15 BEST Minute Repeater Watches for 2023 [Mechanical Marvels!]
Long before the days of glowing indices and hands, telling the time in the dark was a complicated ordeal. Before clocks, sundials obviously were of no use. With the advent of clocks, if there was not enough light to see the time, lighting a flame was the only way to see.
That involved finding a source of flame, something to maintain the flame, and blowing it out when no longer necessary. This tedious task was solved by the idea of telling time with sound. Then, instead of chiming at regular intervals, what if the sound could be recalled on demand? Auditory time-telling was the wave of the future until the prominence of gas lighting and luminescent paint came into being.
A Short Guide to Chiming Watches and Repeaters
Minute repeaters have become a holy grail for many collectors, but there were chiming clocks before there was any sort of repeaters.
Chiming clocks are clocks that chime the passing of time, usually every hour and sometimes at other intervals, such as every fifteen or thirty minutes. The first chiming clocks appeared in Italy in the 13th century. While many clocks for homes and watches with chiming functions have on-and-off abilities, they do not chime on command.
Both Edward Barlow and Daniel Quare claimed the invention of the repeating watch before 1700, with the patent filing going in favor of Quare in 1687. However, Edward Barlow’s creation of the rack and snail striking system in 1676 has become the standard for repeating timepieces ever since.
If you imagine a grandfather clock, or even larger, a church clock, certainly the size of the bells and gongs in those clocks are much larger than anything that could fit in a watch. Early repeating watches had small bells in the case, but around 1800, the first wire gongs came into use. Because of their size, watchmakers could fit the repeating complication into much smaller watches.
Most repeating watches before the 18th century were quarter repeaters, meaning they would repeat the hours and quarter hours. Around 1750, John Ellicot was the first to produce minute repeaters in somewhat large numbers. Minute repeaters chime hours, quarters, and minutes.
In the 19th century, innovations by Abraham Louis Breguet made the minute repeater more common, but they were still very expensive, and reserved for the most prestigious clients. Around the same time, they also fell out of favor as industrial manufacturing made watchmaking more inexpensive, and gas lighting became widespread.
Today, chiming watches are still coveted by collectors. Even though they do not serve the practical function they once did, they are still magnificent displays of watchmaking as a craft.
Difficulty and expense of manufacturing make it so any chiming watch is quite expensive. While module-based complications can make them more affordable, they are still an order of magnitude more expensive compared to other complications.
Listed below are fifteen modern repeating watches, displaying the best of what these brands have to offer and some of their best creativity alongside audible complications.
15 Best Minute Repeater Watches
The Patek Philippe 5178G was introduced at Baselworld 2017 and has been discontinued as of Watches and Wonders 2023. Any watch from Patek Philippe is unique, and any complicated watch from Patek Philippe is even more so. With chiming watches, Patek Philippe goes above and beyond in regard to finishing, making every aspect of the piece a considered work of art on its own.
While the 40mm white gold case appears simple from the front, the slide pusher on the side of the watch reveals the minute repeater complication. What makes the 5178G even more special compared to other repeaters is the use of cathedral gongs in the calibre R 27 PS.
Cathedral gongs are longer and more difficult to produce than standard gongs used in more conventional repeaters. As a result of the larger gongs, the sound is louder and more resonant. While in production, the retail price was set at 360,000 CHF, but today, prices are dictated by the secondary market.
The Supersonnerie developments from Audemars Piguet started with the RD1 Acoustic Research. The goal of these developments was to produce a minute repeater that not only was acoustically superior in terms of volume and sound quality but also to build a minute repeater that could meet the expectations of durability required for a modern watch.
To achieve the improvements in sound, Audemars Piguet considers the case a resonant body, similar to an acoustic string instrument. There is space and channels within the case that allow sound to resonate, changing the timbre and the volume of the chimes.
The gongs are also mounted to a separate resonating soundboard instead of being mounted to the main plate of the movement, as would be the case with a conventional repeater. Finally, the governor has been reworked to act as a shock absorber, making the repeating aspect of the movement much more durable.
The 41mm wide 18k white gold case of the Code 11.59 Minute Repeater Supersonnerie is water resistant to 20 meters, a notable achievement for a repeating watch. Inside is the hand-wound calibre 2953, which includes the Supersonnerie improvements mentioned.
While the case may present plainly from the front, turning the watch to view from other angles reveals a timepiece that is incredibly architectural in design. The sculpted case and concave crystal make for a quite dynamic design.
Audemars Piguet has moved away from publishing retail prices for many of its pieces and suggests making an appointment to express interest in this watch. Regardless of how one pursues this watch, the price may be best presented while sitting.
