Technical challenges the confrontation of most watch brands begins and ends with the need for accurate and reliable timekeeping. But at the highest level of the watch in recent years, a more unexpected battlefield has emerged: the pursuit of acoustic dominance.
Ringing clocks, emitting delicate mechanical sounds to give an auditory reading of time, are considered to be the pinnacle of watchmaking. But in an era of ever-shrinking technology with progressively impressive audio capabilities, sound quality is becoming an increasingly important factor. It follows that in the watches a rich bong against a fragile din is a much more noticeable manifestation of perfection than a precision of a few seconds a day.
Accordingly, such as Audemars Piguet, Chopard and Bulgari compete to improve the sound with all sorts of innovative means. Patek Philippe, the brand with the largest range of watches, joined the audiophile party with the latest watch from its Advanced Research program, which focuses on developing new watchmaking technologies.
The Reference 5750, a platinum-enclosed minute repeater, uses an all-new bell amplification system called the Fortissimo module, which rethinks the way sound travels in and out of the watch. The technical inspiration comes from a concept as old as the mechanical wristwatch itself: Thomas Edison’s phonograph, the first gramophone.
In the one-minute repeater, a lever pulled from the side of the watch case activates an internal mechanism of hammers and gongs, counting the time in a series of bells with two notes. The technology appeared in watchmaking in the 17th century and was subsequently miniaturized for pocket watches. Why was this so important? This meant that time could be said in the dark.
These were rare, highly prestigious items as they are today: according to Patek Philippe, who produced the first modern minute repeater for a wristwatch in 1989, a watchmaker could spend up to 300 hours assembling one.