3 - Acoustics

Thierry Stern, President Patek Philippe

Wristwatches with minute repeaters are produced by the most skilled watchmakers and are regarded as some of the most complex of watch mechanisms. Aside from the expertise these devices embody, much of their appeal comes from their melodious chimes - the enchantingly refined product of rigorous acoustic testing.

Assembling a minute repeater typically takes 200 to 300 hours, after which the watch must be perfectly tuned to guarantee the superlative standard for which Patek Philippe is renowned; a process requiring the steady hand, patience and skill of a master watchmaker. Following analysis of the chimes’ sound waves, the approval ultimately guaranteeing the perfect sonority must come from the President himself.

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

Sound Chamber

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.

Patek Philippe Sound Map

Dureté du son
Hardness of sound
Rendu global de l'importance des diverses fréquences
A pleasing group of notes sounded together
Hauteur de note
Son global plutôt aigu ou grave
Overall high/low impression of sound
Volume sonore
Intensity of sound
Durée du tintement avant que le son ne s'arrête
Elapsed time between strike and fade to silence
Pièce venant frapper sur le timbre pour le faire sonner
Metal part that strikes the gong and causes it to vibrate
Chaque fréquence contenue dans un tintement
Any of the frequencies contained in a strike
Propagation du son (en intensité, harmonie, longueur, etc.)
Propagation of sound (volume, harmony, duration, …)
Fréquence des tintements
Cadence of strikes
Son chaleureux
Son riche en basses fréquences
Warm sound
Rich sound with low frequencies
Son cristallin
Son comportant principalement des fréquences aiguës
Clear sound
Sound composed predominantly of high frequencies
Son dur
Son avec une intensité très marquée dans les fréquences aiguës
Hard sound
Sound with volume peaks in high frequencies
Son rond
Son possédant une harmonie équilibrée
Round sound
Harmoniously balanced sound
Son ténu
Son faible, manquant de chaleur
Reedy sound
Weak sound lacking warmth
Sons appairés
Equilibre entre tintements des heures et des minutes
Paired sounds
Sonorous equilibrium between hour and minute strikes
Pièce vissée sur le mouvement et dans laquelle sont fixés les timbres
A part screwed to the movement in which the gongs are clamped
Fil sur lequel vient frapper le marteau pour émettre un son, par extension pièce formée d'un talon, d'un fil des heures et d'un fil des minutes
Steel blade attached to the movement in a boss which generates a sound when struck by a hammer; a distinction is made between minute and hour gongs
Chaque «ding» ou «dong» marquant les heures ou les minutes
Each “dong” or “ding” indicating hours and minutes
Targette permettant d'armer la répétition minutes
Part for tensioning and triggering the minute repeater
Intensité non constante dans le temps ou fréquences parasites
Temporal irregularities in sound volume or parasitic frequencies

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