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The Resounding Beauty of Patek Philippe’s Minute Repeaters

Patek Philippe 1938p 001 Cortina Watch Featured Image

Last year, Patek Philippe released a total of 10 minute repeater references, an incredible record for the watchmaker.

The brand’s chiming complications are always in great demand; releasing a diverse range of designs and styles means there’s something for every collector.  

Patek Philippe’s connection with the chiming complication dates back to its earliest days. The quarter and minute repeaters were one of the first high complications produced by the watchmaker and highly valued for their quality and design. In the early 20th century, the expansion of wristwatch wearers led them to develop their first repeater wristwatch for ladies. The first minute repeater wristwatch by Patek Philippe was presented in 1924. 

Patek Philippe_1924 Minute Repeater_Cortina Watch

The first minute repeater wristwatch by Patek Philippe was produced in 1924 and later sold to Ralph Teetor, an automotive engineer who invented cruise control.

The prominence of this complication dimmed during the mid-20th century but in recent years, has shot up in popularity. Not only are they incredibly complex to develop, requiring a robust movement, they also engage a different sense, adding another layer of sophistication to the watch. The warm, gentle tones of each chime, indicating the time through sound, elevates the experience of a precious wristwatch. 

A Unique Creation

The minute repeater is also a complication that Patek Philippe has continuously innovated around, the latest being the Ref. 1938P-001 Minute Repeater Alarm, that has the two complications being activated on the same set of gongs. The two complications are favourites of Mr Philippe Stern, and dedicated to the gentleman who has championed fine watchmaking for his entire life. 

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The dial of the Ref. 1938P-001 features a portrait of Mr Philippe Stern in grisaille enamel using Grand Feu white and grey on Grand Feu black.

The dial is crafted in enamel and features a portrait of Philippe Stern using grisaille enamelling. The technique employs light and shading to create a chiaroscuro effect. An additional hand on the dial indicates the alarm time, with a little window underneath the brand’s logo to show if it is switched on. 

Flip to the reverse and you’ll see an exquisitely finished Caliber R AL 27 PS, with gold-coloured chamfers, the gongs and hammers prominently displayed. The base Caliber R 27 self-winding minute repeater was a truly unique movement when it was released in 1989 by Philippe Stern himself, and it remains one of the few minute repeater movements that are self-winding, if not the only.  

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The self-winding Caliber R AL 27 PS is a unique minute repeater in watchmaking with four patents for the integration of the alarm and minute repeater functions.

The Ref. 1938P-001 is not only technically brilliant, with four patents to it for the integration of the minute repeater and alarm functions, but also beautifully crafted with an officer-style case, featuring a hinged caseback with an inscription to Philippe Stern, and his signature engraved on the micro-rotor of the movement.

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The Patek Philippe Ref. 5531G-001 World Time Minute Repeater also features a unique innovation by the watchmaker, with the repeater sounding out the local rather than home time.

Across the World

The Minute Repeater Alarm is not the only watch to feature a unique innovation on the complication. The Ref. 5531G-001 combines two important complications for Patek Philippe in one watch, the world time complication and the minute repeater. On the dial, a city ring around the 24-hour ring indicates the time in every zone across the globe, with the hands showing the local time. A trigger of the pusher moves the two discs in opposite directions, advancing the time. 

The sliding lever, when triggered, drives the minute repeater to chime not the home time of the watch but the local time, so that there’s no confusion. This is a unique function that Patek Philippe has created with the Caliber R 27 HU since 2017. Furthermore, the watchmaker has added a touch of artistry to the typically utilitarian world time complication with a Grand Feu cloisonné enamel dial depicting a steamboat traversing the Lake Geneva, bringing music and art to a truly distinct timepiece.

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The Patek Philippe Ref. 5531G-001 features cloisonné enamelling and hand-guilloché, two Rare Handcrafts practiced within the Manufacture.

Enamelling isn’t the only craft that’s exhibited on this watch either. The side of the case and the sliding lever of the repeater feature a hand-guilloched hobnail pattern that’s engraved using a rose engine. By using the two crafts on separate aspects of its design, it ensures the incredible beauty and detail of the enamelled dial is uninterrupted, while the case band of the watch offers the wearer an added tactile experience. Of course, what is most important are the pitch-perfect chimes of the minute repeater, which can be enjoyed by activating the sliding lever. Every chiming watch that leaves Patek Philippe’s manufacture has earned Mr. Thierry Stern’s seal of approval, a personal guarantee of its aural quality. 

