When the notice first came out on the Patek Philippe website that a launch was imminent on the 10th of November, the big question was: would it be a commercial release, or a high complication to titillate the senses? The new Ref. 6301P comes as a surprise because it’s the first time that Patek Philippe has presented the grande sonnerie as a solo complication in a wristwatch. Ever.
Yes, you read that right. While the Grande Sonnerie has appeared in other wristwatches before, first in the Ref. 5175 Grandmaster Chime to celebrate the brand’s 175th anniversary, and revisited last year, on their 180th. The Grandmaster Chime the wristwatch holds some 20 complications, with the grande sonnerie being just one of them. In the Ref. 6301, not only does the grande sonnerie take precedence, it also bears the look of a very modern Patek Philippe timepiece and the soul of a modern Patek Philippe collector.
The Patek Philippe Ref. 6301P bears a number of unique features on the enamel dial, but it is the chime that is truly captivating.
The Beauty of a Chime
Acoustic complications have been a part of Patek Philippe’s history since its founding. From the more recent alarm timepieces that have been introduced by the brand, to the Ref. 5303R-001 Minute Repeater Tourbillon released earlier this year, and the list goes on. The Grande and Petite Sonnerie complication has appeared in the 1933 “Graves” supercomplication, the 1989 Calibre 89, the 2014 Grandmaster Chime and now, the Ref. 6301P.
A grande sonnerie chimes each hour on the hour, along with the quarter hours without fail. It can be switched to two alternative modes: the petite sonnerie mode, which only chimes the hours, as well as a silent mode. It also accommodates a minute repeater function that’s activated with a sliding lever or pusher.
At Patek Philippe, sound complications are of particular importance. Not only are they rigorously tested and sampled in sound quality by engineers, they are also personally heard and approved by the Stern family. Each watch must be audited by Thierry Stern’s ears before they leave the manufacture.
The caliber GS 36-750 PS IRM which powers the watch is thoughtfully designed with four barrels for the going train and the strike train, two each for a 3-day power reserve on the timekeeping mechanism and enough energy to drive the grande sonnerie for a full day. On the back of the movement, you can see the three hammers and gongs as well as the silent governor.
The operation of the grande sonnerie and the minute repeater itself lies under the grand feu enamel dial and remains hidden. The decoration of the movement is incredible: with every angled part finished and rounded; Genevan stripes and perlage evenly applied. It’s a movement that well deserves the Patek Philippe Seal stamp of approval.
The movement bears two functions which first appeared in the Grandmaster Chime. The first is the separation of the strike train from the going train, which reduces the number of moving parts and therefore increases the power reserve of the going train mainspring. The second is the operation of the strike modes via a single control. It also adds a rarely seen complication in Patek Philippe complications: the jumping seconds, which hasn’t been seen since 2014 in the Ref. 5275P. In fact, the jumping seconds design is patented, and proved to be a challenging addition to this movement.
On the Wrist
While the watch may be large, with its case just under 45mm across and 12mm in height, given the complexity of the caliber, it’s remarkable how Patek Philippe managed to house all 703 components in a compact caliber of 37mm x 7.5mm. Its looks remind one of the Ref. 5370P with black enamel dial, which was released in 2015, right down to the pusher over the crown and the recessed flanks.
The Ref. 6301P bears the same Breguet-style numerals, minute track, and luminous leaf hands, which are a modern addition to the classic Patek Philippe models. It demonstrates that Patek Philippe, as a brand, is becoming ever more conscious of the pragmatic needs of its customers. On the dial, the power reserves of the going and strike trains are indicated, and charged manually by winding the crown either way. The large seconds counter, with which the seconds hand beats away step by step, makes for enticing viewing.
In contrast with the Grandmaster Chime, which has an ornate, delicate and regal presence, the Ref. 6301P is a subtle wristwatch, which reveals little about itself until you take a closer look at the dial and admire the quality of the chimes that emerge from its sapphire-crystal case back. For critics who may suggest that platinum is a difficult material for chiming mechanisms, they should check out the Ref. 6301P and come away amazed.