The Chopard L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25 Jumping Hour costs $44k. That’s a lot of money for a watch that isn’t a Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin or Rolex. Assuming you covet it, I reckon there are only two ways to justify paying 44 large for Chopard’s Jumping Hour . . .
One, you don’t give a damn about money. Specifically, depreciation. This bad boy will hold its value like a sieve holds sand. Two, you don’t give a damn about money. If you’re banking millions on a regular basis, $44k is pocket change.
So, if you’re not looking to recoup your “investment” in a watch whose maker lives in the shadow of Patek’s pals and/or $44k is couch cushion cash, why not?
If nothing else, the Chopard L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25 Jumping Hour is a beautifully made modern rendition of a relatively obscure horological genre that traces its roots to 1882.
That’s when Austrian engineer Josef Pallweber patented the world’s first rotating disc watch movement. The very next year, Switzerland’s Cortébert Watch Co. – a Webb C. Ball-like pocket watch provider for Turkish and Italian railways – brought Pallweber’s design to market (above).
It’s safe to say European trainmen and streetcar workers weren’t overly impressed with the world’s first digital watch. No surprise there: they lived in an analogue world, where instruments displayed easily understood percentages (e.g., a thermometer).
A train engineer didn’t have the time or bandwidth to calculate that 10:39 gave him 26 minutes until the 11:05 was due at the next station. Imagine trying to synchronize hundreds of Pallwebers.
IWC picked up the “Pallweber watch” ball, took it upmarket and ran with it.
From 1885 through the early 1890’s, the American-born German watchmaker sold some 16,590 Pallweber pocket watches worldwide, slotting their mechanical movements into elaborate cases, refining the patented caliber with three successive iterations.
As well they might. Pallweber’s movement had an Achilles heel: jumping discs drain more power (torque) from the mainspring than a traditional watch movement. Not to mention the extra manufacturing precision required to make them precise.
With little power reserve (a.k.a. running time between full winds) relative to a standard movement, IWC’s jumping hour watches were a bit of a pain in the ass.
It’s anyone’s guess why IWC did not continue to produce these digital pocket watches after the 1880s. They were easily readable and innovative, and often with special dials and cases. While they could be somewhat finicky in operation, they also were ahead of their time.
While no other digital pocket watches were subsequently produced by IWC, other watch companies produced digital pocket watches until about 1910. Many of these later developments provided additional torque via spring designs, wheel tooth changes or a second barrel.
Today’s consumers can choose from a veritable farrago of jumping hour watches.
Many, like the new Gérald Genta Mickey Mouse watch, combine a jump hours disc with a “retrograde” complication (a pointer that traverses an arc before slamming back to its start as the hour disc jumps to the next number).
“The ZEITWERK is the first mechanical wristwatch that displays the time digitally with jumping numerals that allow unambiguous legibility at all times,” AL&S claims. But not the last! Or, I would suggest, the best. You know what I’m going to say . . .
The unapologetically minimalist Chopard L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25 Jumping Hour watch inherits the mantle of the world’s most legible example of the breed. If Joe Biden had been wearing the Chopard when receiving the bodies of the Marines blown up by a suicide bomber at Afghanistan airport, the press may have never caught the Commander-in-Chief glancing at his watch during the ceremony.
I’m well aware that some might deem the Chopard L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25 Jumping Hour the world’s most boring jumping hours watch. Philistines all. Chopard’s combination of a 360 minute track with a jumping hour complication is endlessly elegant. And there are no distractions: date, second time zone, compass, stopwatch, power reserve indicator, etc.
Modern watchmakers have solved the jumping hour – lackluster power reserve issue. Genta’s posthumous Mouse watch boasts a 42-hour power reserve. The ZEITWERK’s 36-hour power reserve isn’t a major sales point, but at least it’s not not a selling point.
The Chopard L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25 Jumping Hour sets a new standard. Its LUC 98.06-L in-house movement uses four barrels (hence “quattro”) to deliver a record-breaking (for the genre) eight days’ power reserve.
The resulting Chopard L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25 Jumping Hour is a bit thick – 10.3mm – for a dress watch. Come to think of it, the none-too-delicate “ethical” rose gold case must account for some of the $44k price tag. Also not cheap: the Grand Feu enamel dial, a material known for being a bitch to manufacture. And you gotta think Chopard’s 100-piece limit adds value, right?
I’m not sure any of that matters. The Chopard L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25 Jumping Hour watch is horological Steampunk. It’s an expensive retrofuturistic bauble whose shtick’s been superseded by ever-evolving battery-powered digital watches.
This and Genta’s Mickey-Mouse-On-Meth watch are almost enough to make me miss last year’s neo-vintage watch trend (e.g., the Breitling B09 Premier Heritage Chronograph above). That said, I’m not immune to the charms of neo-vintage novelty timepieces. If the Chopard L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25 Jumping Hour was $4k, I’d jump on it. Would you?