Modern Breguet has little to do with the brand’s namesake, as it is now operated by the Swatch group. Still, they do make an effort to pay tribute to Breguet through pieces like the reference 7087 Minute Repeater Tourbillon.
Part of its Tradition collection, the Breguet 7087 combines both a minute repeater and a 60-second tourbillon in a 44mm 18k gold case (either rose or white). While elements of the 7087 keep a traditional style expected from the oldest operating watch brand, the 7087 is a thoroughly modern piece.
The 565DR uses a peripheral oscillating rotor to wind the automatic movement to its full 80 hours of power reserve, allowing for a full view of the back of the movement.
The movement is finished and designed to recall Breguet’s early pocket watches, but the bridges are titanium. Numerous components are made of silicon, allowing for magnetic parts to be part of the movement!
The governor for the chime is a series of magnets designed to repel and attract each other at a consistent rate, allowing for the chime to be consistent use after use, and silent. The gongs are mounted on the dial side to the bezel of the watch, allowing for a more efficient transfer of the vibrations.
The hammers can be seen underneath, striking the gongs perpendicularly for efficiency. While looking very steampunk and modern, the transmission chain recalls Breguet’s original pocket watches. The Breguet Tradition 7087 Minute Repeater Tourbillon is really a modern interpretation of Breguet’s innovations as if they asked, “What would Breguet make today if he was still around?”.
It is truly a fascinating watch that is a mechanical enthusiast’s dream. At the time of release in 2015, the Breguet 7087 retailed for 450,000 CHF.
The A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Minute Repeater is the first minute repeater produced by the brand. Most minute repeaters are made of gold, and even some modern ones are made of other materials due to better resonance.
Interestingly, A. Lange & Söhne chose to release this watch in platinum, which is typically thought to sound dull as it is pretty dense and soft. Even if platinum is not ideal, the Richard Lange Minute Repeater shows off what A. Lange & Söhne does best, and that is finishing.
The dial and case are exquisitely finished, with distinct contrasts between brushed and polished surfaces on the case. Complicated watches can become quite large very quickly, but Lange managed to keep things restrained, with the timepiece measuring 39 mm wide and 9.7 mm thick.
The hand-wound L122.1 movement is truly something to behold. Completely finished by hand, the hand-engraved elements and beautifully chamfered edges are second to none. The governor for the repeater is finely finished, with a mixture of polished and brushed surfaces.
While the repeater is the centerpiece, the governor may steal the show when viewed through the case back, as it spins rapidly when the repeater is engaged. Keeping with the prestige of the brand, the A Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Minute Repeater is priced upon request.
Vacheron Constantine’s announcement of the Traditionnelle Minute Repeater Tourbillon in 2016 was a big accomplishment. The 2755 TMR movement inside was completely designed, developed, and produced by Vacheron Constantin.
While part of the Holy Trinity of watchmaking, it is not uncommon for any watch company to rely on outside resources to create a new movement. Vacheron was truly flexing their horological mite when releasing this watch.
Combining a tourbillon with a minute repeater is no small feat. While the hand-wound Geneva Seal certified movement and 18,000 bph beat rate point towards old-school watchmaking, the 58-hour power reserve, 44mm wide case, and 30 meters of water resistance are definitive indications of modern advancements.
The dial features a hand-guilloché motif, and there is a power reserve indicator in the movement, seen through the case back. Another interesting detail is that Vacheron worked the Maltese cross into the design of the tourbillon cage.
Available exclusively from Vacheron boutiques, the purchaser also receives a resonance boosting holder called “La Musique du Temps.”
Known as the watchmaker’s watchmaker for their history of supplying some of the best brands with movements and parts, Jaeger-LeCoultre is no stranger to high complications. Having produced over 200 different repeating calibers within their history, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon fits in with their tradition of creating finely crafted timepieces.
The Master Ultra Thin Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon was the thinnest minute repeater ever produced when it was launched in 2014. With the movement measuring 4.8mm thick and the case measuring 7.9mm thick, it may be surprising that the calibre 362 has a platinum peripheral rotor for automatic winding of the watch.
Additionally, the rotor is between the movement and the dial side of the watch, which can be seen through the dial cutouts that double as sound holes for the repeater. To further ensure the best sound possible, Jaeger LeCoultre utilized “trebouchet” hammers that allow the gong to be strong with the greatest force possible.
The gongs are mounted to the sapphire glass to improve acoustic volume. The 41mm case is made of white gold, chosen for the best quality of sound for a precious metal. At the time of release, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Minute Repeater Tourbillon retails for 294,000 Euros.
