A ubiquitous feature of modern mechanical movements, the hacking seconds may not receive much attention but it is essential to keeping time accurate up to the second.
Whenever the time is set on a mechanical watch, one invariably pulls the crown. The intuitive action typically brings the seconds hand to an immediate halt. It is also known as, in a self-explanatory term, stop seconds. The temporary stoppage enables the time displayed on the watch to be synchronised correctly down the second against an accurate timekeeping source, which otherwise wouldn’t have been possible if the seconds hand were to keep chugging along.
The hacking seconds mechanism works by releasing a hacking lever that interrupts the balance wheel, stops the gear train and holds the seconds hand. After correcting the hours and minutes of the wristwatch, one anticipatory waits for the reference seconds to align, before clicking in the crown of the watch to resuscitate the mechanical movement, bringing the watch and the source in sync. This is the marvel of hacking seconds, a poetic but pivotal feature that may seem simple but often overlooked for increasingly complex mechanisms.
Although the hacking seconds has existed for some time – since the 18th century in fact – its ubiquity in wristwatches was a rather recent inclusion. While most modern mechanical movements are incorporated with such a feature, there are exceptions still – some tourbillon movements are built without, inter alia. A significant number of vintages don’t even offer it. The popularity and indeed the importance of hacking seconds amplified in the years of World War II when wristwatches played a greater role in military coordination. Soldiers relied upon the hacking seconds function to synchronise their watches. Precision was central to successful execution of tactical commands as they would have to move at the exact moment as planned. The mechanism gradually expanded its presence in wristwatches in the ensuing decades, beyond field and tool watches where its importance and practicality were proven, culminating in an omnipresence across marques and sizes today.
Select 2023 novelties with hacking seconds:
Bell & Ross BR 03-93 GMT Blue
A GMT done with panache and Bell & Ross‘ quintessence of style and function, the 42mm dual-time zone timepiece soars with a unique and elegant colourway, thanks to the 24-hour blue and grey two-colour anodised aluminum ring upon a bi-directional rotating bezel. Even better yet, the timepiece features a quick-set GMT hand, independent of the hour hand, so tracking the second time zone is simply effortless. The timepiece is powered by the automatic Calibre BR-CAL.303.
Breitling Premier B09 Chronograph 40
Bearing a manually wound COSC-certified Breitling Manufacture Caliber B09, the modestly sized chronograph at 40mm recalls Breitling’s legacy as the progenitor of modern chronographs. Vintage-revival touches impregnate the watch in the form of a grooved case, syringe hands, applied numerals and rectangular pushers, against a movement that is thoroughly modern and equipped with a column wheel.
Bvlgari Aluminium Chronograph
Since its first generation debuted in 1998, the Bvlgari Aluminium has embodied the zeitgeist of its times. The 2023 iteration is no different. Marginally bumped up to 41mm, the Chronograph endears with a bold design, particularly the black rubber bezel doubly engraved with BVLGARI. Underneath the aluminium case beats an in-house automatic movement, whose time is adjustable via a DLC-coated titanium crown.
Cartier Santos de Cartier
An icon of watchmaking, the Santos de Cartier collection is enriched with an enchanting addition arrayed with a smoky green dial destined to steal one’s heart. Available in two sizes: medium and large, the distinctively timeless design houses the tried-and-trusted Calibre 1847 MC automatic movement with a point of difference, with the larger model possessing a date window.
Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph
For over three decades, Chopard has been a faithful partner of the famed Mille Miglia races, one of the world’s premier automotive competitions for classic vehicles. The Mille Miglia Chronograph is created as such to capture the beauty and passion of the glitzy event, with retro accents married to proprietary expertise, namely a 40.5 mm case, bezels, crowns and pushers made of Chopard’s exclusive Lucent Steel. All this, in addition to a COSC-certified automatic movement.
Corum Admiral 38
For over 60 years, Corum’s Admiral collection is a bridge between its nautical and horological endeavours, best exemplified with the instantly recognisable dodecagonal case and nautical pennants on the dial. Updated to 38mm, the contemporary interpretation stays true to the Admiral spirit while imbued with roundedness and other modern touches, including the black PVD-treated grade 5 titanium case and the automatic CO 082 movement.
Longines HydroConquest GMT
The latest timepiece by Longines is a coalescence of the robust HydroConquest and the beloved GMT complication, yielding an adventure-ready creation that is especially useful when traversing different time zones, thanks to its 30-bar water resistance. The thoughtful construction seeps into the exclusive L844 movement’s anti-magnetism too, being 10 times more resistant to magnetic fields than the ISO 764 standard, contained within a 41mm stainless steel case.
Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date
Emboldened by intrepid explorers and inspired by the majesty of nature, the distinctive dive watch by Montblanc spotlights a glacial dial whose unique pattern is brought to life using a rare ancestral technique called gratté-boisé, to evoke the minerals deposited in the depths of glaciers over millennia. The muse, Mer de Glace, is a glaciated valley located on the slopes of Mont Blanc. Conforming to the strict standards set forth in ISO 6425, the timepiece is powered by the automatic MB 24.17 movement and water resistant to 300 metres.
OMEGA Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M
A tribute to Omega’s rich maritime heritage, the Aqua Terra is a sports-luxe edition of the famous Seamaster, celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2023. The contemporary design showcases an aesthetic derived from the wooden deck of a luxury sailboat, further enhanced with Omega’s cutting-edge movement. A notable feature is the ability to adjust the hour hand independently, without pausing the time, courtesy of the METAS-certified calibre 8900. The certification guarantees the performance of the watch, boasting an especially impressive anti-magnetism greater than 15,000 gauss.
TAG Heuer Carrera
Brimming with a racing pedigree, TAG Heuer’s Carrera is an elegant timepiece that requires little introduction. The understated design balances elegance with sportiness, encapsulated within a 42mm stainless steel case that accentuates an iridescent dark blue dial, topped with a bevelled sapphire crystal dome. At the heart of the chronograph is the in-house Calibre Heuer 02 Automatic, complete with an outstanding 80 hours of power reserve.
Zenith DEFY Revival Shadow
A resolutely modern timepiece rooted in a classic proportion, the 37mm DEFY Revival Shadow echoes the distinctiveness of the original DEFY, introduced in 1969 to great acclaim. The proof lies in the octagonal matte titanium case juxtaposed with a 14-sided bezel, complemented with a titanium ladder bracelet. The decidedly vintage-inspired hour markers add to the retro appeal, bound together with the cutting-edge ELITE 670 automatic manufacture movement.