Minute repeaters are considered to be among the most difficult complications to construct in watchmaking — far more so than even the tourbillion. Jean Claude Biver, the legendary head of LVMH’s watch division, has been known to compare the construction of the two complications with the difference between climbing Mount Everest and climbing the Swiss Matterhorn mountain — with the minute repeater being Everest, of course.
For those who are unaware of what minute repeaters are, they are most simply described as watches that chime out the time — usually the hours, quarter hours, and minutes — using a combination of notes created by tiny hammers and gongs housed inside the watch’s mechanisms.
Here, we highlight four new minute repeater watches whose chimes you simply cannot miss.
01 | Vacheron Constantin “La Musique du Temps” Les Cabinotiers Grand Complication Split-seconds chronograph — Tempo
Certainly the most complicated chiming watch of the bunch — and perhaps the most complicated watch released this year, period — the Tempo demonstrates Vacheron Constantin’s ability to create watches that are both technically incredibly complex and aesthetically exceptional. The watch houses a whopping 24 horological complications, with the minute repeater being just one of them — among the other complications are a perpetual calendar, split-seconds chronograph, equation of time, and a tourbillon, just to round things out. The watch is dual-faced and completely reversible, so the owner will be able to wear it with either side facing up. As an added bonus, Vacheron Constantin has also partnered with the famous Abbey Road Studios to create unique sound print of the watch, which will also be shared with the owner of the watch, of which there will only be one, as the the watch is a unique piece from the maison’s Les Cabinotiers department.
02 | Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication
When it comes to constructing minute repeater watches, there are few who can match Jaeger-LeCoultre, which is known for its chiming savoir faire. According to the brand, has over 200 chiming calibres in its repertoire, dating back to its first minute repeater in 1870. This new watch, however, has a resolutely modern minute repeater complication. The minute repeater uses Jaeger-LeCoultre’s patented cathedral crystal gongs and trebuchet hammers. The crystal gongs are welded to the synthetic sapphire crystal in the case, which allows the sound waves to be successfully transmitted outside of the case for a louder, clearer sound — conventional minute repeaters are softer because the sound is usually created inside the case and is muffled on its way out. The trebuchet hammers in the complication are also much more efficient when it comes to energy transmission, which allows for greater mechanical energy to be conserved. To further enhance sound clarity, the watch also has a silent regulator to reduce the background buzzing noise usually present in mechanical watch movements. If the minute repeater complication wasn’t complex enough, it is also accompanied by an annual calendar, sky charts, as well as an orbital flying tourbillon.
03 | Roger Dubuis Excalibur Diabolus in Machina
Roger Dubuis’s new Excalibur watch is certainly one of the more innovative minute repeater complications out there — even the name will tell you that it’s not quite your conventional chiming watch. “Diabolus in Machina” refers to the 18th century musical term “diabolus in musica”, which was used specifically to refer to a specific music interval called a tritone. Tritones are dissonant to the ear and lend an uneasiness to a musical piece, and was at one point even outlawed by the church because they were believed to summon the devil. (Although we assure you that this watch will most definitely not do so.) When activated, the Excalibur Diabolus in Machina will chime out a tritone at low pitch for the hours, a high pitch for the minutes, and two tones for the quarter hours. It is a unique piece.
04 | A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater
The Zeitwerk Minute Repeater will already be familiar to fans of A Lange & Söhne’s brand of Saxon watchmaking. It was first launched in 2015 to much fanfare, thanks primarily to its unique chiming patterns. Instead of chiming the hours, quarter hours and minutes, the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater chimes out the hours, followed by ten minute increments, and finally the remaining single minutes. This whimsical chime pattern is somehow particularly harmonious when paired with the jumping hours and minute indications of the Zeitwerk watch family. Plus, the configuration of the minute repeater complication guarantees that the chimes will always correspond with the displayed time, so even if you activate the chime 2 seconds before a new hour or minute jumps, the chime will still ring true. This new 2020 version of the watch contains the same movement as the watch from 2015, save for one difference — the gongs on the minute repeater are now polished for better aesthetics. It is also housed in a new white gold case with a beautiful deep blue dial. Limited to 30 pieces worldwide.