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History Of Wandering Hours Clock and Watches

If you haven't yet heard of a wandering hour complication, then you probably aren't a fan of clocks and watches. But according to our estimations, that's about to change; it's going to happen right at the end of this article.

Some folks prefer watches to be minimalistic and simple. Still, for those that want to bring more of a fashion statement with their timepiece, it's fantastic that many companies offer jaw-dropping designs like these Wandering Hours Watches, which are on Kickstarter as we talk.

 It is possible for any watch to tell time, but the Swiss watch makes it unique. There is no denying that the craftsmanship behind a Swiss watch is inspiring, and even when most people might not be familiar with the origin of Swiss watches or the history behind them, just wearing one of the many luxurious Swiss watch brands on their sleeve gives adds a certain level of suave to their persona.

wandering hour complication

The complication of wandering hours is very old. When you want to wear something unique, you can choose a wandering hour complication. When donned on a wrist and in clear sight of the public, this type of watch just demands attention. Its unique display is made to attract both admirers of watches and admirers of symmetry and design alike.

However, that striking look demands an even higher level of Swiss watch craftsmanship and engineering, which in itself justifies the limited number of options compared to regular Swiss movement watches. Watch brands only invest in wandering-hour watches when they know their customer base would not hesitate to buy them and perhaps even recommend them to their friends and family.

While many luxury brands have associated this complication, still many people aren't exactly familiar with the names that offer such watches. In the realm of brands that have since become household names, Audemars Piguet is one of the few that comes to mind because of its memorable wandering hour display watches. These tantalizing timepieces aren't just all about the looks either, as they have quite the history behind them.

So, What is the history behind them

Behind History

Watches with wandering hour dials were first seen in the 17th century. In England, they were often commissioned by the King as a gift to visitors or appreciation of their loyalty to the government. One of the first watchmakers to adapt this design to a pocket watch was the British watchmaker Joseph Windmills.

The Wandering Hour display has been around for nearly four centuries. In 1656, the Campanus brothers had designed a clock for Pope Alexander XII, who used it as his bedtime alarm.

In this display, they replaced the traditional hands with revolving discs showing hours. This created a semicircular arc across the clock face. The correct figure appeared every hour. First, it traveled clockwise around the dial's arc.

Then, depending on how far it had traveled, it simultaneously indicated the quarter or half-hour, which had just passed. In order to help the Pope to see the time, Alexander's night pendulum clock was illuminated by an oil lamp. The idea is that the moving hour display shows an almost metaphorical count of the passing minutes rising and setting.

Despite its age and history, this watch's mechanism is relatively uncommon in modern watchmaking. It was Audemars Piguet who developed and created the Star Wheel wandering hours watch. The Audemars Piguet 'Star Wheel' reinvented this system in the early 1990s, producing several variants of wandering hour wristwatches. "Three transparent sapphire disks or star wheels are each marked with four-hour indications and connected to a revolving center wheel. As the assembly turns, the current hour indicator is rotated into a view and then passed into the 120-degree minute area. Time is read by noting the apparent time pointing to the present minute."

While it was a beautiful and fascinating wristwatch, the AP Star Wheel was only a niche product for AP, and it was discontinued some time ago. Urwerk has taken full advantage of the idea from the first UR-101 watches in 1997 to the complete "Ur-Satellite" line today, using both 3- and 4-armed crosses with an extensible pointer.

Urwerk designed a unique wandering hour watch for Harry Winston, Opus V of 2005, and Arnold & Son recently produced their own, the Golden Wheel. In 2011, Parmigiani unveiled the Toric Capitol with what they refer to as the " Sector Time Display," a three-armed wandering time device.

Additionally, it proved to be a bit of a challenge technically. Just that description is enough to give someone a headache, and perhaps looking at that display and knowing how to read it also takes some doing. Swiss movement watches have become more common over the years as the practice has been learned and adapted over the years globally.

The wandering hour watches derives its name from the passing of a number on an arc set out in minutes; as the number travels along the arc, one hour passes, and when it vanishes on the far right, the next hour emerges on the far left. There are three discs containing four distinct numbers.

The trick is that you have three disks, each of which has to rotate around a 90-degree turn once every hour. The force of the jump originates in the mainspring, and as the burden from the complications increases significantly just before they shift, the mainspring gets less energy. The central concept is to adjust the jumper springs to hold the gears underneath the hour discs so that they keep the discs in place, but not so firmly that it affects accuracy.

Furthermore, a wandering hour display has gained more steam and risen in popularity over the last half a decade. That is because the world has been slowly moving away from traditional watches.

Mechanical Watches

The circular motion of hands has been around for centuries for the purpose of showing time. Almost definitely, the sundial shadow movement was the root of this theory. Early mechanical clocks, identical to these, displayed only hours of time before the advent of the minute hand.

Although there are a variety of other ways to display the hours on mechanical watches, there are options that present unlimited watchmaking possibilities, with numerous time displays featuring complex mechanical inventions, which open up a new world of unorthodox designs capable of experimenting with time indication beyond the hour hand.