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The Patek Philippe Ref. 5260/1455R-001 gives the minute repeater a glamorous makeover, housed in an Aquanaut Luce case that’s set with gemstones.

The Sound of Glamour

Given that Patek Philippe’s very first repeater wristwatch was designed for ladies, the watchmaker always develops truly breathtaking women’s timepieces with the minute repeater. In the Aquanaut Luce Ref. 5260/1455R-001, the rainbow setting is used to completely cover the entire watch in precious stones, along with a dial that’s fully set in baguette-cut diamonds. 

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Patek Philippe Ref. 5260/1455R-001’s case is set in gemstones, ranging from multi-coloured sapphires to diamonds.

Haute joaillerie watchmaking is a craft in itself, and one that requires exceptional skill, confidence and experience from their master gemsetters. Every stone has to fit perfectly and be set and secured in an invisible setting, so that the stones appear to be seamlessly flowing from one to the next. The colouring of the stones is also a challenge; the colours of each stone should flow smoothly to the next to create the rainbow effect.  

In addition, the self-winding Caliber R 27 can be seen through the exhibition caseback. It is a highly compact movement despite its complexity, which makes the watch even more impressive. At just 38.8mm across, the Ref. 5260/1455R-001 delivers a chime that’s just as impressive as its exquisitely finished exterior. 

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The Patek Philippe Minute Repeater Tourbillon Ref. 5303R-001 features the complications of the movement on the dial side of the watch.

A Revealing Design 

Patek Philippe has rarely produced watches with fully exposed movements but in 2019, it introduced a Minute Repeater Tourbillon watch at the Singapore Grand Exhibition, and this became a regular release as the Ref. 5303R-001. Specially crafted for watch collectors who are passionate about the minute repeater, the complication is presented on the front of the watch rather than the back, and in full. The racks and levers are all visible, and triggering the sliding lever sets the entire dial in motion, which can be enjoyed while listening to the golden chimes of the gongs and hammers.

The fully exposed dial is rare because Patek Philippe usually prefers to keep the moving parts of a caliber protected from the sun’s UV rays, which can dry up lubricants that keep the movement running smoothly. For this watch, a special coating is applied to the sapphire crystal protecting the watch, to reflect UV rays away. This also means that Patek Philippe can reveal its beautifully decorated tourbillon on the dial, doubling as a small running seconds display. 

The open design of the watch carries over to the case back, where skeletonised and cut-out floral patterns express the open architecture of the watch fully. A white gold case band is decorated with the same skeletonised floral pattern and is coupled with a white gold sliding lever. The floral pattern around the movement highlights the minute repeater’s intricate construction, which is a joy to behold. 

Patek Philippe_5208R_001_Cortina Watch

The Patek Philippe Ref. 5208R-001 combines three of the watchmaker’s most coveted complications – the instantaneous perpetual calendar, flyback chronograph, and minute repeater – in one elegant watch.

Grand Complication

Of course, one of the most complicated minute repeaters that Patek Philippe has created would be the Ref. 5208R-001, which combines a perpetual calendar, chronograph, and minute repeater in one watch. This is a true grand complication as defined traditionally, and is one of the rare grand complication timepieces to have a self-winding caliber, courtesy of the Caliber R CH 27 PS QI. Over the top of the dial lies an instantaneous perpetual calendar in gold-framed windows, with a 12-hour totaliser for the chronograph and a central chronograph seconds hand. To the right of the dial is a small seconds subdial that also incorporates the leap year indication, with the last calendrical indication – a moonphase display – presented at 6 o’clock. 

On top of all that, it still has a minute repeater that can be played on demand. This watch truly is a testament to the performance of the Caliber R 27, driving so many displays and complications all at the same time while maintaining the high precision standards that Patek Philippe sets for its grand complication timepieces. 

Across its minute repeaters, Patek Philippe has engineered and designed something to appeal to every collector, whether they prefer a classic model or an artistic masterpiece. To discover and experience a Patek Philippe minute repeater, head to one of our boutiques today.

Discover Patek Philippe collections at our boutiques, or online. Contact a sales representative today to learn more.