The Renaissance Tourbillon Minute Repeater by Peter Speake-Marin
For most of the past decade the watch industry has been entranced by the tourbillon’s hypnotic revolutions, with brands spinning out the cagey little complication in ever greater numbers and more ingenious ways.
But recently watchmakers have broken free of the spell, shifting their attention from the visual fascination of the tourbillon to the tuneful appeal of the minute repeater.
Minute repeater clocks and pocket watches were invented in the mid-18th century, before the advent of electric lighting. Their practical function at that time was their ability, though chiming gongs, to sound the hours, quarter hours and minutes in separate tones, enabling people to tell the time even in the middle of a pitch black night.
The Reverso Répétition Minutes à Rideau by Jaeger-LeCoultre
Over the past year, close to two dozen new minute repeater models have been introduced in the luxury wristwatch market, by brands as diverse in style and heritage as Bulgari, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Louis Vuitton, Audemars Piguet, Speake-Marin, Van Cleef & Arpels, Breguet, Patek Philippe, Cartier, Hublot, Ulysse Nardin, Girard-Perregaux and Parmigiani Fleurier.
The number of new minute repeaters on the market is staggering, considering that there is no real need for them in the modern world. But that irrelevance — the sense of belonging to another world — is part of their appeal.
“There is a true fascination in being able to hear the time, it harks back to another lifetime,” Peter Speake-Marin, an independent watchmaker, said by e-mail ahead of the introduction of his first venture into the genre, the Renaissance Tourbillon Minute Repeater, at Baselworld this week. “When it is visible, to see the levers, cams and springs moving, it is a thing of curious beauty,” he added.
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