In-Depth: Hammers And Gongs – Talking Traditional Minute Repeater Magic With Patek Philippe

Twice in my life I have been lucky enough to hear numerous Patek Philippe minute repeaters doing their thing, and the latest was under fascinating conditions. Patek Philippe is for the most part, well, you wouldn’t say uncommunicative, however they do have the characteristic hesitance that you’d anticipate from a family-owned haute horlogerie firm. How about we go with circumspect. However, throughout the most recent couple of years, the company has additionally started holding occasional instructive workshops, which, however obviously they center around Patek Philippe wristwatches and history, likewise offer a lot of exceptionally valuable, by and large applicable information on watchmaking. The last such instructive occasion I was important for was an entire day workshop on static and dynamic balancing (which, in case you’re of a comparative turn of brain to mine, is really energizing, white-knuckle stuff, and I’m as a rule absolutely genuine). The latest, however, was a workshop on moment repeaters, during which we talked about everything from assembling gongs, to case development, to how repeaters are tried and approved for discharge at Patek – and, indeed, horse pee too; and in this way hangs a tale.

Patek 5074P, self-winding moment repeater with unending calendar.

The history of chiming watches is by and large essentially known, in any event in wide blueprint. Telling the time acoustically is the most established known technique, in any event in mechanical horology in Europe, and it’s by and large imagined that the soonest timekeepers with mechanical escapements had no hands, nor a dial, but instead told the time by ringing a bell. A watch or clock can ring the time either “in passing,” which implies that the time is rung automatically at the hours and quarter hours, or “on interest,” which implies that the owner can work a catch or slide, and the development will ring the time right now it’s enacted.

The word “repeater” signifies on-request striking. The main repeaters were English, and the principal patent for a rehashing watch was conceded to Daniel Quare right back in 1687. Watches that chime the hour, and the closest quarter hour, were the primary rehashing watches, and step by step more exact chiming watches were created, until at long last the moment repeater appeared – the absolute first that we know of were made in Germany, around 1720.

Patek Philippe Reference 5216P, minute repeater with tourbillon, retrograde date, and moonphase.

“It can’t be questioned that repeater-work is actually the logical piece of horology. Accordingly it requires more hypothesis for plan and more delicacy and accuracy in production. This is why the individuals who know it and practice it, complete it with more flawlessness than different sorts of work.” 

– Francois Crespe, Essay On Repeater Watches, 1804; Translation, Richard Watkins

The type R TO 27 PS QR movement.

Making minute repeaters at Patek Philippe goes very far back. The first recorded in Patek’s archives was made in 1839, and sold for 450 CHF (it was just the 19th watch created by the company, at that point). The watch was a quarter repeater. The principal half-quarter repeater (which chimes the hour, quarter, and the closest half-quarter hour, or seven and a half moment period) was sold in 1845, and in the very year the company sold its first obvious moment repeater as well. It was likewise in 1845 that the main amazing et modest sonnerie from Patek was sold (and it was additionally the year that Jean Adrien Philippe joined the company – huge year). From that point forward Patek has made the absolute most renowned chiming and complicated watches in the world; it’s top notch that incorporates the Duke of Regla pocket watch from 1910 (grande et unimposing sonnerie with minute repeater and Westminster chimes, ringing on five gongs), the record-breaking  Henry Graves Supercomplication (which we actually witnessed and imparted to you as it sold for $24 million out of 2014 ), the Caliber 89, the Star Caliber 2000, and, obviously, most as of late, the Grandmaster Chime .

The Henry Graves Supercomplication, right away before it pounded at Sotheby’s for $24 million in 2014.

The company’s first wristwatch repeater was a brief repeater (chiming the hours, quarter hours, and afterward the closest number of brief spans) made as a women’s watch in 1916, in a 27.1mm platinum case. Patek’s first wristwatch minute repeater was sold in 1925 and utilized a 12 ligne clear from Victorin Piguet, who was a frequent supplier both when World War II. This is the acclaimed Teetor watch, made for the American automotive designer Ralph Teetor, who was visually impaired (and whose developments incorporate the primary voyage control). Repeater creation during the 1960s and 70s arrived at a virtual stop, albeit during the 1980s two unique pieces – references 3621 and 3615 – were made. In 1989, however, Patek created the reference 3974 – brief repeater with interminable schedule and moonphase that housed the type R 27 Q, with a miniature rotor winding system.

