It figures that Patek Philippe would have an ‘Advanced Research’ wing, given each year seems to herald some new (or in the case of the perpetual in-line revived) advancement in haute horology. This year however the prestige watchmaker is showcasing a shiny new module in a field they know better than anyone: chiming watches. This is the Patek Philippe “Advanced Research” Ref. 5750 Minute Repeater.
The movement in question, the in-house calibre R 27 PS, is pretty much Patek’s ‘base’ minute repeater and the genesis of the sound is created as normal, with hammers striking gongs to mark off the time. The difference here is in the amplification module, dubbed Fortissimo “ff”. First, the sound from those gongs is linked directly to what looks like a tuning fork. This amplifies the sound but, more importantly, transfers that sound to Patek’s novel mechanical loudspeaker.
The system in question works pretty much like any loudspeaker, with an oscillator to amplify the sound and transfer those vibrations to the air. Rather than your usual cones though (because even carbon fibre would be too prosaic for Patek Philippe) they’ve instead used a single, 0.2mm thin wafer of sapphire crystal. It’s rigid in structure but has the movement to be able to vibrate – much like a tweeter – meaning it’s perfect for the transference of sound vibrations to the air to your ear.
Now like any speaker, direction of travel makes a big difference to the sound produced. In most watches it kind of comes out everywhere, meaning the case material is a huge factor. Here, though, the new module includes a sound-insulating rim that basically forces the sound out of four openings at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock, exiting out a narrow slot in the caseback and band. Yep, you do not want to take this watch swimming with you. There is a dust cover, but not much else.
The grand total of all these advancements is a chime six times louder than usual. The quality is the same as ever (perhaps a bit cleaner and clearer due to the lack of dampening from the case) but it’s a good deal more noticeable. Not that I’ve found Patek Philippe minute repeaters to be particularly quiet in the past.
The fortissimo “ff” module is wrapped up in a 40mm 950 platinum case, which most of the time would present a few issues. Platinum isn’t great for minute repeaters, hence most precious metal versions being in rose gold. But as the case material no longer matters, Patek decided to flex that fact with the worst material for acoustics.
Not all the fun is in the movement. The five-part dial is about as elaborate as a rare, limited-edition Patek Philippe should be, with a spoked, automotive-inspired openworked dial. This includes a small seconds at 6 with a marker rather than a traditional hand, with more classical central Dauphine hands for minutes and hours.
As I said, the “Advanced Research” Ref. 5750 Minute Repeater is a limited edition, specifically of 15 pieces. This won’t be the last time we see the fortissimo “ff” module though. As any of Patek’s chiming complications can be adapted for it (with a slight increase in thickness of course) it’s not just a showpiece.
Price & Specs:
Model: Patek Philippe “Advanced Research” Ref. 5750 Minute Repeater
Case/Dial: 40mm diameter x 11.1mm height, 950 titanium case, diamond at 6 o’clock, white gold dial with black nickel-plated snailed base, openworked ray motif and hand guilloched edging
Movement: In-house calibre R27 PS, automatic minute repeater with classic gongs, 39 jewels, 342 parts, unique fortissimo “ff” system for sound amplification
Frequency: 26,100 vph (3 Hz)
Power Reserve: 43 – 48h
Functions: : Hours, minutes, subsidiary seconds at 6 o’clock, minute repeater with classic gongs
Strap: Hand-stitched alligator leather
Price/Availability: CHF 590,000, limited to 15 pieces
More details at Patek Philippe.