The Weekend Amazing Six: Watches with digital indications

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For this weekend’s listicle, we turn our attention to six of our favourite watches featuring digital indications.

The Weekend Amazing Six: Watches with digital indications

Digital displays on a mechanical watch. Does it seem like an oxymoron? Perhaps. But perhaps not. There is a certain romance of being able to see at a glance the time past, the present and time future in one continuous line. This is only offered in an analog presentation. But digital displays are often easier to read quickly and with higher precision than analog ones.

We do like them, especially when the watch features jumping mechanisms to the digital indications, but also when the digits simply glide across a pointer to show the time. So without further ado, here are top picks.

A. Lange & Sohne Zeitwerk

And honorable mention, and first on this list is the A. Lange & Söhne, who seems to have built quite an expertise on these digital indications. The Zeitwerk series is an exceptional example of this genre, with inline hour and minutes displayed digitally, still unique to this day. The entire digital display jumps instantaneously to display the correct time. The movement is very complicated with the use of a remontoire to transfer the tremendous power of the very large manspring to the jumping indications. Details are found on this article (link to pdf) I wrote in 2009.

Zeitwerk Striking Time.

And an entire family of watches have ensued from the first Zeitwerk which was released in 2009. With addition which cross over to the striking family as well as the use of a smoked glass dial where the luminous elements get charged through and give off their glow, to a model with date. Though as detailed in the Vertical Collection article, our favourite remains one of the originals from 2009 – the Ref. 140.029 in white gold with a black dial.

F. P. Journe Vegabondage III

Next up, the venerable François Paul Journe and his Vegabondage series.  The name ‘Vagabondange’ comes from the fact that the design itself is vagabond, wandering away from the conventional way of telling time and from the usual styling of the rest of Journe’s production. The very first Vagabondage (with foresight, François Paul already aptly christened this as the Vagabondage I) which featured a wandering jump hour. It began life a a one-off in 2004 for a charity auction before being produced in a limited series in 2006. On a side note François Paul repeated this special one piece charity watch later turned into a limited series with the stupendous FFP. Back to the story…then in 2010, he came up the Vagabondange II with digital jumping hours and minutes. And in 2017, the final member of the Vagabondage triumvirate was released, a piece that is superior in design and technicality to its predecessors: the Vagabondage III.

F.P. Journe Vegabondage III showing the jumping dual counter seconds.

What also sets this apart from other jumping seconds watches is that the Vegabondage III features not only the jumping seconds as a digital dual counter display, but also has a jumping hour indicator, also digitally displayed. The minutes are displayed on a more conventional centrally mounted hand. The movement is also of particular note, as the Cal. 1518 is tonneau in shape, and executed in 18k pink gold completely in-house by F.P. Journe. On top of that, we also admire François Paul’s sales stance of offering the watch at a reasonable pricing level and as a first instance to existing owners of the Vegabondage I and II. This recognises and is a mark of respect for their custom, and also so that they can complete their collection of the series. Nice touch! Chapeau!

Chopard L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25 Jumping Hour

The  L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25 was released in 2021 to celebrate the 25 years of the L.U.C manufacture. The case is quite contemporary in design, and constructed from Fairmined gold. The dial is in a pristine white grand feu enamel with black enamel markings, also made in-house within the Chopard manufacture family. And the simplicity of the design shows off as the hour aperture which reveals the jumping digits of the hour is gold framed and set at 6 o’clock with the rest of the dial devoted to the minutes chapter ring and the single minute hand. Simple. Pure. Effective.

The movement is the in-house manufactured Calibre L.U.C 98.06-L, offering an 8 day power reserve, a rare feat among watches with jumping indications due to the normally power hungry mechanisms. Typical of Chopard, this is very highly decorated and is awarded the coveted Poinçoin de Gèneve.

Bovet Amadeo® Fleurier Virtuoso V

Taking from its rich tapestry of watches past, Bovet’s Virtuoso V presents the maison’s expertise for a digital jumping hour display. In typical Bovet style, the Virtuoso V is presented with two dials. The main dial is a magnificently beautiful blue enamel backdrop to a centrally placed digital jumping hour display. On top near to the 12 o’clock position is a retrograde minute display showing the 0 to 60 minutes in a fan shape arc. And other than the brand nomenclature, the dial remains clean and legible. For us, the negative space is a big plus. On the reverse dial, a more conventional hour and minute sub-dial in the same cobalt blue enamel which is placed over the otherwise open display of the movement.

The movement is also beautiful. Handcrafted in-house at Bovet, the Dimier 1738 13BM11AIHSMR offers an impressive power reserve of five days, achieved with a single barrel. Finishing is top level, as is common for Bovet, and decorated with the usual haute horlogerie elements and finishes.

Ulysse Nardin Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon

Next is somewhat a blast from the past. The UN Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon is not in the maison’s current catalog, but we consider it to be one of their greatest hits. UN is not only about The Freak! Almost everything on this watch is impressive. The comes in with a white gold case measuring a substantial 44mm in diameter. Yet, it is quite comfortable on the wrist. The dial is constructed from a wood marquetry technique so that it looks like the wooden deck on the ship. And right on cue at 6 o’clock is an aperture to display the big tourbillon. The hour indicator takes center stage with a very large dual disc digital jumping indication, and the minutes are displayed by a retrograde arm pivoted at 12 o’clock which looks like the boom of a sailing ship. It takes this sailing reference even further. Instead of using cogs and wheels to drive the retrograde hand, it is driven by system of nanowires drawn through a system of pulleys which can be seen on the dial. Inspiration from the halyard cord that is used to hoist the sails.

No other watch is quite the same. A superb combination of the most interesting for the way the time telling system is designed and executed to incorporate nautical elements. Elements like the marquetry wooden dial, like the aluminium boom which serves as the retrograde minute hand, like the transmission system of pulleys and cables mimicking the sail’s hoisting system. All making this a technical feat. It remains one of the most technically interesting and innovative watches we have seen. Marvellous. And we wish UN will bring back this beauty or at least continue to explore the limits of horology in such directions.

Ferdinand Berthoud FB1R.6-1

And last but certainly not the least (not by a long shot) is the Ferdinand Berthoud FB1R.6-1. It takes pride of place in the Chief Editor’s heart as perhaps one of his most favourite watches. This is a spectacular watch. Simple and complicated at the same time. Based on the Ferdinand Berthoud octagonal shaped FB1 case and designed as a regulator display. The watch features a rotating disc carrying the hours indicators in arabic digital numerals gliding past a stationary arrow pointer. This is not a jumping mechanism, but equally mesmerising. The minutes indication is carried by a more conventional hand over an open worked sub-dial. And a long sweeping centrally mounted seconds hand shows the seconds marked around the entire dial. Apart of this time indication, the dial also features a cutout to showcase the simple but effective power reserve indicator.

We are particularly smitten by the negative space devoted to the dial side. And the near monochromatic appearance of the simple brushed finish of the dial with the contrasting gold and blue hands. And of course, the case back and case sides offer sapphire glass covers to showoff the magnificent movement. Complete with a magnificent tourbillon and fusée and chain mechanism to deliver constant force. Both are technical tour de force, but yet as noblesse oblige, is modestly hidden from direct view.

Concluding thoughts

So here are our top six. As we go through the process of selecting this series, we take cognisance that we might have a otherwise unexpressed love for negative space on the dial. Not all our six picks today have clean dials with lots of negative space, but we note three or 50% do. Maybe something else to explore.

What would you have picked? Share with us your favourite watches with digital displays.


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