The Final Test: Thierry Stern, President Patek Philippe
Once the watchmaker is satisfied that the gong tones meet the standards required by Patek Philippe, he presents his creation to the President, Thierry Stern. As befits a family-owned watch company, the sound quality of every minute repeater is validated by the President before it leaves the workshops. Only his ear can mark the final approval of the timbre and confirm that each and every Patek Philippe minute repeater has the trademark sound regarded as the tonal benchmark in horology.Watch the exclusive interview with the President
The minute repeater is a complex and multi-dimensional sound puzzle that can be affected by all manner of variables. For instance, a great number of additional complications in a movement tend to muffle the sound of the watch. In addition, the shape of the case, the thickness and the material all have a bearing on the sound quality. For example, platinum, while the most coveted of metals, actually performs least well when it comes to sound transmission and will often dampen the richness of the sound. While a round case in rose gold is considered to give the truest sound. However, even an identical model in the same metal will never sound exactly the same.
Ultimately, the decision of whether the unique sound of a new minute repeater watch will reach the customer depends upon the scrutiny of the President’s ear alone.
Nevertheless, over the years, the ‘Quality & Homologation’ department has developed a technique for analyzing the minute repeater sound to help the quest of achieving a perfect sound and of passing the President’s test. And bearing in mind the time required to assemble a minute repeater, it is in their interests to do so. Because beyond the typical 200 to 300 hours required for initial assembly, if the gong chime is anything less than perfect, this can add many days to the creation of the watch. If any reassembly is involved, the entire watchmaking process can reach around 500 hours.
Therefore, before being sent to the president for its final test, each watch is placed in a soundproof chamber from which the minute repeater chimes are recorded and their sound waveforms analyzed against previously approved and archived chimes. The analysis provides and ensures that there is a consistent acoustic framework to all the Patek Philippe Minute Repeaters. The analysis goes a long way to predict and verify if a watch will eventually be approved by the President and make it onto the wrist of its future owner.