Watch mechanism in focus: Minute repeater
Conceived before the age of electricity, minute-repeaters enable the telling of time audibly by the sound of chimes.
At a time when electricity did not exist and light was scarce save for sunlight, candlelight and lamplight, the minute repeater was created to assist mankind in telling time in the dark. It was out of this need that the chiming pocket watch, or repeater, was created so a man could check the time in the absence of light. Through the sound of chimes, one can roughly tell time without straining their eyes. It was only in the 1700s that the idea to carry over the chiming mechanism in clocks to timepieces was conceived and carried out.
Audemars Piguet Millenary Minute Repeater
The first few repeater watches created only chimed the most recent hour that was passed. The repeaters become more precise as more focus and effort were channelled to refining the movement. Soon, there were a great number of repeater configurations, from quarter repeaters, which chimed the hours and the quarter hours, to five-minute repeaters, which would chime the hour followed by the number of five-minute intervals after the hour in two different tones. The most precise repeater is, of course, the minute repeater, with which you can tell the exact time of day down to the minute.
To the Minutiae Detail
Often confused with chiming clocks, the minute-repeater’s true beauty is seen in its ability to tell the time instantaneously, through various and combined tones for the hours, quarter hours and minutes. Made with bells or gongs with tiny hammers that strike the miniature system inside a timepiece, the minute-repeater enables the telling of time audibly, making it possible to do so in the dark and for the visually impaired
Piaget Emperador cushion-shaped watch
In the age of electricity and illuminated dials on timepieces, watch connoisseurs and enthusiasts today see modern-day minute-repeaters as artistic masterpieces in the world of haute horology. Take Piaget Emperador Coussin Ultra-Thin Minute Repeater for instance. Despite measuring 48mm, it contains the world’s thinnest mechanical self-winding minute repeater movement at just 4.8mm. The slender case itself is just 9.4mm that is crafted from luxurious 18K pink gold. The Calibre 1290P is actually developed on the basis of the 1200P also by the brand that holds the crown of being the world’s thinnest automatic movement. But the beauty of this minute-repeater lies in its construction – in spite of the ultra thin movement, the chimes reaches an acoustical intensity of no less than 64 decibels, one decible short of that of an average conversation.
Another fine example of modernised mastery is Audemars Piguet’s Millenary Minute Repeater. The oval-shaped Millenary case made from pink gold is eye-catching – from the gold with white enamel hours and minutes dial, further accentuated by its three o’clock offset position and the small seconds sub-dial at the seven o’clock position. The arrangement itself allows the major movement components to be clearly seen at the top, including the ‘blued’ gong of the minute repeater. The 443-part movement features two balance springs oscillating at 21,600 vibrations per hour, two movement barrels for a seven-day power reserve and a third barrel dedicated to just the striking mechanism of the repeater.