With a history spanning close to 180 years, it is a fact of life that Patek Philippe can’t produce all of their timepieces indefinitely – something fans of the Nautilus 5711 have learned all too recently. However, when a watch is discontinued it allows for a triumphant return a few years later, which is the case with two of the minute repeater Grand Complications that have been announced as part of Patek Philippe’s Rare Handcrafts showcase 2020-2021 alongside several Metiers d’Arts models. And because they like to spoil us there’s even a third updated model as well.
Before jumping into the first of the revived pieces, the Ref. 5304/301R-001, it’s worth taking a moment to discuss why minute repeaters are one of, if not the most prestigious complications in watchmaking. At a simple level, they are watches that chime the hours – nothing too crazy considering we’re all familiar with table clocks that do the same thing. However, the miniaturisation of the technology to fit within the space of a wristwatch is beyond impressive, requiring tiny hammers and chimes that pair with the sonic capacity of the watch’s case.
We won’t be going over the new Sky Moon tourbillon here. That’s not because it’s not worth talking about, it’s just worth an article all its own, which you can find here. For now, let’s jump right into the first of the remaining chiming trio.
Ref. 5304/301R-001 Minute Repeater With Retrograde Perpetual Calendar
The Ref. 5304/301R-001 is Patek’s latest version of the transparent dialled Grand Complication first seen in 2006, which gives a detailed look at the movement above and below without technically being skeletonised. The Ref. 5304 combined the sapphire crystal dial with the minute repeater and perpetual calendar complications before it was discontinued in 2018. But now it’s back and with a new diamond bezel.
In terms of technical specs and overall case design, not a lot has changed. The 43mm case is in rose gold, the traditional material for minute repeaters because of its clear sound and has white gold inlay that captures the decorative style Patek Philippe has favoured in recent years. What is new is the bezel, now embedded with 80 flawless Top Wesselton baguette diamonds. It adds an additional layer to the design that draws the eye to the focal movement, although the 5304 never had trouble doing that in the first place.
A helpful feature of the calibre R 27 PS QR LU is that its complications are more-or-less split horizontally, with the perpetual calendar function on the top and visible dial side and the minute repeater below through the display caseback. Meaning that for novices who want to appreciate the exceptional watchmaking it’s easy to isolate key features like the hammers and chimes.
Ref: 5304/301R-001 | Case/dial: 43mm diameter x 13.3mm height, rose gold, transparent sapphire dial with 58 baguette diamonds on the bezel and lugs (5.25 cts) and 22 baguette diamonds on the clasp (0.97 ct) | Movement: Calibre R 27 PS QR LU, automatic, 41 jewels, 517 parts | Frequency: 21,600 vph (3 Hz) | Power reserve: 38-48h | Functions: Hours, minutes, minute repeater, perpetual calendar with retrograde date hand, moon phase | Strap: Black alligator leather | Price: Price on request, more details at Patek Philippe.
Ref. 5374G-001 Minute Repeater With Perpetual Calendar
The next piece we’re looking at is mechanically similar to the Ref. 5304/301R-001 but instead of a retrograde date it has cathedral gongs, making for a fuller sound as the chimes are twice the length of the watch’s circumference. They were a key part in the success of the 2016 platinum case version, a notoriously difficult metal to make sound good.
The new, updated version is presented in a white gold case instead, with a grand feu enamel dial in blue – about as classic Patek as you can get. It’s a more subtle design than its sapphire crystal dial counterpart making it suitable for people who don’t want to have to explain their watch to everyone they meet. Of course, on the flip side you might end up explaining your watch just so people will appreciate just how spectacular it truly is.
Honestly, this might be my favourite out of the three. The Ref. 5304/301R-001 verges on being too overwhelming and the addition of diamonds doesn’t help its case while the next timepiece we’ll look at has been designed as a lady’s piece (but don’t let that stop you if you love it).
Ref: 5374G-001 | Case/dial: 42mm diameter x 12.2mm height, white gold, blue enamel dial | Movement: Calibre R 27 Q, automatic, 39 jewels, 567 parts | Frequency: 21,600 vph (3 Hz) | Power reserve: 38-48h | Functions: Hours, minutes, minute repeater, Day, date, month, leap year and 24-hour indication by hands | Strap: Blue alligator leather | Price: Price on request, more details at Patek Philippe.
Ref. 7040/250G-001 Rare Handcrafts Minute Repeater for Ladies
Eschewing the calendars we’ve seen on the other two models, the Ref. 7040/250G-001 captures the minute repeater function in its purity and is based on the ‘Ladies First’ minute repeater discontinued in 2017. The new version is available in white gold with a flinqué enamel dial.
Flinqué is a decorative technique that involves multiple high-end processes, starting with creating a guilloché dial and then coating it in enamel to preserve the design while giving it the unique finishing of enamel. On the Ref. 7040/250G-001 they’ve used a spiralling fish-scale pattern that was created for a unique timepiece in 2019.
If you know your Patek Philippe then you’ll be aware that when they add the ‘ladies’ tag to a watch what they really mean is ‘with diamonds’, as can be testified by their recent update to the Aquanaut line. And the minute repeater here is no different, featuring 168 brilliant-cut diamonds on its bezel, embedded using the patented Flamme technique that gives them an additional airiness.
Housed beneath the intricate dial and all those jewels is the R 27 PS automatic calibre with minute repeater and the watch is presented on an alligator leather strap with an extra 26 diamonds.
Ref: 7040/250G-001 | Case/dial: 36mm diameter x 10.14mm height, white gold, blue enamel hand-guilloched with a swirling pattern (flinqué enamel) | Movement: Calibre R 27 PS, automatic, 39 jewels, 342 parts | Frequency: 21,600 vph (3 Hz) | Power reserve: 43-48h | Functions: Hours, minutes, minute repeater with chime on two classic gongs, mall seconds. | Strap: Blue alligator leather | Price: Price on request, more details at Patek Philippe.