What is a Minute Repeater?

A repeater is a complication in a mechanical watch that chimes the time on demand by activating a push or a slide-piece. Each hour, quarter hour and minute has specific tones. By counting the tones and the different tone pattern, it is possible to determine the current time set on the watch. Minute repeater was created before the electric lighting invention in the mid-18th Century. At that time its practical function was to allowed blind people to use a watch, and for everyone else, to be able to determine the time in the dark.

Picture: Blancpain

How it works?

Different types of repeater allow the time to be determined with varying degrees of precision (from quarter-repeater which just strikes the number of hours and quarters, to the minute repeater that sounds the time down to the minute using separate tones for hours, quarter-hours and minutes). Today minute repeater is one of the most complex repeater mechanisms. Here the hours are generally struck in low notes, double strikes of high and low notes indicate the quarters and minutes are sounded in high notes.

Dong Dong Dong, Ding Dong Ding Dong, Ding Ding!

Here you’ll have to count the number of hours struck (three), add the the quarters (two = 30mn) and then the minutes (two) to arrive at time of 03:32!

Picture: Blancpain

Why the minute-repeater such a difficult complication to deal with?

The main difficulty of this incredible complication that combines a watch mechanism with a chime that must fits on a wrist, is not only the number of the elements needed to craft it, but also their nature and super tiny size. The minute-repeaters are rare masterpieces of precision mechanical engineering. There is no coincidence if they are craved by collectors and watch lovers. Incidentally, over the past year, around twenty new minute repeaters have been launched in the luxury wristwatch market by brands as diverse in style and heritage as Blancpain, Bulgari, Jaeger LeCoultre, Louis Vuitton, Audemars Piguet, Parmigiani Fleurier, VanCleef & Arpels, Breguet, Patek Philippe, Cartier, Hublot, Ulysse Nardin, Girard-Perregaux or Speake-Marin. 

Picture: Blancpain

Each minute-repeater is in its way unique

 The methods involved to produce such mechanical and acoustic marvels are incompatible with the common search for productivity. Moreover, a  minute-repeater entirely built by an unique watchmaker is a guarantee of its extreme quality. But if each other single craftsman has his style and his ear, are every minute-repeater unique? Is a creator will recognize his work when it returns for a service? The head of the complications workshops at Blancpain, the brand well known for its amazing watch complications, answers: “The watchmaker who assembled {a minute-repeater} will recognize it for sure. Yet on the whole it won’t be any different from another. What we emphasize here is a consistent process, methodology and the handing down of knowledge that sets out and explains what you have to do in each operation from the assembly of subcomponents to the final casing up. The basic work has to be identical. Thereafter you will find the watchmaker’s personal touch, in a decoration for example or in the various widths of a chamfer.”

This post is also available in: French


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