Patek Philippe Chiming Watches: Five Fun FactsWritten by Alvin Wong
Besides them being, ahem, great sound investments.
ONE OF FIRST WATCHES THAT PATEK SOLD WAS A CHIMING WATCH
Five months after Antoine Norbert de Patek and Francois Czapek opened their first shop in Geneva, the men sold a pocket watch with a quarter repeater to a customer from Bern for 450 Swiss francs. Chiming mechanism aside, the timepiece is an exquisite work of art. It is housed in a yellow gold case with white enamel dial, with front and back covers engraved with the customer's family's coat of arms, framed by an enamel floral garland. The sale of this watch – the 19th timepiece sold by the company then – went a long way to finance the production of more high-end timepieces and further fuelled the company’s ambition in haute horlogerie.
THE FIRST PATEK REPEATER WRISTWATCH WAS MADE FOR A WOMAN
It was in 1916 and the lucky owner of the timepiece was Mrs. D.O. Wickham. The watch in question was an Art Deco-styled five-minute repeater in platinum case with chainlink bracelet. Interestingly, this watch prefaced Patek’s pursuit of women watch aficionados today, notably via its complications-only Ladies First collection.
YOU CAN SPOT A PATEK REPEATER
Some watchmakers say that for minute repeaters, steel cases are the best, as the material are perceived to resonate sound better (as opposed to heavier and denser metals that tend to absorb the sound). But the complication demands presentation that are at least complement, if not elevate, its prestige. It is for this reason that all Patek Philippe’s repeaters are fronted by gold dials. Another way to identify a Patek repeater. Flip the watch over and look at the third wheel (above) – it is always crafted in gold with curved spokes, a design that recalls a tapping tool.
ASTOUNDING NUMBERS BEHIND THE SOUND
All Patek Philippe repeaters are personally tested by its brand president, Thierry Stern (above), before leaving the factory. It may be argued that quality of sound is subjective, but each Patek repeater undergoes stringent and methodical tests to be graded. But just to quantify some of the work that actually goes into making a Patek Philippe repeater. Over eight hours of work are required to make a pair of hammers. As for the gongs, each takes 20 steps to handcraft, and there are 21 classes for each gong, of which the watchmaker can mix and match to garner the best possible sound. And broadly, each Patek repeater registers between 40 to 60 dB in volume, and must complete its chiming run between 17 to 18 seconds.
YOU HAVE TO BE CLEARED TO OWN ONE
Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime Ref. 6300G from 2016 features 20 complications, including five chiming functions -- Grande and Petite Sonnerie, minute and date repeaters, and alarm
No, you cannot just walk into a Patek boutique and grab one off the shelf. Potential customers who want a Patek Philippe repeater have to apply to own one, following which the application will be approved by the Stern family, who owns the brand. This is to ensure that the watches go to collectors who “genuinely appreciate and value them”, said a Patek spokesperson. The entire process from application to deliver can take up to two years.
Alvin promises not to be a douche when talking about watches. He may have scoured the Basel and Geneva watch fairs for the past 15 years, and played an instrumental role to the growth of Singapore's pioneering horological and men's lifestyle publications, but the intrepid scribe seeks to learn something new with each story he writes.