According to our research, the present example is probably the first vintage Vacheron Constantin wristwatch featuring digital time display to be offered at auction. This extremely rare piece epitomizes Art Deco style with its understated and modern design.
The last similar piece to be offered at auction was a Vacheron Constantin Chronoscope model, sold at Sotheby's New York in 2005 for $60,000. Vacheron Constantin's modern production has revisited digital displays with the Saltarello model, offered both as a Chronoscope and a jump-hour model with retrograde minutes.
An identical example, numbered 414099, is illustrated in Lambelet, C. & Coen, L., The World of Vacheron Constantin Genève, p. 385
During the 1920s and 1930s, various digital displays were a popular alternative to standard two-handed analog watches. These displays included the watches with hours and minutes displayed digitally such as the present lot, jump hour watches with a single hand for minutes, as well as the Chronoscope, which featured jumping hours and wandering minutes.
Instead of hands, the present model features underdial discs with 1-12 for hours and 1-60 for minutes. While the hour wheel 'jumps' at the beginning of a new hour by rotating one increment instantaneously, the minute wheel sweeps gradually. Thus, the aperture for hours reveals a single digit, while the sector for minutes shows a 20-minute range, with the correct time centered in the window.
Audemars Piguet popularized digital display watches, and many examples of their digital display models have come to auction. Cartier, too, contributed to this design with their Tank à guichet, of which many examples are known. Both the Audemars Piguet pieces and the Cartier Tank à guichet do not have a standard crystal-covered dial, but rather an extension of the case, so that the apertures are windows in the gold or platinum case. In contrast to these, the present lot features a silvered dial with apertures. Patek Philippe's contribution to this design includes an exceedingly small number of jump hour watches, and one example featuring a dial layout similar to the present example in a tonneau case is known as well.
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