Ornamental and technically accomplished, these extraordinary chiming watches sound as good as they look
Why read the time when you can listen to it? And with that rather preposterous notion, horologists started devising ways to sound out the time for both pragmatic and artistic endeavours. The first bell clocks that chimed the hours to notify entire villages of the time surfaced in Italy in the 13th century. By the 15th century, master watchmakers were crafting pocket watches with chiming mechanisms for aristocrats and noblemen. Today, chiming wristwatches are considered the most esoteric and elusive of watch complications. Offered by the most accomplished watchmaking houses, these niche and elite category of watches are appreciated—and acquired—by discerning and well-connected connoisseurs who tend to have the CEOs of companies that make these striking timepieces on speed dial.
A. Lange & Söhne
Richard Lange Minute Repeater
A. Lange & Söhne took the scenic route to present the Richard Lange Minute Repeater. The Saxony-based watchmaking house first introduced a chiming watch back in 2013 with the Grand Complication that combined a minute repeater with chronograph and perpetual calendar features. It subsequently created several technically complex iterations of chiming watches like 2015’s Zeitwerk Minute Repeater with digital display, before arriving at the Richard Lange Minute Repeater, which it bills as the purest expression of the auditory complication. A refined dress watch, the Richard Lange Minute Repeater is housed in a 39mm platinum case and bears a classic white enamel dial with blued steel hands. Activate a slider at the side of the case and one will set its 415-part, hand-wound movement to work, as it rings out the hours, quarters and minutes with pristine chimes. Limited to 50 pieces.
‘Les Royaumes Aquatiques’ Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Tourbillon ‘Flying Dutchman’
Tasked with creating exceptional custom-made timepieces, Vacheron Constantin’s Les Cabinotiers department raises the bar yet again with this multi-sensory watch. Activate a slider on the case and the Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Tourbillon Flying Dutchman will chime the time on demand. The watch’s namesake inspiration is expressed on the dial, which depicts a ship sailing through a stormy sea. The intricately illustrated scene evokes the haunting legend of the Flying Dutchman, brought to life using the age-old technique of miniature enamel painting. Elsewhere, an open window at six o’clock displays the tourbillon. Like the minute repeater, the tourbillon is a symbol of Vacheron Constantin’s mechanical mastery. Housed in a carriage that makes one full rotation every minute, the tourbillon not only looks theatrical, it improves timekeeping precision by nullifying the effects of gravity on the watch’s mechanical components.
A high-octane creation by one of the most eminent makers of chiming watches (Patek Philippe President Thierry Stern personally tests each minute repeater before it is shipped to its owner), the Ref 5374 combines two major complications—a perpetual calendar and minute repeater—and clothes them in unbridled glitter. It is hard not to be distracted by the gemstones on the platinum case and minute repeater slider, which are paved with 228 baguette-cut diamonds. In the meantime, the blue lacquered dial is festooned with 13 baguette-cut sapphires on the hour markers, endowing the watch with more colour and sparkle. The star of the show, however, remains better heard than seen. The watch’s automatic movement features a minute repeater mechanism anchored by two ‘cathedral’ gongs. Twice as long as regular gongs, they emit characteristically deep and rich chimes when struck.