HOT explores the enthralling world of the sounds of time through the ingenious complication of the minute repeaters. Sit back and listen to what your wristwatch has to say!
How can you tell the time by sound rather than sight? You should know…if you’ve ever heard church bells chiming! Can this relationship between sound and time be expressed on a wristwatch? It can…and that too through a very beautiful and ingenious complication called the minute repeater.
What is a minute repeater?
A minute repeater is a complication in the watch that basically chimes the time on demand. It involves the activation of a sidepiece for the purpose. While a simple repeater can strike the hours and quarters, a minute repeater will use separate tones for hours, quarter-hours and minutes to sound the time down to the minute. Three different sounds are generally used for the hours, quarter-hours and minutes.
Edward Barlow, an English cleric, invented a mechanism that could strike the time on demand in 1678. Various developments ensued. At the end of the 18th century, Breguet produced the mechanism heralded as the basis for the modern minute repeaters. There have been numerous enhancements and several improvisations on the same.
Now, the big brands of the horological world have all entered the world of minute repeaters. Today, several brands such as Patek Philippe, Christophe Claret, Bulgari, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Voutalianen to name a few, continue to innovate and come out with exceptional pieces.
Why collector’s love minute repeaters
Why are they so sought-after? For one, they are the oldest and most traditional of watch complications. The history of the minute repeaters has a very practical side to it. After all, they were useful in telling time in the dark before we had electricity! They were also a boon for the visually impaired. For collectors however, it is often the historical value coupled with the fact that they are quite complex to make, that actually makes them gravitate to the complication.
Crafting a minute repeater
Making a minute repeater is no child’s play. A huge amount of skill and complexity goes into making a minute repeater. Each minute repeating mechanism has about a 100 components, each of which has to be manufactured in a particular manner.
But this is only the starting! To integrate these components into the small case of the wristwatch is another story of skill altogether! It is something that only a master watchmaker with years, or rather decades of experience can accomplish. And that too, he can do so, after a painstaking assembling process that can last between 200 and 300 hours! Much of the precision has also to do with the fact that the striking of small hammers on differently tuned gongs sounds the time. The perfection of the sound of the gongs is yet another story!
Since they are really complex repeater mechanisms, collectors, connoisseurs and watch lovers covet minute repeaters. Who wouldn’t? After all, they are the masterpieces of precision engineering. Everything has to be perfect to deliver the perfect sound that carries the wearer away in a distant world.