vacheron are killing it and making some of the finest quality pieces at the best prices means you’ve got yourself a pretty desirable watch from a valued brand. Finally, if you can find one, it’s not completely out of reach. Here’s a link to one that sold in 2010 for $11,875.

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James is the Founder and Editor of The Versatile Gent.

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