Originating long before the widespread use of electricity, minute repeater watches were an ideal solution to discreetly check the time during the day and night. Whilst early examples produced a rather unspectacular muffled sound, the introduction of bells and, later, specially tuned gongs made it possible to chime not only the hours, but also the quarters, half-quarters, and five-minute intervals, each with different — and, most of all, much more pleasant — sounds. Today, the striking mechanism of a minute repeater is regarded as one of the most complex complications in horology, and therefore also one of the most exclusive and expensive to produce.
Patek Philippe has not only been a driving force in re-introducing minute repeaters during the last 25 years; the family-owned watch company also offers one of the larger, if not the largest, selection of men’s and ladies’ minute repeater wristwatches in its current collection. The company states that it takes a watchmaker 200 to 300 hours to assemble a minute repeater and that every finished timepiece, even if it’s the same watch reference in the same metal case, will sound subtly different. Also, every single watch is personally checked by the Patek Philippe’s President Thierry Stern before leaving the manufacture.
Our colleagues from Watchtime.net (WatchTime’s sister publication in Germany) recently had the rare opportunity to watch six minute repeaters from Patek Philippe in action. All of them chime three distinctly different sounds: the hours are signaled by a low tone, the quarter-hours by a sequence of two tones, and the minutes by a high tone.
As you will see below, the time is struck by small steel hammers on different gongs (the watches were set to a time shortly before 1 o’clock in order to produce the maximum amount of chimes, and thus auditory enjoyment). Here are videos of all six references, along with pricing and specs.
Patek Philippe Ref. 5074R-012 in rose gold (CHF 597,200.00), automatic movement, Caliber R 27 Q; perpetual calendar with day, date, month, leap year, moon-phase and a.m./p.m indication; case diameter: 42 mm.
Patek Philippe Ref. 5207/700P-001 in platinum (CHF 826,400.00), manually wound movement, Caliber R TO 27 PS QI; perpetual calendar with tourbillon, day, date, month, leap year, moon-phase display and day/night indicator; case diameter: 41 mm.
Patek Philippe Ref. 5078P-001 in platinum (CHF 398,100.00), automatic movement, Caliber R 27 PS; enamel dial; case diameter: 38 mm.
Patek Philippe Ref. 5073P-010 in platinum (CHF 749,300.00), automatic movement, Caliber R 27 Q; perpetual calendar with day, date, month, leap year, moon-phase and 24-hour display; case diameter: 42 mm.
Patek Philippe Ref. 5304R-001 in rose gold (CHF 639,100.00), automatic movement, Caliber R 27 PS QR LU; perpetual calendar with retrograde date hand; case diameter: 43 mm.
Patek Philippe Ref. 5217P-001 in platinum (CHF 881,500.00), manually wound movement, Caliber R TO 27 PS QR; perpetual calendar with tourbillon, retrograde date hand, and moon-phase; case diameter: 39.5 mm.