Patek Philippe and Chiming/ Striking watches

Patek Philippe is a pioneer in mechanical striking watches. In September 1839, four months after it was founded, the Geneva watch manufacture entered the first timepiece of this kind in its journal, a pocket watch with a repeater. In 1850, entries of pocket watches with a grande sonnerie appeared in the same journals.

The catalogue of the 1851 “Great Exhibition” in London (the first world exposition) 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.

In the early 20th century, with its striking timepieces, Patek Philippe definitely established itself as a front runner in watchmaking artistry, especially in their most elaborate and coveted manifestations – the grande sonnerie.

The famous “Duc de Regla” pocket watch was sold in 1910 to the Duke of Regla, a Mexican nobleman. Today, it can be admired in the Patek Philippe Museum. It incorporates a grande and a petite sonneries plus a minute repeater which features a Westminster strikework that reproduces the melody of the Big Ben clock tower on five gongs almost authentically to the note.

The 13 complicated timepieces crafted for American automobile manufacturer James Ward Packard between 1910 and 1927 included the first Patek Philippe pocket watch with a minute repeater and astronomical displays (delivered in 1927) as well as watches with grande sonneries, among them one with a Westminster chime on four gongs (1920).

The famous “Graves” pocket watch delivered to wealthy New York banker and collector Henry Graves Junior in 1933, remained the world’s most complicated portable timepiece until 1989.

Its 24 complications include acoustic functions on 5 gongs: a grande and a petite sonnerie, a minute repeater with a Westminster chime, and an alarm. At the same time, the manufacture pursued the miniaturization of repeater mechanisms to a wristwatch format and in 1916 presented its first wristwatch that struck the time – a five-minute repeater with a case and bracelet in platinum for a ladies’ wrist.

Caliber 89

In 1989, Patek Philippe celebrated its 150th anniversary, launching the Calibre 89 that would be the world’s most complicated portable mechanical timepiece for more than a quarter century.

The 33 complications of this masterpiece of watchmaking artistry include the grande/petite sonnerie and minute repeater on four gongs. In this tribute to the renaissance of the mechanical watch, Patek Philippe also pays homage to repeating wristwatches.

The caliber R 27 is the first minute repeater movement developed and crafted entirely in-house. It chimes in two commemorative wristwatches. The former manufacture president Philippe Stern was among the first to do away with the wildly chattering recoil anchor and optimized the striking functions with the centrifugal governor invented in the late 19th century.

The Patek Philippe centrifugal governor had its debut in 1989 in the Calibre 89 and the two commemorative watches – the Ref. 3979 and 3974 – that are outfitted with the caliber R 27.

Today, with a dozen models, they constitute the broadest selection of regularly produced minute repeater wristwatches, be they pure repeater models or combined with further complications (tourbillon, perpetual calendar, chronograph, World Time, etc.).

The double-faced Star Caliber 2000 pocket watch (21 complications) was created to usher in the new millennium. For the first time in a case of its size, it accommodates a Westminster strikework with five gongs that plays the original melody of the tower clock of the parliament building in London – completely and correctly. It makes the minute repeater and the grande sonnerie a true feast for the ears.

Sky Moon Tourbillon
Sky Moon Tourbillon

In turn, the Sky Moon Tourbillon presented in 2001 is the first double-faced wristwatch made by Patek Philippe. Among its 12 complications, it features a moving celestial chart and a minute repeater with cathedral gongs.

In 2014, timed for the company’s 175th anniversary, Patek Philippe presented a further quantum leap in the domain of acoustic complications. It was the launch of the Ref. 5175 Grandmaster Chime, a double-faced wristwatch.

Crafted in seven exemplars, it unites 20 complications, including a grande and petite sonneries, a minute repeater, an instantaneous perpetual calendar with a four-digit year display, and two patented world debuts: an acoustic alarm that strikes the preselected alarm time and a date repeater that sounds the current date.

Ref. 6301P Grande Sonnerie
Ref. 6301P Grande Sonnerie

This first Patek Philippe wristwatch with a grande sonnerie is also the manufacture’s most complicated wristwatch and as the Ref. 6300 became part of the regular collection in 2016.

The anniversary year 2014 also gave Patek Philippe the opportunity to demonstrate its competence in chiming watches with a further commemorative timepiece in a limited edition. It was the Ref. 5275 Chiming Jump Hour with jumping displays for the hours, minutes, and seconds as well as an automatic strike at the top of every hour.

Key dates

  • September 4, 1839: Journal entry for the manufacture’s first chiming timepiece (No. 81), a repeater pocket watch with “repassage” (complete inspection and final adjustments) executed by François Czapek, Antoine Norbert de Patek’s first business partner.
  • 1850: Journal entries for the first pocket watches with grande sonneries
  • 1860: Journal entries for the first pocket watches with minute repeaters
  • 1910: “Duc de Regla” pocket watch with grande and petite sonnerie and minute repeater with a Westminster chime on five gongs
  • 1916: Patek Philippe’s first wristwatch with a chiming mechanism, a ladies’ model with a five-minute repeater.
  • 1920: Pocket watch with grande sonnerie, Westminster chime on four gongs, and perpetual calendar, crafted for automobile designer James Ward Packard
  • 1924: First Patek Philippe wristwatch with a minute repeater, sold to blind automotive engineer Ralph Teetor, inventor of cruise control
  • 1927: First Patek Philippe pocket watch with a minute repeater and astronomical displays (celestial chart), crafted for automobile designer James Ward Packard
  • 1933: “Graves” supercomplication, pocket watch with 24 complications, 5 gongs, grande sonnerie, petite sonnerie and minute repeater, Westminster chime, alarm
  • 1939: First Patek Philippe wristwatch with a minute repeater and a perpetual calendar, one-of-a-kind piece in platinum, Ref. 541
  • 1982: First Patek Philippe wristwatch with a minute repeater, a perpetual calendar, and a monopusher chronograph, one-of-a-kind piece, Ref. 3615
  • 1983: Ref. 920/1 pocket watch with grande sonnerie, minute repeater, split-seconds chronograph, and perpetual calendar (caliber 20’’’GC)

1989: 150th anniversary of Patek Philippe and rebirth of repeater timepieces

Calibre 89, the world’s most complicated portable timepiece, 33 complications, including a grande and petite sonnerie, a minute repeater, four gongs, and an alarm on a fifth gong

– Launch of the proprietary minute repeater caliber R 27 for wristwatches and the Refs. 3979 (R 27 PS) and 3974 with perpetual calendar (R 27 Q)

  • 2000: Star Caliber 2000 pocket watch with 21 complications, including astronomical displays as well as a grande sonnerie and a minute repeater with a Westminster strike on five gongs
  • 2001: Ref. 5002 Sky Moon Tourbillon, Patek Philippe’s first double-faced wristwatch with 12 complications, including astronomical displays and a minute repeater with cathedral gongs
  • 2011: First ladies’ wristwatch with a minute repeater in the contemporary collection, Ref. 7000

2014: Patek Philippe’s 175th anniversary

– Launch of the Ref. 5175 Grandmaster Chime, Patek Philippe’s first double-faced watch with a reversible case and 20 complications, including a grande and petite sonnerie, a minute repeater, and two patented world debuts: an acoustic alarm that strikes the preselected time, and a date repeater that sounds the date on demand

– Anniversary Ref. 5275 Chiming Jump Hour, with jumping hours, minutes and seconds, striking mechanism that automatically strikes the top of each hour

Source: Patek Philippe