While chiming watches like minute repeaters have been around for hundreds of years, it has only been only as recently as the last decade that we saw watch brands gather enough courage and technical know-how to create more modern, 21st century iterations of the classic striking watch.
Take the confidently named Supersonnerie by Audemars Piguet, as a powerful example. Wrapped inside a modified – but still instantly recognizable – Royal Oak Concept watch case, Audemars Piguet has built a 478-part movement that, along with the minute repeater function, features a tourbillon and a chronograph, making a true high-complication.
But the Supersonnerie is not all show and no go either. The case is crafted from titanium, a strong but low-density metal to optimise transmission of sound from the movement towards the wearer. The 44mm case features a soundboard under the outer case back, a thin membrane of special copper alloy that amplifies the repeater chimes. And the manufacture’s engineers have raised the case back in a way so that it has eight thin openings on its rim that allow the sound to escape, even when chiming function is operated when the watch pressed against the wrist. The result is an extraordinarily loud repeater, sounding almost like sonorous antique pocket watch repeaters.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie
As you can tell, modern and, dare we say, high-tech minute repeaters are all about the quality of the sound – both its clarity and volume. It was only in late 2016 that Chopard introduced its first minute repeater – and the watch, of course, was destined to have the brand’s L.U.C designation reserved only for high-end mechanical watches.
Those who had the chance to meet him will agree with me when I say: company President Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, the man behind Chopard’s L.U.C watches, is a true watch enthusiast with a keen eye for detail and performance. This approach of his is beautifully reflected in the L.U.C Full Strike, a bold-looking, yet highly wearable (at just 42.5mm) timepiece with a novel new idea to enhance its acoustic performance to hitherto unheard-of levels.
The L.U.C Full Strike’s two large, polished steel hammers do not strike traditional steel gongs as do most all other minute repeaters but, for the first time in a watch, sound the chimes by hitting the uniquely bowl-shaped sapphire front crystal. Hence, the entire front of the watch acts as a resonator, a loudspeaker even, making the L.U.C Full Strike quite possibly the loudest and richest sounding minute repeater on the market.
Chopard L.U.C Full Strike
True Paneristi will of course know that the modern Panerai has never been shy at creating high complication timepieces – the latest being the Radiomir 1940 Minute Repeater Carillon Tourbillon GMT PAM600, the first double-time zone decimal minute repeater. Clad in a whopping 49mm, 18k red gold case, the PAM600 features not the traditional two, but instead three hammers, and chimes the time not with quarters and minutes, but in tens minute segments and individual minutes.
Furthermore, being equipped with a GMT indication, the P.2005/MR, a 633-component movement, is capable of chiming both the local time and home time, making it a double-time zone repeater. All in all, this beast of a watch is sure to impress not only with its size, but also with the complex and unique chiming functions. While the red gold case it was first presented in was dense enough to soften the sound slightly, the PAM600 can also be ordered in lightweight titanium to boost its volume.
Panerai Radiomir 1940 Minute Repeater Carillon Tourbillon GMT PAM600
So, what if all you want is a timepiece that leaves all this modern technological trend behind and instead is a simple and elegant classic?
You turn to Patek Philippe of course. The Geneva watchmaker to this day remains one of the few go-to names for connoisseurs when it comes chiming watches, a status the manufacture earned through an extensive history of magnificent-sounding repeaters.
Iconic pocket watches like the landmark Calibre 89 pocket watch, at the time the world’s most complicated timepiece ever, helped build Patek Philippe’s name in repeaters. In fact, the Calibre 89 also introduced the silent-running centrifugal governor that regulates the speed of the chimes.
The silent governor then became standard in Patek Philippe’s pioneering wristwatch repeaters of the 1980s like the refs. 3979 and 5016, serving as the basis of many of today’s silently operating repeaters, allowing their audience to enjoy the crystal clear sound of the hammers and gongs.
Patek Philippe Ref. 5016
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Victor Toth – Czech Republic
Victor Toth is a Prague-based, professional photographer-turned-watch enthusiast and freelance journalist, whose journey into the complex world of fine watchmaking had begun a number of years ago. Over this time it has become his passion to share his understanding of the finer details of beautiful timepieces, all in an effort to encourage a more thorough appreciation of this wonderful and complex universe of fine mechanics.