A Patek ref. 3974, which pounded at Phillips for CHF 1,181,000 in May 2016.

However, it wasn’t until 1992 that Patek Philippe continued normal creation of repeaters (that is, non–restricted version creation). The reference 3939, which came out that year, was delivered from 1992 to 2010, and it stays perhaps the stealthiest ways conceivable to wear a pure blood high complication. Back in 2011 Ben depicted a coincidental steel form made for Only Watch: “Reference 3939 has existed in the Patek index for quite a while, however has just been accessible in gold and platinum. This watch, with a little width, covered up tourbillon, lacquer dial, and moderately inconspicuous repeater slide is a definitive quiet executioner – it may not look like much to the normal person, however kid is it something exceptional.”  That specific 3939 wound up pounding for $1.9 million.

The ref. 3939 repeater may be the stealthiest high complication of them all.

Minute Repeater Production At Patek Philippe Today

Patek Philippe has chosen to chart a somewhat fascinating course with regards to minute repeater creation in its present assortment. While some (well, we’re talking outlandish repeaters here, so it’s not that many) companies that are in the repeater business have chosen to push hard on R&D, and make a big deal about technical points of interest and advances, Patek is generally as yet doing things as our forefathers would have done it, albeit the company has received some subordinate testing technology that addresses a more present day approach. For example, chronicles of the sound profile of each repeater are made in an anechoic chamber, and the sound is investigated carefully to guarantee that it satisfies Patek’s inner guidelines. However, there’s nothing in any Patek Philippe repeater that would appear to be stunning to a watchmaker from a century prior (indeed, in spite of the fact that silicon balance springs are found in a large number of Patek’s watches, right up ’til today you won’t discover them in its repeaters). In spite of the undoubted interest in the most awesome aspect the present crop of technically forward-looking repeaters, there is something profoundly compelling about dealing with a repeater that addresses the congruity of customary techniques you find in a Patek (and which is after all Patek Philippe’s primary stock in exchange).

We have all heard the expression, cool, quiet and gathered, and it tends to be applied to meet numerous events, however it has a genuine individual importance to the individual endeavor the consideration of repeaters. 

– Donald de Carle, Complicated Watches And Their Repair

Patek Philippe Reference 5078R, selfwinding repeater with polish dial, 38mm.

Looking at the opposite, you discover the type R 27 PS.

Just to give a little setting, it’s valuable to recollect that working on moment repeaters is requesting such that working on different watches isn’t. The solitary thing that comes close perhaps is the rattrapante chronograph, which, however it additionally requires incredible consideration in both upkeep and assembling, doesn’t request the great emotional judgment for sound quality that is required for the repeater. The horological writer Donald de Carle (who was not, to say the least, a writer given to exaggeration) writes, in Complicated Watches And Their Repair, that, “It has been continually focused on that the most extreme consideration should be practiced when fixing complicated watches, and when fixing rehashed watches, that exhortation would now be able to be doubly pushed. We have all heard the expression, cool, quiet and gathered, and it tends to be applied to meet numerous events, yet it has a genuine individual importance to the individual endeavor the consideration of repeaters…it is for the understudy to make himself capable, by acquiring through training, the attitude necessary to accomplish the work now to be discussed.”

The three essential characteristics of a repeater are the rhythm at which it chimes, the quality of the sound, and the volume at which it chimes. Rhythm in Patek’s repeaters is constrained by a divergent lead representative, which is under the Calatrava cross on the top plate (that is the piece of the development obvious through the showcase back). There are three pinion wheels in arrangement that connect the different spring barrel that powers the repeater to the lead representative itself, which has two spring stacked arms on it with weights on the end. When you push home and delivery the repeater slide, you wind the spring barrel, and the speed at which it unwinds – and subsequently, how quick or slow the chimes ring – is dictated by how quick the lead representative twists. The lead representative slows the speed of turn of the fountainhead barrel by offering inertial opposition: As it turns, the two arms open outward against the obstruction of the springs and slow the speed of pivot, similar to a turning professional skater broadening their arms (to utilize a well-worn yet illustrative relationship).

The diffusive lead representative is situated at 12:00; the huge wheel with s-formed spokes is the unnecessary extra person wheel, which drives the tourbillon.

