Patek Philippe’s Advanced Research department brings four new patented ideas to the minute repeater, giving this classic grand complication a modern refresh.
The minute repeater is a complication with a long history, designed for a time before the advent of electric lighting in homes. Today, it’s regarded as a watchmaking craft requiring the highest expertise in movement design and acoustical finesse. Among watchmakers, only a handful have spent great effort at perfecting this complication.
In 1989, Patek Philippe unveiled a self-winding minute repeater movement designed specifically for the wristwatch, the Caliber R 27. This important movement has been the stalwart of Patek Philippe’s minute repeaters since – except, of course, the special grand complications with unique Calibers of their own.
For over 30 years, the Caliber R 27 has been the key chiming movement of the brand. It is designed to make it easy to reconfigure into a manual-winding watch, as well as add other complications to the movement. Some incredible watches have emerged from the Caliber R 27, such as the Ref. 5207G-001 Minute Repeater with Tourbillon and Perpetual Calendar in White Gold. Last year, the brand also launched the Ref. 5303R Minute Repeater with Tourbillon, its first tourbillon visible on the dial-side, with a manual-winding variant of the Caliber R 27 (read more here).
Pushing For Advancements
Patek Philippe established the Advanced Research division in 2005 as a part of its R&D team. Since then, it has introduced numerous important developments for the brand’s timepieces. The most important of these has been the application of silicon, culminating in the OscillomaxⓇ escapement ensemble in 2011 and an upgraded SpiromaxⓇ balance spring in 2017. That same year, the brand also introduced a new dual-time design in the Aquanaut using a flexible, articulating mechanism in steel.
In the last few years, the brand has focused on upgrading its chiming complications. Patek Philippe’s chiming watches go through rigorous testing to ensure consistency and near-perfect acoustical performance. Every chiming watch is personally approved by a member of the Stern family to ensure that it is pitch perfect. Today, that person is the President of Patek Philippe, Mr. Thierry Stern. However, the nature of its design means there are many factors that determine sound quality, from the case material to the effort of the gongs and hammer designs. Not only that, the volume of a repeater tends to be affected by its case material – the denser the material, the softer the volume.
One of the rare exceptions to this is the Ref. 6301P. It was launched late last year to coincide with the birthday of Mr. Philippe Stern, and the brand’s first standalone grande sonnerie timepiece with minute repeater that the manufacture has ever launched. It was a remarkable chiming watch, with exceptional pitch and impressive volume all in one brand new movement, the Caliber GS 36-750 PS IRM with two patents (read all about it here).
Thirty-two years on, the brand has been hard at work to re-conceive the way sound is transmitted from the hammers and gongs in the Caliber R 27 to our ears, and the result is a radical re-design of this movement. In order to enhance the volume of the chimes while maintaining sonorous perfection, they invented a mechanical loudspeaker of sorts, using a wafer of sapphire crystal that oscillates, connected to a steel sound lever. This lever is designed like a tuning fork, with a flexible attachment on the other end connected to the base of the gongs.
Thus, when chimes are sounded, it vibrates the sound lever, which delivers the same vibrations to the oscillating sapphire, amplifying the sound twice and maintaining the full richness of the chimes’ tones.
The brand has gone several steps further to ensure the sound is maintained until it reaches your ear. The sound is transmitted from the oscillating wafer to a titanium ring, with four holes through which the sound emits through, delivering even tones omni-directionally around the entire case through a narrow slot between the case back and band. More importantly, to prevent the case material from affecting the sound quality, they’ve created a high tech composite insulating material to circumvent the sound waves from coming through the case. It’s a brilliant idea that ensures consistent sound quality no matter what case material is used.
A dust filter ensures that the watch movement is protected from external agents while sound can still pass through; however, it does mean this watch isn’t water resistant, so we will not recommend taking it for a swim.
A Radical New Look
The minute repeaters of Patek Philippe have varied broadly. There’s the elaborate Ref. 6002 Sky Moon Tourbillon with hand-engraved case and enamel dial. And then there’s the completely exposed Ref. 5304/301R Minute Repeater with Perpetual Calendar, which fully reveals the calendar’s operation on transparent sapphire discs and encased with baguette diamonds. Not to mention the classically elegant Ref. 7040/250G-001 with its hand-guilloched enamel dial that’s mesmerising to view.
The Ref. 5750P Advanced Research “Fortissimo” Minute Repeater offers a modern take on openworked displays, with a white gold base that’s snailed and coated in black nickel and a spoke-style decoration. Surrounding it is a hand-guilloched edging with a circular white gold chapter ring and applied kite-shaped hour markers. It’s a mathematically precise design, emphasising the nature of a sound form in a way.
Like its previous Advanced Research models, Patek Philippe’s Ref. 5750P is a leap ahead of its competitors and demonstrates just how much more potential there is for development in classic complications.