Patek Philippe’s Advanced Research Projects workshop have attempted to make a minute repeater that both sounds good and can be heard well.
It’s quite controversial what Patek Philippe do with their Advanced Research Projects (ARP) workshop. The ARP has been the innovative arm of Patek since 2005, and they’ve often set out to find ways to put silicon tech into mechanical watches without turning them into smart watches.
ARP have, on occasion, been able to produce paradigm-shifting technology that actually does challenge the status quo. The problem is that people don’t really want to see traditional fine watchmaking turned into another piece of tech. This was settled after the quartz crisis, right? Mechanical watchmaking only survived by sticking to traditionalist practices and making that their point of difference between themselves and the new quartz watchmakers.
This new Minute Repeater (ref. 5750), however, feels like it’s riding the line between high-tech and traditional fine watchmaking. The main thing it is really trying to do is make the gong within the watch sound good and sound loud. That, as it turns out, is a really hard thing to do.
Repeaters can sound great but are often way too quiet for anyone to actually hear them, which defeats the purpose of a repeater. The reverse is true too, as when repeaters are loud, they lack something in sound quality and end up sounding like a blunt foghorn rather than an elegant gong.
So, to improve the sound and volume of a repeater ARP have decided to create a module that “works like a mechanical loudspeaker” to enhance the hammer and gongs of the repeater. To do this, they developed an entirely new “mechanical sound amplifying system” that consists of a “flexibly suspended sound lever and an oscillating wafer made of transparent sapphire crystal.”
The way traditional minute repeaters work is that they use their case and sapphire crystals in order to resonate and transmit the sound of the chime. This is why the case material usually plays a large part in the sound of the chime.
Patek’s new fortissimo “ff” system decouples the case from the module and instead pushes the sound through four openings at the cardinal points. The sound waves exit through a “narrow slot between the case back and the case band.” A dust filter protects the movement.
The second way ARP have attempted to improve with the Minute Repeater is to make the gong sound the same irrespective of the case material. Case material is one the most important aspects of repeaters because each metal itself is different. Rose gold is widely accepted to be the best choice because of its optimal balance between sound quality and volume. Platinum is considered the worse because it’s so dense and its crystal structure tends to muffle sound and remove its richer qualities.
So Patek decided to encase this watch in platinum just to show off because the new module means that the case material no longer has any bearing on sound quality.
We haven’t had any hands-on time with this watch, so we are going to just have to take their word for it, but reserve judgement until you’ve heard it in person.
The technical prowess of this watch is very impressive and that’s where the attention should be focused, but can we talk about this gorgeous dial? It’s bloody brilliant looking. It’s a five-part elaborately constructed dial that is inspired by the spoked wheels of vintage cars and that all looks great but it’s the second dial that’s very cool. The second dial showcases subsidiary seconds at 6 o’clock and instead of a hand features a little light on a rotating disc. I don’t know why, but I just found that kind of cool.
There are just 15 of these worldwide and the price is available upon request.
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