Patek began utilizing diffusive lead representatives in 1989 and they’re now utilized altogether Patek repeaters. The more established technique for controlling the beat of chiming is with an anchor, which makes a particular humming sound; the outward lead representative is much quieter (however not absolutely quiet). One of the purposes of change in a repeater is the lead representative’s speed of revolution – preferably, there is sufficient power in the fountainhead barrel so the rhythm of chiming doesn’t observably slow when the most recent minutes are being struck. 

Patek Philippe reference 5074P, never-ending schedule with minute repeater and 24 hour indication.

Patek Philippe type R 27 Q.

The gongs in an advanced moment repeater are by and large made of solidified steel; some Patek watches have what are designated “house of God” gongs, which are 1.5 occasions longer than regular gongs (and which, in view of our experience, have a discernibly more profound and richer sound). Now, notwithstanding the overall consistency of present day fabricating techniques, making repeaters remains something of a dull craftsmanship, and the acoustic qualities of each repeater can change contingent upon the properties of the case, development, dial, and even whether or not the repeater is diamond set, so Patek makes 21 distinct evaluations of standard gongs, just as 21 unique evaluations of church repeater gongs. Gongs are made by hand, each in turn, and figuring out how to make them is a somewhat tedious interaction – we’re informed that, as a rule, Patek’s watchmakers need to make 100 or so of a given evaluation of gong to have dominated that type sufficiently well to be allowed to make that grade for real creation minute repeaters. Gongs range from only 0.48mm to 0.6mm in diameter.

Let’s discussion about fantasies and legends briefly. As a matter of first importance, we have it directly from Patek Philippe that indeed, Thierry Stern by and by tunes in to, and approves, each Patek Philippe minute repeater prior to allowing it to out into the world. There are four essential stages in the approval interaction. To start with, the repeater is approved by the watchmaker who made it. Second, it goes to the anechoic chamber (a room fixed with material that suppresses echoes, which would otherwise make for an account that isn’t sufficiently perfect) and a chronicle is made which goes through computational investigation for wanted boundaries. Third, the repeater is tuned in to by Patek’s senior watchmaker in charge of chiming complications. Furthermore, at long last, the repeater is shipped off Thierry Stern. When a repeater gets to Mr. Harsh’s office there’s a decent chance it will be approved, yet incidentally dismissals do happen – not regularly, as per Patek, however frequently enough that it’s not simply a custom. There are sure fundamental target boundaries – the sound on normal for Patek repeaters is around 60 decibels, the chimes should ring for precisely 18 seconds – however a lot of the checking interaction for repeaters is still abstractly done by the human ear.

Left to right: the references 5037, 5074, 5307, 700R, and 7002/450G. Not very shabby.

There are various reasons a repeater may be dismissed – the hour, quarter, and moment strikes are each assessed independently, for example, however they should all work together amicably too. Rhythm and volume are additionally assessed. We got an opportunity, as a gathering, to do a visually impaired assessment of three distinct repeaters from chronicles made by Patek, and even visually impaired, there was astonishing agreement on the quality of each repeater, with a few members ready to accurately recognize case material, and with essentially consistent dismissal of one watch by our gathering – and incidentally, this specific watch had been dismissed by Mr. Harsh as well.

One fascinating point that we talked about widely is how much case material influences sound. Among repeater enthusiasts, it’s regularly said that rose gold is the “awesome” material regarding sound quality. While the facts demonstrate that rose gold has a characteristic sound profile, it’s not always obvious that it’s the awesome any goal sense. Platinum, for example, can have a somewhat dull, quieted tone, however it can likewise, at its best, have a sort of translucent quality you don’t get from a gold case, so a lot of it is truly down to individual inclination. It’s somewhat similar to the distinction between a major Bordeaux and Japanese purpose; the last has a much narrower flavor profile, however within that there are endless shades of assortment and similarly as unquestionably as there is terrible purpose you wouldn’t use to wash out a feline box, and purpose that will cause you to feel like you’re viewing cherry blooms in spring in the shadow of Mt. Fuji, there are both crummy and staggering platinum minute repeaters.

Reference 7002/450G “Four Seasons Symphony” repeater, Patek’s first high jewelry women great complication.

