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May 2023

The artistry of the retrograde display

With their sights set on escapism and flights of fancy, watchmakers are revisiting a playful yet technical complication which shifts from conventional indications to a central indication.

by Julie de los Rios
Vacheron Constantin

“A display is said to be of the retrograde type when the indicator does not make a complete turn of the dial, but instead returns to its starting point (straight away – Ed.) and begins running again after covering its entire measurement segment. This is usually by means of a hand moving across the arc of a circle”, reads the Vacheron Constantin website. Fascinated by this complication, the house has made it the central theme for its 2023 vintage. The retrograde display makes two appearances on the salmon-toned dial of the Patrimony retrograde day-date in platinum, one for the day of the week and one for the date, in a perfect balance of elegance and minimalism. 

But Vacheron Constantin is not the only watchmaker that wants to amuse collectors with a retrograde display. Neuchâtel-based Hautlence goes back to black with its Linear Serie 2 in POS. Following on from the jumping hour disc, the half-trailing hour chain and the jumping hour that spins on a sphere, here comes the linear retrograde jumping hour, illustrated vertically on the left side of the dial. 

Fascinating new ways to display the time are also integral to the identity of Chronoswiss, which is coming up trumps again this year with a new version of its Open Gear ReSec that it has named Aurora, which shows the retrograde seconds in the lower part of the dial, with reflections recalling the aurora borealis. 

Finally, very design-forward HYT – which specialises in displaying the hours using fluids rather than hands – is taking yet more new strides in its experimental approach. To celebrate its 10th anniversary, it presents a new Tourbillon Conique watch fitted with a fluid-based retrograde hour indication.


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