Throwback Sundays: Six recommendations for watches with seconde morte

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This week, we take a look at a special complication – the second morte, or jumping seconds. Here are six of the best from our archives from F. P. Journe, A. Lange & Söhne, Petermann Bedat, Habring², Jaeger-LeCoultre and Arnold & Son.

The seconde morte is a complication which was originally used in reference quality clocks to ensure that the timing can be set to the second. The second hand moves in visible steps, once every second.

Quartz watches are normally equipped with jumping seconds, but the reason to do so is not the same. Instead of the need to be able to have better precision to set to the second, the quartz second hand moves once a second to conserve energy. The hands of a quartz movement is powered by a motor, and fewer pulses for a given time means a lower power consumption. The originators of the quartz – both Seiko Astron and the Swiss consortium have chosen this and is now the norm. Perhaps as both the Japanese and Swiss were already watch and clock manufacturers, the idea of the precision might be a reason they selected a jumping seconds. If things turn out different, it could well be one jump is made every 2 seconds and conserve even more energy. Or one jump per 5 seconds, a feature many quartz movements use to conserve energy when the power of the battery is low.

Without further ado, here is the list:

F.P. Journe Vegabondage III

This time, it is not by randomness that this Journe appears on top of the list, although the rest of the list is in no particular order. The Vegabondage III appears on the top because it is the only one to implement the seconde morte mechanism on a digital display. The Vegabondage III is the third and final piece in the series by François-Paul Journe.

The name ‘Vagabondange’ refers to the design which is a vagabond – wandering away from the conventional way of telling time and styling. The very first Vagabondage had a wandering jump hour feature, started off as a one-off in 2004 for a charity auction before being produced in a limited series in 2006. Then in 2010, came the Vagabondange II with digital jumping hours and minutes. And in 2017, F.P. Journe introduced the Vagabondage III. Also peculiar to Journe, the Vegabondage III was offered on the first refusal basis to owners of the other Vegabondage watches, giving them the option to complete a Vegabondage collection, before being made available to the general public.

F. P. Journe Vegabondage III.

This is an amazing watch, in a tortue case, with a design language which is not within the norm for Journe. The digital jumping seconds is spectacular, as the video above shows. At launch, the Vegabondage III had a retail tag of CHF 54,000 in red gold, CHF 56,000 platinum, but we understand they are all sold out.

A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Jumping Seconds Homage to Walter Lange

The jumping seconds complication is the favourite of the late Walter Lange. Thus, the 1815 ‘Homage to Walter Lange’ features the jumping second mechanism over the standard 1815 design language. The watch is a bit unusual as it features two seconds hands. The one in the sub-dial at 6 o’clock moves in a sweeping motion, making 6 small steps as it advances from marker to marker; this is the hallmark of mechanical timepieces in general. On the other hand (pun not intended), the central seconds hand performs precise jumps from second to second. This jumping seconds can run continuously or immobilised if needed – the pusher at 2 o’clock starts and stops it.

The movement has a special calibre designation: L1924 – it refers to Walter Lange’s birth year, and is inspired to a great extent (arguably even more so compared to other Lange calibres) by a particular old Lange pocket watch: the No. 13354.

The watch is made in a piece unique in stainless steel (which was auctioned for a charity by Phillips in 2018 for $852,525). The regular production is only offered in gold, and is limited to 145 pieces in white gold, 90 in pink gold and 27 in yellow gold. These seemingly random numbers are actually derived from important milestones of the Lange family’s history. From 7 December 1845, when Ferdinand Adolph Lange originally established the company, exactly 145 years elapsed until 7 December 1990, the date on which Walter Lange registered Lange Uhren GmbH. Precisely 27 years had passed between this date and 7 December 2017, the date on which the tribute timepiece to Walter Lange was unveiled. The gold pieces are priced at €47,000.

A very special watch, made in homage in the memory of a very special watchmaker and gentleman.

Petermann Bedat 1967 Chapter 1

We have covered this ultra small independent – two partners, no employees, making super small collections with their first watch – the 1967 Chapter 1. And as you definitely know by now, we are stoked! This is one of the most appealing and interesting new independent watchmaker to come out for a long time.

From the concept to prototyping to final product. Everything is well thought through, and superbly well executed. The finishing is top grade, and by this we mean at the very absolute top of what one can get today. We are really excited to see what comes out of this dynamic duo in the near future. At CHF 59,000 the 1967 Chapter 1 is not exactly small change, we think it is considerably good value.

Habring² Jumping Second Pilot

Another micro-brand, but one more mature and aimed at an entirely different market. Richard and Maria Habring have been making special executions since 2004. Richard has the uncanny genius of making complications simple enough for mass production with a reliability which is outstanding.

The Jumping Second is no exception. Cased in a very handsome pilot style case and dial, the original movement is based by a Habring module sitting over a modified Valjoux 7750 train gear. The base movement is now enhanced with the in-house Habring movement train. The entire jumping seconds mechanism is modular in design, which is a great idea and allows the complication to be parachuted into any other Habring watch. It is conceptualised and manufactured in Austria. Retailing now at €5650, this represents supremely good value for money.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic True Second

In typical Jaeger-LeCoultre fashion, the Geophysic True Second avoids the fanfare, attention grabbing beating of breast that some brands use to advertise their complications.

A re-design as a homage to the original Geophysic in 1958 which was created to celebrate JLC’s 125th Anniversary and the world’s first “International Geophysical Year”. In 2014, JLC reintroduced this Geophysic 1958 Limited Edition as a faithful to the old, but not as a replica. The case is resized from 35mm to 38.5mm. The new watch featured the JLC caliber 898/1, their top of the line automatic movement. The advanced features of the original JLC Geophysic were also present: hacking seconds, shock protection, a special gear system for smooth torque, a balance with micro screws for fine regulation, as well as ceramic bearings on the rotor and an anti-magnetic soft iron cage. And was available in an edition of 800 in steel, 300 in rose gold and 58 in platinum.

A pair of Geophysic True Seconds, in different metal cases.

The design of the Geophysic True second is sober, clean and rather appealing. The movement is a very clever seconde morte implementation using a remontoir. And the retail price of S$13,300 for the steel cased version and in pink gold it costs S$25,900 makes for a great value proposition.

Arnold & Son DSTB

Arnold & Son Instrument DSTB was released at Baselworld 2014. DSTB as in Dial Side True Beat, where the entire seconde morte mechanism is displayed on the dial, allowing a mesmerising view of the action.

The seconds “dial” is a ring in sapphire crystal which is engraved with the seconds markings over the huge seconds hand. The main dial is a sub-dial with both hour and minutes indication.

Retailing for S$43,60 in a steel case, it is not as inexpensive as some others, but is unique in affording a good view of the mechanism for the jumping seconds.

Concluding Thoughts

The jumping seconds complication is not one which is offered by all watch houses. The dead second, dead beat, true beat, jumping seconds, seconde morte, ruhende sekunde can be a particularly interesting variation for the seasoned collector.

A. Lange & Söhne offers an alternative to the 1815 Walter Lange Homage in the form of the rather instrument like and we think formidable Richard Lange Jumping Seconds, but we find the Homage piece to be tell a more compelling story and visually more appealing. Another reason why we left the Richard Lange out is because we already have a Lange on the list. Perhaps we could also add the Grönefeld One Hertz to the list.

Some of the others which are not on this list, but which we think are important are those offered with a tourbillon regulator. These include the De Bethune DB25 Dead Beat Tourbillon Regulator, F. P. Journe Tourbillon Remontoir d’Egalite and Angelus 10 Tourbillon Lumiere. Adding a tourbillon will of course raise the retail prices.


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