Much like every great invention, the minute repeater was born of necessity. This most revered and beguiling of horological complications was invented, long before mankind enjoyed the convenience of electricity, in order to solve an apparently simple yet long-standing conundrum: how to tell the time in the dark.
The striking mechanism is the oldest complication of all and, as early as the 15th century, certain pocket watches were capable of sounding the hours in passing, with quarter repeating mechanisms that were able to signal the hours and quarters on demand appearing almost 200 years later. Such watches, endowed with a mechanical 'memory,' are now seen as the greatest demonstration of horological mastery and the exclusive preserve of a very few movement manufacturers.
Ever since its founding in 1875, Audemars Piguet has embraced the art of the minute repeater and it has long been regarded as a significant part of the company's heritage as a maker of both pocket watches and of wrist watches. As time went by, it added other complications, such as a perpetual calendar, a chronograph and, in 1885, power reserve indication.
This wealth of experience enabled the company to make the first minute repeater wristwatch in 1892, a masterpiece of miniaturisation that came to be regarded as central to the brand's make up. As a result, Audemars Piguet became one of the first manufacturers to revive the art of the minute repeater in the late 1980s after it had been overlooked for decades.
What is therefore a long-standing tradition is now continued in the new Millenary Minute Repeater in rose gold, presented for the first time at the inaugural Watches & Wonders salon in Hong Kong. An exceptional, hand-wound wristwatch with an oval case and three-dimensional architecture that complements a refined and sophisticated movement highlighted by Audemars Piguet's own escapement, double balance spring, striking mechanism and gongs. The result is a visual and aural delight.
The latest in the line
The new Millenary Minute Repeater in rose gold perpetuates a line of complicated Audemars Piguet wristwatches which includes such exceptional pieces as the Tradition d'Excellence No. 5, the MC12, the Deadbeat seconds and the Carbon One. Cased in pink gold the watch features hours, minutes, seconds and minute repeater functions together with a specifically developed winding system making it - like its illustrious forebears - an exquisite blend of technical sophisticaton, innovative materials and watch making savoir faire.
Its distinctively-shaped case provides an instantly recognisable setting for the eye-catching, gold with enamel subdials which beg closer inspection of the remarkable mechanism within.
What the viewer discovers is that Audemars Piguet's watch makers have blended the long standing tradition of minute repeater construction with the manufacture's very latest technical breakthroughs, not least of which is the AP escapement.
Vital to the smooth running of a watch, the escapement serves to transmit the energy from the barrel to the movement in a perfectly smooth and linear way. Inspired by the work of French, 18th century clock maker Robert Robin, Audemars Piguet's invention combines the high efficiency of a direct impulse escapement with the reliability of a traditional, Swiss lever escapement.
In blending the two, the watch makers at Le Brassus have succeeded in reducing energy losses and in eliminating the need to lubricate the pallet stones - groundbreaking technical advances which have enhanced rating accuracy, long-term stability and shock resistance.
Entirely conceived, developed and produced by Audemars Piguet, the new hand-wound calibre which drives the Millenary Minute Repeater is further distinguished by the atypical construction of the regulating organ which is composed not just of one balance spring, but of two placed top to tail.
This flat, opposite-facing double spring system offers numerous advantages: it ensures automatic compensation for potential poising flaws; it eliminates the need for the 'overcoil' terminal curves of so-called Breguet-type balance springs (which are notoriously difficult to make) and it does away with the imprecision resulting from the vertical position of the watch without needing to resort to a complex device such as a tourbillon.
All of these features serve to ensure finer adjustment of the balance spring assembly, which oscillates at 21,600 vibrations per hour. The two movement barrels, meanwhile, guarantee an exceptional seven days power reserve and a third barrel, dedicated to the striking mechanism, is two-and-a-half times larger than normal, thereby enhancing the regularity of the note.
Finally, in terms of security, the Millenary Minute Repeater is equipped with a balance-stop system designed to ensure time setting accurate to the nearest second. The new winding system also incorporates a security device that prevents time setting while the striking mechanism is in operation in order to avoid any potential risk of damage.
Dynamic three-dimensional architecture.
Such an exceptional mechanism deserves, of course, to be further enhanced by equally excellent finishing. The oval-shaped Millenary case is made from brushed pink gold and topped with a polished pink gold bezel.
The positioning of the gold with white enamel hours and minutes dial, offset at three o'clock, and the small seconds at seven o'clock allow the major movement components to be clearly seen, revealing a wealth of hand-bevelled edges and interior angles as well as the overall anthracite-coloured, galvanic treatment. Note, too, the beautifully 'blued' gong of the minute repeater which is visible from the top as it curves elegantly around the circumference of the case.
This exceptional level of detail can be admired from both sides of the watch thanks to the transparent case back, allowing two distinct views of the Millenary Minute Repeater's truly dynamic three-dimensional architecture.
The contribution made by this watch to Audemars Piguet's long history of minute repeater craftsmanship is, indeed, decisive - not least, perhaps, because it brings 21st century craftsmanship to a centuries-old complication.
Ref. : 26371OR.OO.D803CR.01
- Manufacture Audemars Piguet Calibre 2928
- Offset hours/minutes at 3 o’clock, offset seconds at 7 o’clock
- Three-position winding crown
- Repeater slide serving to activate the minute repeater at 9 o’clock
- Movement dimensions (width/length): 37.90 x 32.90 mm
- Thickness: 10.05 mm
- Direct-impulse AP escapement
- Variable-inertia balance fitted with inertia-blocks
- Flat double balance-spring
- 165-hour power reserve
- Frequency: 21,600 vph (3 Hz)
- 443 parts
- 40 jewels
- Finishing: all parts finely decorated, with hand-polished bevelling, interior angles, snailing, hand-drawn file strokes, horizontal Côtes de Genève and circular graining on the mainplate
- 18-carat pink gold oval case
- Case dimensions (width/length): 47 x 42 mm
- Thickness: 15.79 mm
- Sapphire crystal caseback
- Non water-resistant
- White enamel dial, black roman numerals, white enamel small seconds subdial
- Hand-sewn brown crocodile leather with large square scales, secured by an AP folding clasp in 18-carat pink gold
- Hours, minutes, small seconds, minute repeater