BaselWorld 2018: Laurent Ferrier Hits a High Note with the Minute Repeater

BaselWorld 2018: Laurent Ferrier Hits a High Note with the Minute Repeater

March 23, 2018

Laurent Ferrier continues living his watchmaking dream: that of reinterpreting traditional fine watchmaking classics while adding a resolutely modern personal touch. For his new caliber, Laurent Ferrier decided to address the minute repeater.

Representing the ultimate horological complication, the minute repeater provides a wealth of inspiration, especially given the importance devoted to every detail of its construction.

Since the wearer experience is the priority for Laurent Ferrier, pleasing acoustics was the first element taken into consideration. To ensure the sound would be as beautifully rounded as possible, the case has been made of steel, a choice of material accentuating the chime and endowing it with a clear, light tone. So as to prolong the listening pleasure, the chime lasts 17 seconds for the longest indications. Well-modulated spacing of the hours, quarters and minutes chimes is another key characteristic of this model, of which just five will be produced over the two next years.

The striking mechanism is activated by a sliding bolt built into the left side of the case-middle. Tiny hammers strike a two-pitched gong to sound the hours, quarters and minutes.

A minute repeater watch strikes on demand a low-pitched note for each hour, a double high- and low-pitched note for the quarters, and a high-pitched note for every minute that has elapsed since the last quarter. For example, if the time is 11:59 the minute repeater will sound 11 low tones representing 11 hours, three sequence tones representing 45 minutes and 14 high tones representing 14 minutes after 45 minutes. The time is struck by small steel hammers on differently tuned gongs – steel coils curving in a circular shape around the movement.

When designing the striking mechanism, the weight and the position of each hammer must be perfectly adapted to the corresponding gong. The adjustment of the hammer position and the gongs by the master watchmaker is extremely important. The note is calibrated using a xylophone: D sharp for the hours, F sharp for the minutes, together sounding a major third interval. The minute repeater is a particularly sophisticated mechanism as the watch hammers must be tuned like a musical instrument and the movement must also “know” at any given time how many notes it must strike.

Laurent Ferrier chose a very classically designed movement with a Swiss lever escapement and traditional materials for a complication whose originality lies in crystal clear sound and a long chiming sequence. It takes more than a month to assemble and adjust a minute Repeater made out of 300 parts. This process of attaching, striking, disassembling and resetting the springs can go on for days or even weeks. This manual winding caliber has an 80 hour power reserve.

For the composition of this new movement, Laurent Ferrier reprises its signature characteristics: a winding pawl with a long blade, a distinctively shaped balance-wheel, a Côtes de Genève motif as well as finely cut bridges. The note-shaped bridge on the inertia flywheel is a delightful nod to the function of the model. The classically shaped hammers with their stark outlines are aligned on a bridge featuring distinctive interior angles. The sapphire crystal caseback affords an admirable view of the finishing of the movement with its manually chamfered angles and polished screw heads.

The School Piece is once again in the spotlight with this new caliber. With this model, Laurent Ferrier’s wish was to develop a case graced with the same roundness as when pioneering watchmakers converted pocket watches into wristwatches. For the Galet Minute Repeater, Laurent Ferrier entirely adapted the 40mm School Piece case to ensure perfect harmony and balance between the movement and the timepiece. To ensure the best possible chime, the non-water-resistant steel edition is the only available version.

The gold Assegai hands and baton-type seconds hand retain their characteristic shape. Laurent Ferrier has treated the Galet Minute Repeater dial with a 6N red gold color, featuring copper glints thanks to the vertical satin-brushed finish that is a favorite with the maison. The silver-toned small seconds subdial at 6 o’clock is adorned with a snailed finish.

For an optimal listening experience, Laurent Ferrier recommends laying the minute repeater flat to provide a soundboard effect and enable the chiming mechanism to work its magic.