The Best Chiming Watches
Some of the best minute repeaters one can buy this season
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon
The eleventh creation in the brand’s Hybris Mechanica collection, and the first ultra-thin Grand Complication model, this watch is the slimmest minute repeater in its category at just 7.9 mm thinness. It is equipped with an original tourbillon, a high-performance new balance-spring, a peripheral automatic winding system, a retractable single pushbutton, as well as a new minute repeater with a silent time lapse reduction system.
A minute repeater strikes the hours, quarters and minutes on demand. When there are no quarters to be struck, a lengthy silent timelapse occurs between sounding of the hours and the minutes. The silent timelapse reduction system ensures that the high and low-pitched tones of the striking hours and minutes follow seamlessly without a break in the tempo between. The minute repeater mechanism is also equipped with two patented trebuchet hammers. They ensure stronger, cleaner striking on the two crystal gongs fixed to the sapphire crystal. This helps to amplify the sound diffusion.
Issued in a 75-piece limited edition, this watch is powered by the mechanical automatic Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 362 with a 45-hour power reserve. The 6 o’clock opening affords a dramatic view of the ultra-thin tourbillon, while the small apertures on the outer part of the dial provide an ideal ringside seat from which to observe the rotations of the delicately snailed platinum oscillating weight. It comes in a 41 mm, 18K extra-white gold case.
Audemars Piguet Millenary Minute Repeater
The distinctive oval-shaped 47 x 42 mm case of this watch is made from brushed pink gold and topped with a polished pink gold bezel. The offset hours/minutes is at 3 o’clock while the offset seconds is at 7 o’clock. The ‘blued’ gong of the minute repeater is visible from the top as it curves around the circumference of the case. It is powered by a specially developed, energy efficient winding system Audemars Piguet Calibre 2928. The movement barrel for the striking mechanism is two-and-a-half times larger than normal, enhancing the regularity of the note. The watch comes with a power reserve of 165 hours.
Blancpain Le Brassus Carrousel Minute Repeater
This watch which combines a flying one-minute carrousel and a cathedral gong minute repeater comes in a 18K red gold 45.7 mm case, which along with the bezel is set with a row of diamonds and diamond-set lugs. Much like the tourbillion, the carrousel works to neutralise the effects of gravity on the balance wheel of the watch, thereby increasing its precision. The cathedral gong refers to the rich quality of the sound of the striking mechanism, much like the soothing sound of a well-tuned cathedral bell. It comes with a power reserve of 65 hours.
Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Minute Repeater
This elegant Grande Seconde with off-centred hours and minutes, and a large sub-dial for seconds, comes in a 18K red gold 43 mm case and is powered by a minute repeater self-winding mechanical movement. It comes with a power reserve of 48 hours.
Zenith Academy Minute Repeater
This limited edition watch (25 pieces) in a 45 mm rose gold case combines a minute repeater with a chronograph. The small seconds is at 9 o’clock and the 30-minute counter at 3. It is powered by the El Primero 4043 automatic movement and has a power reserve of 50 hours.
Parmigiani Fleurier Tecnica Palme
This ultra complicated watch combines a minute repeater with a chronograph, a tourbillon and a perpetual calendar in a single integrated movement. The minute repeater is wound by rotating a knurled ring under the bezel a quarter turn clockwise. The two cathedral gongs chime the hours, quarter-hours and minutes. It comes in a 46.7 mm 18K white gold case and has a power reserve of 48 hours.
Bulgari Daniel Roth Carillon Tourbillon
This watch packs in a rare combination of a tourbillon with a minute repeater. Additionally, instead of the usual two hammers found in regular minute repeaters for the chiming effect, this one employs three hammers to provide an even more distinctive sound. Its melodic sequence consists of a C note for the hours, E-D-C sequence for the quarter hours, and an E note for the minutes. It comes in a 43 mm 18K pink gold case with a 75 hour power reserve.
Louis Vuitton Tambour Minute Repeater
The 44 mm diameter watch in a 18K white gold case is a minute repeater for the international traveler, where the chiming movement tells the home time, while the second time zone works by adjusting the crown. The home time is always visible on the special central disc. The watch has a power reserve of 100 hours.
Hublot Classic Fusion Cathedral Tourbillon Minute Repeater
This 45 mm watch comes in two versions, king gold and titanium and combines the tourbillon with a cathedral tone minute repeater. One of its technical feats is the complete integration of the trigger piece in the left-hand bezel lug with the case for a harmonious look. The watch has a power reserve of 120 hours.
Ulysse Nardin Jazz Minute Repeater
The black onyx dial of this 42 mm diameter platinum watch features animated musicians or Jaquemarts as they were called in the medieval Europe when they were first created. The animated figures move in sync with the chime of the activated minute repeater, a rare feat of engineering. This limited edition of 18 pieces comes with a power reserve of 36 hours.
Minute Repeater Explained in Eight Steps
1. Minute repeaters share a long heritage with a large range of other watches, more commonly known as striking watches, of which minute repeaters are considered one of the most complicated. Only eclipsed by the grand/petite sonnerie in its complexity, the minute repeater will sound the time to the nearest minute upon demand. In most circumstances a minute repeater is not combined with other complications.
2. Gongs have replaced the bell, which only had a single tone of vibration. However, gongs are tricky in their tuning and require a fine ear and subtle hands to reveal their true character. Each gong must be hand adjusted by a skilled watchmaker, in order to be in complete harmonic resonance. The strength of strike of each hammer must also be individually adjusted so as not to overpower the gongs, sending them into overload.
3. In the absence of electric light, knowing the time in the night was not an easy task in the past. Clocks had been fitted with striking mechanisms that could sound the time to the closest hour. But to have a large clock striking the time every hour, or quarter hour, was a bit disruptive to the sleeping process. A more discrete manner of knowing the time, without the need of lighting a candle or lamp, was the answer.
4. As with any striking watch something must strike the gongs, and in this case it is the hammers. As there are generally two gongs in a typical minute repeater, there are two hammers. The weight of each hammer must be matched to the corresponding gong. The strength of the spring that controls each hammer must be exactly proportional to the hammer weight, otherwise it may result in an incorrect sound.
5. The first examples of striking watches were “dumb” repeaters, which struck the hours by thuds on the case that made no sound and could only be detected if the watch was held in your hand. With time, a bell, usually attached to the inner back cover of the watch, was introduced for the hammer to strike, and the first chiming watches were born. Evolution brought forth watches that chimed the hour as well as quarter hour.
6. The symphonic stage is now set. First, the hours are struck on the lower pitched gong, and then the quarter-hour is struck on both gongs. Finally the minutes are struck on the higher pitched gong. If the time is 10:52, the minute repeater will strike ten times on the lower pitched gong, next it will mark the 3rd quarter of the hour on both the gongs, and finally seven minutes past the quarter will be marked on the higher pitched gong.
7. Because minute repeating mechanisms are almost always situated under the dial the mechanics and activation are seldom seen. To see a minute repeater in action is a bit bewildering, with many functions happening in rapid succession in order to give a timely sound to the exact time at hand. There are more than 100 uniquely special components essential to complete a minute repeating mechanism.
8. At the heart of every minute repeater is the “minute snail”. There are four leaves, each with 14 steps that keep track of the minutes each hour. Four times each hour, at the beginning of each quarter, no minutes are struck since at these times the first minute of the quarters has not been reached. There are two other snails, besides the minute snail that act as the brains of a minute repeater.
Courtesy: Patek Philippe technical data