The jumping hours complication
For a remarkably long period, time has been displayed in a predictable and familiar manner, with the help of an hour and minute hand. However, over time, some watchmakers have challenged this approach. One of these alternatives can be found in jumping hour watches, which usually feature a series of discs in different configurations, which jump at certain transitions, hence their name.
In 1925, a Swiss watchmaker by the name of Robert Cart patented a jumping hours complication, known as the “Chronoscope”. His approach featured an hour indicator, which moved around the dial, pointing at the correct minutes. His design became impressively popular during this period, and was adopted by Breguet, Cartier and Vacheron Constantin, amongst others. The unconventional time display suited the Art Deco period perfectly, with its forward-thinking aesthetic and geometric lines. Vacheron Constantin used the complication in some of their pocket watches, as well as a handful of wristwatches, such as the ref. 3189, made in 1930.
A few decades later, the manufacture resuscitated the design, with the ref. 43040. As a starting point, they used the mythical Jaeger-LeCoultre 920, which was the thinnest automatic movement in the world when it first came out in 1967. They then developed their own jumping hours mechanism, creating the calibre 1120HS. Between 1993 and 1995, Vacheron Constantin only produced around 250 pieces in yellow gold and 150 pieces in platinum, making these pieces as rare as they are unusual.
An unconventional design
This Jumping Hours 43040 takes inspiration from its Art Deco predecessors, imbuing it with a certain vintage, nostalgic aesthetic. A small window at 12 o'clock displays the hours, in a cursive, playful font. Meanwhile, an aperture runs around the whole circumference of the dial, allowing for a black pointer to indicate the correct minutes. When the hour changes, the disc at 12 o'clock satisfyingly jumps into place. The three-dimensionality of the dial creates some interesting effects when it interacts with the light at different angles, whilst on the wrist.
The dial layout of this Jumping Hours is aesthetically satisfying in its richness, with ample details to get lost in. The centre features a subtle guilloché, applied by hand, which is broken up by the "Vacheron Constantin Genève" and "Automatic" signatures. The hour markers and the window surrounding the hours are made out of yellow gold, bringing some further richness to the overall aesthetic.
The yellow gold case features a stepped bezel and straight lugs, reminiscent of those found on some vintage pieces. At 36mm in diameter and less than 8mm thick, this ref. 43040 sits comfortably on the wrist, perfectly fulfilling its roles as a dress watch. It also features a sapphire caseback, which allows for the Caliber 1120HS to be admired.
This Vacheron Constantin ref. 43040 is powered by the 1120HS, derived from Jaeger-LeCoultre’s mythical ultra-thin 920 movement. The caliber 920 was an initial project of Jaeger LeCoultre in 1967, funded and contributed by Audemars Piguet, and famous for its adoption by Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin
The ultra-thin automatic 1120HS calibre features 36 working jewels, and four ruby wheels to support the full-diameter rotor, which runs on a beryllium rail for stability. Vacheron Constantin also replaced the free-sprung Gyromax balance from the original Jaeger-LeCoultre movement with an index regulator. The rotor is decorated with Geneva stripes and edged with 21-carat gold, to increase the oscillating mass.
The watch is accompanied by its outer box, inner leather pouch, hangtag and instruction manual. It also comes with its black alligator strap from Vacheron Constantin, as well as its yellow gold tang buckle.
If sold within the United Kingdom, this Vacheron Constantin 43040 will be subject to 20% VAT. Viewings are currently suspended for the time being.