In the world of haute horlogerie, hardly anything is as exclusive and alluring as a chiming watch. Often described as the ultimate single complication in watchmaking, only a few manufacturers are at present capable of producing them in-house. Unsurprisingly, it is estimated that only a few hundred-minute repeaters are produced in Switzerland each year, and only a handful of them are grande sonneries — chiming watches that automatically strike the full hours and the quarter hours. Last November, in time for Philippe Stern’s 82nd birthday, the independent Genevan manufacture Patek Philippe added a new member to its already impressive collection of repeater watches, the Ref. 6301P Grande Sonnerie. It features three classic gongs and two patents for the striking mechanism and the jumping small seconds at 6 o’clock. It is also the first Patek with a grande sonnerie “in its purest manifestation.”
While the invention of the chiming clock is generally credited to English watchmaker Daniel Quare (1647/49 1724), Patek Philippe began producing striking watches right from the start. In September 1839, just four months after it was founded, the manufacture already entered the first timepiece of this kind in its journal, a pocket watch with a repeater (which was sold for CHF 450). In 1850, entries of pocketwatches with a grande sonnerie appeared in the same journals. The catalog of the 1851 “Great Exhibition” in London (the first world exposition, attracting six million people from May to October) mentions “repeaters” and “watches with automatic strikeworks” as specialties of Patek Philippe. This was followed in 1860 by Patek Philippe’s first pocket watches with minute repeaters, then in the course of the 19th century, by further timepieces with quarter repeaters, five-minute repeaters and minute repeaters. More precisely, the first wristwatch from Patek Philippe with a five-minute repeater, No. 174603, was a ladies’ model with platinum case in 1916, followed by the brand’s first wristwatch minute repeater sold in 1925 to Ralph Teetor (Aug. 17, 1890 - Feb. 15, 1982), the blind inventor who later developed the automobile cruise control system.
Fast forward to 1989, the year Patek Philippe celebrated its 150th anniversary: the launch of the Caliber 89 also marked the rebirth of the Patek Philippe’s chiming watch expertise. Featuring 33 complications, “the world’s most complicated portable mechanical timepiece for more than a quarter-century” also included the grande/petite sonnerie and minute repeater on four gongs. Shortly thereafter, Patek Philippe resumed regular production of repeaters, and today, every single one is personally checked by Thierry Stern, President and Chief Executive of Patek Philippe, before it leaves the workshops.
A New Movement Derived from the Caliber 300
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