Another extremely intriguing truth is that agreement was almost widespread that probably the most clear, most perfectly resounding sound came from two of the littlest watches we saw: the references 7002/450G Four Seasons Symphony and the wonderful 7000R Ladies First repeater. I knew the sound of the Ladies First repeater from prior tuning in, yet I hadn’t heard the Four Seasons Symphony previously, and the sound was excellent – comparative, strangely, in certain regards to the sound from the reference 5073R, which, similar to the 5073P, has church gongs. The presence of precious stones certainly appears to affect the shade of the sound, aside from contemplations of size, case material, and development characteristics.

Reference 5073P, with ceaseless schedule and church building gongs.

Oh, about the pony pee – that is really a dead genuine piece of moment repeater history. The story one hears is that one of the proprietary advantages for making repeaters is that the last quenching of the gongs occurred in that specific liquid back in The Good Old Days. To place it in setting, since the commencement of metallurgy there have been accounts of extraordinary substances used to quench and temper steel, up to and including human blood, which was supposedly utilized for the best Damascus steel.

I asked Patek’s lord watchmaker in New York Laurent Junod about this piece of conceivable horological unauthenticated written work and he said that it was totally evident. Incidentally, pee has been a supported substance for quenching steel for quite a long time, on account of its alkali content – smelling salts contains nitrogen, and there’s a cycle called nitriding, which produces something known as a callous surface in steel, and on the off chance that you believe I’m blowing smoke, you can find out about it in “The Effects Of Human And Animal Urine On Nitriding For Improved Hardness Property Of Aluminum Alloy Materials” in the European Journal Of Material Sciences  (which discusses nitriding steel also).

Left to right: references 5216P, 5074P, 5539 (hand wound repeater just) 5216R, 5078R, and 5078P (both self-winding, minute repeater only).

Of course, the whole purpose of repeaters is that they give scholarly fulfillment or visual amusement, but instead a unique aural encounter you can’t go anyplace else. Without a doubt, you’re disappointed to have come to the furthest limit of this story without a solitary account of one of these watches, no? Luckily we have something quite unprecedented to impart to you again – in 2013 we recorded what was then the entire Patek Philippe minute repeater assortment and you can bounce back as expected and have a listen again to something truly uncommon here.

In a horological world where new and better are consistent buzzwords, it’s incredible to see such old fashioned watchmaking as yet going on at this level. There is literally nothing wrong with pioneering new trails and progressing horological science however to see right up ’til the present time what you can escape totally exemplary techniques and materials gives an association with the historical backdrop of watchmaking at its best, not effectively got elsewhere.

And, as a little something extra, here’s our select video inclusion of one Patek chiming complication that wasn’t part of the introduction I joined in: the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime, reference 5175R, made to observe Patek’s 175th commemoration. Gracious, and if your ears don’t get excessively worn out, why not treat yourself to the video we set up that time we went involved with the Henry Graves Supercomplication – truth be told, you can hear it do its thing as well.

Watches shown: 

Reference 7000R, Ladies First repeater with type R 27 PS, in rose gold, 33.7mm breadth, CHF 350,000.

Reference 5216R, repeater with tourbillon, retrograde date, never-ending schedule, type R TO 27 PS QR, in rose gold, 39.5mm, CHF 695,000.

Reference 5216P, minute repeater with tourbillon, retrograde date, unending schedule, type R TO 27 PS QR, 39.5mm, CHF 715,000.

References 5078P and 5078R, self-winding moment repeaters, type R27 PS, grand feu enamel dials, 38mm, CHF 340,000 in rose gold, CHF 361,000 in platinum.

Reference 5307P, hand-wound moment repeater with tourbillon, immediate ceaseless schedule, moonphase, and day/night sign; hand wound type R TO 27 PS QI, 41mm, CHF 795,000 in platinum.

Reference 7002/450G “Four Seasons Symphony” Limited Edition. Self-winding type R 27, white gold with jewels and sapphires, all out 1,194 stones and 6.9 carats. 34.7mm, CHF 490,000.

Reference 5074P, minute repeater, ceaseless schedule with 24 hour sign, house of prayer gongs. Self-winding type R27 Q, 42mm; CHF 582,000.

Reference 5073R, minute repeater, interminable schedule, basilica gongs; self-winding type R 27 Q, bezel and carries set with 103 roll jewels totalling 4.33 carats; 42mm distance across. CHF 640,000.