Instead of the conventional analog clock indication, hours can be determined by a digital monitor on jumping and wandering watches. They explain time through a window of numerals, just like a date indication. Each hour, the disc hops forward while it frequently travels for wandering hours. These jump hours are more complicated as they need to store energy before releasing it all at once in one swift movement.

The history behind the Name

The name wandering hour over the years has been replaced by jump hour, and the reason behind is quite literal. Most designs and watch faces have a window showing the hour on one end and the minutes on the other, both running on different arcs. While these act like magnets attracting eyes from across the room, them not being high in supply once again puts them on the higher end of the price spectrum.

These watches are chosen for their design that stands out from the others and makes a loud statement. A similar case can be made for skeleton watches which have been around for many centuries and remain immensely popular to this day. Much like those, wandering hour watches are also a celebration of the art of watchmaking. When combined, they give the user a window into the watchmaker's mind as they quite often are. These ensure that the watch owner cannot just see the satellite discs spinning at all times but also interact with them.

Since their origin in the late 1600s, wandering hour clocks and watches have been associated with luxury. Because the Pope had a similar clock in that era, people closer to the Roman Catholic faith had quite the fondness for the unique watch face.

Pocket watches have since been replaced with wristwatches, and well traditional analog wall clocks, too, for the most part, have also been replaced with digital counterparts worldwide.

 While mechanical clocks are not really common in the market, people still love them as they tell the time as accurately as possible. They don't want to squint to focus on the minute hand to know if it's 5:42 p.m. or 5:43 p.m. because doing that in the digital age seems like a lot of work.

Going back towards wandering hour watches, sporty and luxurious offerings with that complication now also have individual minute displays. Watches are adapting to modern times, and as preferences continue to shift and change with advancements in technology, wristwatches will do so too.

It is also worth mentioning that despite Swiss watches requiring utmost precision and some handcraftsmanship, technology has also impacted the process. Research and development have given Swiss watchmakers valuable insights; these have allowed the final products to stay as accurate as ever and require lower maintenance. This adds another level of convenience to the experience of owning a fine timepiece as well.

Other wandering hour watch brands with offerings that have made the news and attracted some attention over the years are Urwerk, Arnold & Son, and Parmigiani. These watchmakers and their exquisite models spanning over some decades have been regarded as the finest attempts at producing wandering hour displays.

The traditional three-arm wandering hours system is the one people are often most attracted towards. The detailing of the minutes at the top and the hours on the right side of the face is what most watchmakers go for. As these displays are like canvases, it provides Swiss watchmakers with an excellent opportunity to be creative and deliver a design that captivates people while also portraying some elements of the wearer's personality.


We have seen enough creativity from Swiss watch brands in the last few years. It is safe to say that their imagination and design philosophy know no boundaries, and we can expect some sleek and sexy numbers from our favorite watchmakers. Another safe bet is that watches have been in style for as long as anyone can remember. They are not just another accessory in your drawer but quite often a reminder of the journey you'd had or the person who gave it to you. They are indeed personal treasures and should most certainly be treated as such.




DWISS Rw1 wandering hours


Three design awards have already been won by our DWISS R1 automatic watches: two awards for the RC1 models and one for the RS1 model. We are using the same case design that won these awards and completely re-de- signing the time display with a Wandering Hour module.

DWISS design awards


This concept was first created in the XVII century by the Campanus brothers for Pope Alexander XII. It consists of an arm with discs at the ends that rotate and show the current hour and point to the minutes along the arc-shaped track. In recent years, some of the most pres- tigious watch brands have used this concept to produce incredible watches, such as: Audemars Piguet with the Star Wheel, Vacheron Constantin and Urwerk.

DWISS animated wandering hours representation

DWISS is introducing this time display for the first time in its collection. Our model has a two-arm module with discs at the ends: one for the odd hours and the other for the even hours

The rotating satellite display shows the hours and points to the correct minutes around the dial.


The RW1 uses a Swiss made automatic movement caliber ETA 2824-2, elabore grade. It is 4 times more precise than a Japonese Miyota movement, and also more precise than a Chinese Tourbillon.

20 ATM water resistance, meaning it is suitable for swim- ming, a sapphire crystal so you won’t scratch the glass of your watch, and a Superluminova BG-W9 so you can see the time in the dark.

DWISS super-LumiNova BG-W9


ETA 2824-2 (Elabore Grade)
Swiss made - Automatic movement Incabloc® Shockproof protection Number of jewels: 25
Frequency 4Hz – 28’800
Power reserve: approximately 42h


Wandering hour display Hours and minutes Super-luminova BG-W9

3 design awards
Hand finished 316L steel case (natural colour or IP BLACK)
Water resistant to 20 ATM
Sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating
45.0 mm diameter
13.0 mm thickness (+2mm sapphire crystal)


Easy interchangeable Italian hi-tech fabric and leather
DWISS exclusive buckle

Its self-winding movement generates power as you move your wrist. The watch uses no battery, so there will never be any disposal in the environment. Made in Switzerland, ETA 2824 is known to be the workhorse of the watchmaking industry for its superior precision and reliability.

The RW1 collection has a new glass: a sapphire double domed glass with anti-reflective coating, and also a Super-Luminova BG-W9

DWISS formula car 

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