If watching the repeater hammers leaves you wanting, the Blancpain Villeret Tourbillon Minute Repeater Automata will definitely add some excitement to the owners’ minute repeating enjoyment. Automata, broadly speaking, refers to mechanical objects that complete actions following a set list of instructions.
Minute repeaters themselves are automata. In watchmaking, they generally refer to objects that mimic lifelike movement for the sake of entertainment. During the late 1600s, watchmakers made watches that included moving figures, frequently depicting scenes of human pleasure.
This delighted wealthy clients but did not delight the ruling and religious bodies of Switzerland, resulting in them being banned. Watches found to have lewd scenes depicted were confiscated and destroyed. Erotic automata did not effectively exist until the rebirth of the mechanical watch industry after the quartz crisis.
With modern Blancpain being reborn from this period, they brought back this art form with their Villeret Minute Repeater Automata. Released in 1993, the caliber 332 utilizes cathedral gongs, and the “piece unique” indication on the dial refers to the scene on the back, as each scene is unique to each watch.
Measuring 37.5mm wide and 10.3mm thick, the conservative front-facing appearance is reinforced by the case dimensions. It is also quite impressive to consider that they managed to fit both the repeater and the automata in a relatively thin case. This reference is still in the current Blancpain catalog and has a retail price of 278,100 USD.
Minute repeaters are truly amazing feats of engineering and craft, but they almost exclusively carry lofty price tags with them. While the IWC Portugieser Minute Repeater is still pricey at 89,100 USD, it is definitely one of the more affordable minute repeaters when purchased new.
The 44.2mm wide case is made of 18ct 5n red gold. The manual wound 98950 calibre is an IWC manufacture movement and stays with the Portugieser tradition of a large movement placed in a large case.
Unfortunately, while the movement is beautifully finished, the showpieces of the minute repeater, the hammers, and the governor, are not on display through the case back. Even though the price tag is still large, compromises have to be made to keep the cost in check.
If there is such a thing as a minute repeater on a budget, the IWC Portugieser Minute Repeater would be as close as one can get. Even with the complication not on full display, lucky owners still get to experience a luxurious case material and sonorous complication.
High-end complications are often reserved for the best of what watchmakers have to offer, usually resulting in precious metals being used for the cases. While gold and platinum are undoubtedly luxurious, many modern collectors desire modern materials.
The Hublot Big Bang Integral Minute Repeater was produced in a limited edition of 18 pieces, each in both black and white ceramic. This is the first minute repeater to be produced in a full ceramic case, bezel, and bracelet. Additionally, Hublot made the watch water-resistant to 30 meters, which is quite the feat of engineering considering the material and complications.
At 43mm in diameter, this is definitely not a small watch but relatively restrained by Hublot standards. The MHUB801 manually wound caliber inside features an 80 power reserve, showing off Hublot’s ability to engineer movements with long power reserves, especially with complicated movements.
The Hublot Big Bang Integral Tourbillon Cathedral Minute Repeater retailed for 280,000 CHF, which looks reasonable considering the engineering needed to create this timepiece, compared to other watches on this list. If high-level complications and modern design are desired, this is definitely a watch to look at.
Omega really impressed the watch world by releasing the Speedmaster Chrono Chime in 2022. Instead of the traditional chiming complication that somehow represents the current time, the Chrono Chime audibly represents the elapsed time of the chronograph.
The Calibre Omega 1932 was developed in partnership with Blancpain. While the repeating function is built like a traditional minute repeater, as mentioned previously, it chimes the elapsed time of the chronograph.
It will chime a high tone for the elapsed minutes, two tones for the elapsed 10 seconds intervals, and a low chime for individual seconds. Additionally, the 15-minute chronograph is fully integrated into the movement and has a rattrapante function, allowing for the timing of two separate events.
The watch itself is as luxurious as Omega gets. The 45mm wide case and 21mm wide bracelet are full 18k Sedna gold, Omega’s proprietary red gold alloy. The dial is blue aventurine “Grand Feu” enamel and features 18k red gold hands, markers, and sub-dials.
The presentation box includes a resonance plate in spruce to amplify the sound of the chimes. A numbered edition, but not limited, the Omega Speedmaster Chrono Chime retails for 486,000 USD.
The original Bulgari Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater was released in 2016, with this updated version released in 2022. Bulgari set the record for the world’s thinnest minute repeater in production with this timepiece, with the movement measuring 3.12mm thin, and the case measuring 6.61mm
While not a sports watch, the Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater is maybe one of the more sporty looking. The 40mm case is made of sandblasted titanium, and the blue strap is made from FKM rubber. While not suitable for water sports, the case does manage to maintain 30 meters of water resistance.
