One of the oldest watch complication, the minute repeater was a necessity when it first appeared in the 17th century. It allowed time to be heard in the dark by activating a pusher or slider. The sounds chime out the hours, quarter, and down to the minute in various tones. The complication has since evolved to include grande and petite sonnerie chimes, and a full Westminster Carillon. As it requires extra parts for the repeating mechanism taking up space, the minute repeater has always been a challenge for watchmakers whose key consideration is to maintain sound quality. Minute repeaters remain highly sought-after complications, with watchmakers upping their game with a range of new models with new calibres, designs, and mechanisms.
Audemars Piguet’s Millenary Minute Repeater is a three-dimensional wonder. Housed within its iconic oval-shaped pink gold case is a unique architecture that shows off the hand-wound movement Calibre 2928, featuring small seconds at 7 o’clock and Audemars Piguet own escapement and double-balance spring. It has two movement barrels, giving it seven days of power reserve. The third barrel, which is 2.5 times larger than standard, supplies energy to the minute repeater. Activate the complication with the sliding trigger at 9’clock, and admire the striking mechanism in action on the blued gong, which arcs around the outside of the dial.
The Rotonde de Cartier Grande Complication is the most complex Cartier watch ever made, combining three complications — a minute repeater, a perpetual calendar and a flying tourbillion, all in 45mm platinum case. It is powered by the skeletonised self-winding Calibre 9406 MC, comprising 578 components yet only measuring 5.49mm in thickness. These three complications can be observed through the openwork dial in 18k gold, including the perpetual calendar’s counters (the date, days, months and years), the flying tourbillon at 12 o’clock, and, of course, the minute repeater’s gongs, hammers, and fly-wheel.
Since its introduction in 1995, the IWC Portugieser Minute Repeater has been dubbed the ‘orchestra for the wrist’ — featuring a patented repeating mechanism, which comprises some 250 individual parts working together as if in a mechanical orchestra. This year, the timepiece is presented in a limited edition of 500 each in platinum and 18k red gold. Powered by the 98950 Calibre in-house movement, which can be admired through the transparent sapphire caseback, it chimes out each hour with a single strike, every quarter with a double strike, and every minute with one higher-pitched strike.
After four years of development, Vacheron Constantin presents the Patrimony Ultra-Thin Calibre 1731, powered by the world’s thinnest manual-winding minute repeater movement measuring only 3.90mm. It has a 65-hour power reserve and a unique silent flying-strike governor, which helps steady the rate at which the hammers strike the gongs. The sapphire crystal caseback reveals the striking mechanism, while the front features an elegant silvered opaline dial and small seconds offset at 8 o’clock. The 41mm pink gold case is itself only 8.09mm thick, and has been built without joints to enhance the amplitude of the sound.
It is always a pleasure to see a minute repeater in action, as opposed to just hearing it. Girard-Perregaux has now given watch lovers this privilege with the Minute Repeater Tourbillon with Gold Bridges. Combining horological innovation with traditional aesthetics, the components of the striking mechanism and the hammers are proudly placed upfront on the dial. With the redesigned manual Calibre GP09500-0002, the timepiece produces strong, clear chimes in two tones for hours, quarter-hours, and minutes. Along with the tourbillion at 6 o’clock, the timepiece is presented in 45mm pink gold case and is limited to only 10 pieces.
Under the Master Grande Tradition Minute Repeater‘s classically-designed finely grained dial is the Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Calibre 942, marking the first time in the history of the Master Grande Tradition line that a repeater is powered by an automatic movement. Thanks to the square-section crystal gongs machined in one piece from a secret alloy and two patented trebuchet hammers, the result is a clear and strong sound with its striking regularity ensured by the silent regulator. The minute repeater is activated by a button instead of a slide, and comes equipped with a security system that prevents the minute repeater from starting up again when it is already in action.
Boosting the aesthetic appeal of the minute repeater is Roger Dubuis’ Hommage Minute Repeater Tourbillon Automatic, created in celebration of the Manufacture’s 20th anniversary. This limited edition timepiece boasts a pink gold case housing the Calibre RD104 movement, with a tourbillon and minute repeater. The dial teases with just enough skeletonisation to reveal the multi-layered movement for a three-dimensional effect, and for the wearer to admire the minute repeater mechanism in action. Flip the timepiece around and the sapphire crystal reveals not one, but two distinctive micro-rotors spinning on the back of a movement that offers 60 hours of power reserve.