Mechanical watches with digital displays are rarer than most, and they have a long history. This year at SIHH, IWC celebrates its 150th anniversary with the “Tribute to Pallweber” edition. Last year, 2017, François-Paul Journe presented the third edition in the Vagabondage Series, named simply Vagabondage III.
Digital displays, the problem is energy management
The first Vagabondage, created in 2005, had an interesting display in which the hours were shown digitally in a window that itself rotated to show the minutes. Vagabondage II was functionally similar to IWC’s new Tribute to Pallweber, with hours and minutes shown by rotating discs framed by fixed windows. Vagabondage III is probably the most unusual watch of this type, in that the digital indications are used for hours and seconds, with minutes shown by a white hand, and power reserve at 1 o’clock with a blued steel hand. This, for François-Paul, completes the trilogy – evidently the idea of a mechanical watch with hour, minute and seconds indications all shown digitally is not feasible, at least in his opinion. Without doubt, digital seconds are visually spectacular, much more so than just digital hours and minutes, particularly in this watch in which the smoked sapphire dial reveals the discs, with the numbers framed in white. There is no indication of the name F.P. Journe on the dial side, but the font used for the numerals, and the shape of the hands, are pretty much brand trademarks.
Hand-wound movement with constant force complication
The movement of Vagabondage III, calibre 1514, is hand-wound, and in order to manage the varying demand for energy – highest when the seconds, tens of seconds and hour discs all have to move together – it has a patented constant force system. The balance runs at 21,600 vibrations per hour (3 Hertz) and an adequate power reserve is provided by the barrel with double mainspring. The crown is used to adjust the time, in both directions. The movement has 249 components and 32 jewels.
Slim case, hefty price
The watch is moderately sized at 45.2 x 37.6 mm, and slim at just 7.84 mm. It is supplied with a leather strap. Two versions are available, in platinum (69 pieces) and red gold (68 pieces). When it was launched in 2017, preference was given to collectors who already own Vagabondage I and Vagabondage II. The platinum version costs 56,000 Swiss francs, the gold version 54,000. Read more on the F.P. Journe website.