It's one of those eternal truisms that the older you get the more sensitive you become to noise. I'm not just talking about disliking all modern music - although this whole David Guetta thing is frankly awful - but noise generally. Mobile phone ringtones and beeps, people chewing excessively and babies crying were things I could take with grace in my youth. Alas, now when I am confronted with such annoyances, I find myself grumbling, "Get off my land!" and the like. There is one sound, though, that will always be music to a watch lover's ear and that's the chimes of a minute-repeater.
Back in vogue, the minute repeater is another thrilling but incredibly complex lesson in pointlessness, which is, of course, the point of high horology these days. Very briefly, a minute repeater is a watch that chimes to mark intervals of time, whether on the hour or the quarter hour.
A whole host of brands are making minute-repeater watches now, but one of the best of 2013 is the Blancpain Carrousel Repetition Minutes Chronographe Flyback (below right). A large watch for such a traditional brand, it is sized at 45mm and comes in 18-carat red gold. The size is necessary to house the wonderful calibre 235 movement - on display through the open-worked dial front - and to give maximum room for the sound waves created by the gongs. The watch is exceptional for a number of reasons but chiefly because this is the first time Blancpain has married three complications in the same watch: there is the carrousel, a complication similar in look and practice to a tourbillon but with Blancpain's patented complexity; the flyback chronograph with a 30-minute counter neatly placed at the centre of the dial with a red-tipped hand as an indicator; and, finally, the minute repeater itself, which has incredibly clear chimes, similar to classic cathedral gongs. Prices for the Blancpain Carrousel Repetition Minutes Chronographe Flyback are available upon request but for the number of complications, the exceptional engineering and the finishing, don't expect it to be cheap.
Next up we have the Piaget Emperador Coussin XL (top right), an ultra-thin minute-repeater but, at 48mm, still pretty large in case size (hence the XL in the title). Drawing on Piaget's strength in creating ultra-thin timepieces, this watch has an incredibly thin 4.8mm movement, making it by some way the world's thinnest self-winding minute-repeater movement. That thinness doesn't have any effect on the chimes, though. They may not be David Guetta loud, but they're impressive nonetheless.
The case is made of 18-carat pink gold and the dial is open worked, giving a fantastic view of the hand-polished movement. The watch has standard hours and minutes, with 40 hours of power reserve, and comes with a brown alligator strap. The Piaget Emperador Coussin XL is priced at HK$2.22 million.
Finally, we have the most masculine minute repeater of the bunch: the Audemars Piguet Tradition Minute Repeater Chronograph (above left). Another large watch, sized at 47mm and coming in a titanium case, this AP is feature rich: it has a tourbillon, chronograph and the minute repeater striking on two gongs, which gives a wonderful resonance to the chimes. The movement is an in-house calibre 2874 and pumps out 48 hours of power. The column wheel chronograph comes with a 30-minute sub counter, while the masculine dial design is complemented by the titanium toughness of the watch and the black crocodile leather strap. The Audemars Piguet Tradition Minute Repeater Chronograph is priced at HK$3.69 million and limited to 10 precious pieces.