Friday

Fitting In and Out - Rare Expanding & Contracting Hand Watches

In my collecting history, I always had a special place for oblong, oval, rectangular, thin, or just very wide watches. The problem they all share is the restriction of their hands being only as long as the shortest width of the dial. Once the hands reach their widest points, they often appear too dwarfed. It got me thinking, how cool would it be if hands of a watch could extend out as the width of the watch gets wider and contract back to the smallest? Well, lo and behold, I discovered nearly everything has been done before at some point in time. Expanding and contracting hand history was sporadic and only a few were ever made.


This fantastic specimen circa 1795, made by watchmaker William Anthony of London. Famous for his verge watches with many being made for the Chinese market. His watch above features hands that work like a pantograph or scissors that follow cams to expand and contract. Valued conservatively between $100,000-$250,000.

via 2007 Complete Price Guide to Watches


Close-up of William Anthony 'Scissorhands'

Now, go back nearly 120 years before that and you have this watch by Henricus Jones above, circa 1678. Featuring a minute hand that expands and contracts - always pointing to the outer edge of the oval chapter ring. Also one of the earliest watches with a balance spring.

Via Patek Philippe Museum

Ok, flash forward almost 350 years later (today) and you'll see an ingenious recurrence of this concept. The Urwerk 201 Hammerhead. One of the most cutting edge watch brands today have not only revived and modernized the wandering hour watch, but also reinventing the expanding and retracting hand by placing a telescopic pointer inside the hour cubes. As each cube rotates to the corresponding minute display, the protuberance slowly extends and retreats.
(Again, I'm always trying to find a way for the word "protuberance" to appear in my posts)

Urwerk Telescopic Pointer

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