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About time: perfect chiming

Abid Rahman

 

      

With the Olympics now a memory, it's safe to say we're all about done with celebrating physical perfection. The inspir-ation to get out there and cycle, swim and run about a bit might be strong for a few months yet but sooner rather than later, we'll be back to sit-ting at home and playing Angry Birds. Xboxes, iPads and smartphones are what people really care about. To that list, a select few can add the minute repeater watch, one of the purest expressions of watchmaking wizardry.

The minute repeater is all the rage in high horology at the moment, but it's easy to forget that it was born of plodding practicality. In the age before widespread light pollution and coating everything in Luminova, telling the time in the dark was at best an art and at worst a pointless task. The minute repeater solved a lot of problems by chiming the hours, quarter hours and sometimes even the minutes, with various chimes. One of the highlights released this year is the Rotonde de Cartier Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon watch (centre). Priced at HK$2.3 million, the timepiece is a confluence of complications that will delight anyone who loves watches. The titanium case is large at 45mm but it needs to be to accommodate the gorgeous dial and the many features, the most prominent being the exposed tourbillon. The minute repeater chiming mechanism is activated by a push button at the eight o'clock position. The overall design is quite modernist by Cartier standards and plays well with the classic black alligator leather strap and the signature Cartier touches such as the blue sapphire on the crown. The Rotonde de Cartier Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon is limited to 50 numbered editions in titanium and 50 in pink gold.

Another minute repeater that is as bold and striking to the eye as it is ingenious in manufacture is the Parmigiani Toric Westminster Grande Date Eiffel (left). A rather curious name for a watch but given the design and the complexity that is the least of the surprises this timepiece has in store. The huge 46mm case is made of 18-carat rose gold and houses a wonderfully finished dial that includes lacquering and diamond finishes on some of the indices. The strap is Hermès alligator leather and there is a tourbillon and a date window but the most wonderful thing about this watch is the minute repeater, which strikes at hours, quarter hours and minutes on four cathedral-like sounding gongs that resemble the sound of those in London's Westminster Cathedral. The Parmigiani Toric Westminster Grande Date Eiffel is priced at HK$4.8 million.

Executing a beautiful minute repeater watch isn't easy, although the Girard-Perregaux 1966 Minute Repeater (right) will fool many into thinking it is. The watch is all about restraint. The design and the flourishes are kept to a minimum outwardly but, inside, the watch is another story. The GPE09-0001 movement, with its 100-hour power reserve, is likely to make many a man swoon. The 42mm case comes in pink gold and the dial is white and uncluttered, with only a small seconds hand at the six o'clock position. The minute repeater can be made to chime by the push button situated at the eight o'clock position. The Girard-Perregaux 1966 Minute Repeater is priced at HK$2.4 million and, although it's not a limited-edition, each timepiece is numbered.

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