The blue dial features cutouts for the indices, which are done to amplify the repeater’s sound. Additionally, titanium makes for a great minute repeater case, as it does not dampen the sound as much as precious metals.
While the case width seems moderate and the thinness is remarkable, Octo Finissimos have a bold presence on the wrist, wearing more like a large cuff bracelet than a traditional watch. At the time of its release in 2022, the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater retailed at 195,000 Euros.
Jaquet Droz is likely the most famous watchmaker in regard to automata. Much tamer than Blancpain already mentioned, some of his most notable works are the three-doll automata. Consisting of the musician, the draftsman, and the writer, these mechanical wonders from the last half of the 1700s are still functioning today.
Drawing on that tradition is the Bird Repeater. In addition to the minute repeater, the automata on the dial depict a scene of baby birds being fed by their parents. The small birds move, seemingly begging for food, while the two adult birds move to feed and protect the offspring.
This particular reference is a limited edition of eight pieces. The 47mm wide red gold case houses the RMA88 movement, a hand-wound caliber featuring Jaquet Droz’s contemporary signature, and an offset dial.
The time-telling part of the dial is black onyx, with the background being hand-carved and painted mother of pearl, along with the birds being hand carved and painted as well.
The Jaquet Droz Bird Repeater is a remarkable combination of engineering, creativity, and craftsmanship. Offering something unique to the brand, it would be a stand-out piece in any collection. The Jaquet Droz Bird Repeater retails for 508,600 USD.
Largely considered one of the best living watchmakers, Francois Paul Journe has created some of the best contemporary masterpieces in horology. While watches like the Chronometre Bleu get a great deal of attention from collectors, it does not come close to representing what the brand is capable of.
The F.P. Journe Astronomic Souveraine contains a tourbillon with remontoir d’égalité, a minute repeater, sidereal hours and minutes, a 2nd timezone, a moon phase indicator, an annual calendar, an equation of time, a sunrise and sunset indication, a dead-beat second, and all settings are set via the crown.
The last is particularly notable, as many complicated watches similar to the Astronomic Souveraine utilize pushers in the side of the case to adjust the complications. Additionally, to enhance the sound of the minute repeater, the 44mm wide case is made of stainless steel, chosen for its quality of sound compared to precious metals.
The retail price of the F.P. Journe Astronomic Souveraine in 2019, upon original release, was 889,000 CHF.
14. Christopher Ward C1 Bel Canto
The focus on chiming watches in general at the beginning of the article comes into play with the Christopher Ward C1 Bel Canto. Released in two 300-piece limited editions in blue and green, the 41mm titanium-cased Bel Canto features a Sonnerie au Passage complication, meaning the watch chimes every hour at the top of the hour.
Christopher Ward accomplished this by using their own jump-hour module on top of a Sellita SW200-1. The chiming components of the watch can be seen on the dial side of the watch, with the hammer at the bottom of the dial, and the gong running around the periphery.
Priced at 3,595 USD on a strap or 3,975 USD on a bracelet, the Christopher Ward C1 Bel Canto offers a great entry point into mechanical chiming complications. It is definitely the most affordable watch on this list, and it may be even more mesmerizing to consider it is around the same price as a Tudor Black Bay. Since the original release, other dial colors have been released as part of Christopher Ward’s current collection.
Should the function of a minute repeater, along with many other complications, appear to be immediately practical, but durability and affordability are of concern, then the Breitling Aerospace Evo may fit the bill.
The Aerospace was originally released in 1985 and features a mixed analog and digital display. The main time telling is done via the hours and minutes hands on the dial, while the additional functions are displayed via the digital screens.
While many may disregard this watch as it does run off of the Breitling Quartz Caliber 79, this SuperQuartz movement is thermocompensated, contains a 1/100th of a second chronograph, 4-year calendar, countdown timers, 2nd timezone, alarm, and minute repeater. The 43mm wide case is made of titanium and is water-resistant to 100 meters. It also has a unidirectional bezel to cover additional timing needs.
For the right enthusiasts, the Breitling Aerospace Evo offers a great deal of value. While maybe not a mechanical marvel in the same way as some of the other watches featured, it does have its own charms and feats of engineering. The Aerospace Evo on a titanium bracelet currently retails for 4,450 USD.
Chiming watches are truly mechanical wonders. Even though they have always been intended for the most affluent of clients, there are aspects that all watch enthusiasts can appreciate. The engineering and craftsmanship needed to execute a chiming watch well require watchmakers at the top of their craft.
Fortunately, there are a few companies that occasionally come up with a way to make a chiming watch slightly more democratic in terms of pricing, allowing for a few more enthusiasts to appreciate the delight of chiming watches, even if they are redundant in modern society.
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