INTRODUCING: Patek Philippe Minute Repeater Alarm Ref. 1938P-001
A heartfelt horological tribute to one of the industry’s living legends, from son to father.
Avid collectors of high-end watches would be familiar with Philippe Stern, the president of the Patek Philippe from 1993 to 2009 and current honorary president. To celebrate the industry stalwart’s 85th birthday, the Manufacture has just released a special timepiece. Limited to 30 pieces, Minute Repeater Alarm Reference 1938P-001 is a fitting tribute on several counts, but it also comes with an unexpected twist. More on that later.
We wouldn’t be exaggerating when we say Patek Philippe owes much of its success today to Stern. For instance, in 1989, the then company director revived the wrist-worn minute repeater on the company’s 150th anniversary with the renowned self-winding Calibre R 27, the first of its kind designed and built entirely in the Manufacture’s own workshops. This reinforced Patek Philippe’s reputation as a virtuoso of chiming watches and reinstated the privileged position of minute repeaters in the brand’s regular production range.
Therefore, it is apt that Thierry Stern (of the fourth generation of the Stern family, appointed president in 2009) chose to endow the celebratory watch with his father’s favourite complication. Marked as the Ref. 1938 (the year of the elder Stern’s birth), the watch is equipped with a completely new movement developed solely for this piece and never to be used again, the Calibre R AL 27 PS. It also incorporates another acoustic function – an alarm chiming the programmed time on the same two classic gongs – which was one of the five acoustic functions and one of the two patented world firsts unveiled in 2014 for the Manufacture’s 175th anniversary on the Grandmaster Chime Reference 5175, the most complicated Patek Philippe wristwatch.
Integrating the two chiming functions posed a substantial technical challenge to the Manufacture’s engineers, leading to the addition of 227 components, including a lever and column wheel for selecting the chiming mode and a fusée device with a strike-work detent mechanism that temporarily disconnects the power source from the striking mechanism. Alongside four new patents filed, the Calibre R AL 27 PS also boasts meticulous finishing, with gilded edges on the bridges and hammers, and the rhodium-plated yellow gold mini-rotor is adorned with a hand-engraved black lacquered reproduction of Philippe Stern’s signature.
Despite the movement’s complexity, operating the Ref. 1938 is a breeze. A pusher integrated into the crown selects the chiming mode, indicated by the bell-shaped aperture at 3 o’clock. When the watch is in minute repeater mode (black bell), actuate the repeater slide at 9 o’clock to hear the chimes of the hours, quarters, and minutes elapsed since the last quarter. When it is in alarm mode (red bell), actuate the slide to wind the alarm, and the bell changes from red to white. The 12-hour programmable alarm time is set with the crown pulled out to the middle position by means of a central rose-gold hand against the powdered rose-gilt scale on the dial’s periphery.
The aforementioned curveball of this watch comes in the form of its Philippe Stern’s likeness in Grand Feu white and grey miniature painting on enamel, which, in our humble opinion, distracts from the masterful 18K gold dial with Grand Feu black enamel and applied white gold Breguet-style numerals and hands. But as a heartfelt tribute from a son to his father, especially considering the latter’s tireless nurturing of precious rare handcrafts in the Manufacture, one can hardly fault this choice of dial adornment.
The rest of the watch is classic Patek Philippe with a 41mm Officer’s style case in platinum equipped with straight lugs and screwed-in strap bars, which recalls the limited edition Ref. 3960 launched on the Manufacture’s 150th anniversary, another creation dear to Philippe Stern. The watch’s sapphire crystal caseback is protected by a hinged dust cover hand-engraved with the inscription “A mon père, 85 ans de passion horlogère” (To my father, 85 years of watchmaking passion).
Paired with a glossy black alligator leather strap secured by a platinum fold-over clasp, there is a lot to love about the Minute Repeater Alarm Reference 1938P-001, contentious dial notwithstanding. Its new Calibre R AL 27 PS alone should have consummate watch collectors raring to score a piece of their own, especially since it comes with the promise that it will not be used in future releases, ever.
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