The Sound Of Times: Understanding Chiming Watches
In the world of watches, there is a singular category that is arguably the most beautiful and mesmerizing of all watchmaking feats: the chiming watch. Generally referred to as minute repeaters, repeaters or sonneries, a chiming watch is one that melodiously sounds the time on demand.
Chiming watches are quite rare due to the unique nature of their craftsmanship. The timepieces utilize a series of hammers and gongs that chime the time with the push of a slide or button, by hammering against a metal gong.
There are several different types of the acoustical beauties. Repeater watches generally sound the time by striking the hours, the quarter hours and the minutes on demand. Sonneries also chime the time in a similar manner, but often do so automatically on the hour (although one can "silence" the automatic sounding). There are also special derivatives of these, including watches that chime in 10-minute increments and watches that incorporate automatons (moving figures on the dial) that move with each striking note. Some brands even offer multiple melodies with Westminster chimes – a special melody that mimes the tones of London's Big Ben.
Chiming watches and repeaters have roots dating back to the 1700s, when people used them to tell time after dark without having to light candles or oil lamps. Still, to date, they remain one of the most coveted top-tier timepieces that can be built. Today, much research goes into making the sound of the watch ever louder and more beautiful via materials of the gong or case, shape of the hammers — and more — to perfect the pitch.
While certain luxury brands specialize in the creation of minute repeaters, some brands only develop a single minute repeater (usually in limited numbers) just to prove they have the ability to make the complex beauty.