One of the most revered watch brands in the world, Patek Philippe is beloved for its innumerous technical triumphs over the course of watchmaking history.
During the Watch Art Grand Exhibition held in 2019 in Singapore, visitors from across the region bore witness to the brand’s precious museum pieces and extraordinary creations. 2020 was a year Patek Philippe reasserted its authority yet again with a slew of high complications. The Ref. 5303R-001 Minute Repeater, Ref. 5370P-011 Split-Seconds Chronograph and Ref. 5270J-001 Perpetual Calendar Chronograph were all exceptional watches in their respective domain.
Saving the best for last, Patek Philippe unveiled the Ref. 6301P Grande Sonnerie separately in November. The significance of which is that the grand complication is the manufacture’s first grande sonnerie wristwatch in its purest form – focusing solely on acoustics. And while a grande sonnerie strikes the full hours and quarter hours automatically, the Ref. 6301P Grande Sonnerie is further complemented with a petite sonnerie (no striking of the quarter hours) and a minute repeater (striking on demand). All these mechanisms culminate in a watch that is exceedingly complex.
“For the case, this new Ref. 6301 in platinum adopts the design vocabulary of the Ref. 5370 with countersunk, satin-finished flanks, and cabochons at the lungs. The movement of this Ref. 6301 is a modification of the calibre for the Grandmaster Chime with dials on both sides. Therefore, the calibre can also be seen from the bridge side,” says head of watch development Philip Barat.
The foundation of the Ref. 6301 was laid in 2014. The momentous year saw Patek Philippe unveil the Grandmaster Chime Ref. 5175 composed of five distinctive strike works: grande sonnerie, petite sonnerie, minute repeater, alarm and date repeater. It was one of the most intricate wristwatches ever assembled by Patek Philippe, as well as the brand’s first-ever grande sonnerie wristwatch.
According to Barat, they wanted to perpetuate the complications of the Grandmaster Chime by proposing a grande sonnerie.
Apart from the customary hour and minute hands, the Ref. 6301 features patented jumping seconds – meaning the seconds hand doesn’t glide like that of a common mechanical watch but ticks once every second. “This is a special feature,” Barat continues, “the mechanism was derived from the Ref. 5275 Chiming Jump Hour that we also presented in 2014, to celebrate the 175th anniversary (of Patek Philippe).”
Due to the nature of the watch, two power reserve indicators are fitted onto the Ref. 6301 – one at 9 o’clock for the going train with 72 hours, the other at 3 o’clock for the strike work with 24 hours. To simplify the experience of wearing the watch, the Ref. 6301 is equipped with a two-position crown. In position zero, turning clockwise the crown winds the going train barrel, while the anti-clockwise motion winds the strike work. Pulling the crown into position one helps adjust the hands.
“As in the Grandmaster Chime, the pusher that triggers the minute repeater is integrated in the crown. We see the selector switch for the strike work at 6 o’clock. On the left, it selects the petite sonnerie mode. In the middle, the petite sonnerie; and on the right, the silence mode,” explains Barat.
“For this functionality, we use the two patented selection slide mechanisms of the Grandmaster Chime with a single slide switch that allows the selection of the three strike work modes, and in the silence mode, uncouples the strike work from the going train, which totally eliminates unnecessary power consumption.”
At the heart of the watch is the manual-wound GS 36-750 PS IRM calibre derived from the calibre 300 used in the Grandmaster Chime. Convoluted is an understatement when describing the movement. Counting 703 parts, the movement somehow remains relatively thin at 7.5mm and only 37mm in width. Faithful to tradition, the movement is finished superbly. Each part however miniscule is artfully conceived.
“Particular attention was paid to the design of the bridges, as evidenced by the balance curvatures, the many acute re-entrantangles, and the balance bridge for technical and aesthetic reasons has two attachment points. The bridge in the form of a Calatrava Cross, which ordinarily protects the centrifugal governor of the minute repeater now holds the fusee – the motor of the grande sonnerie, so to speak. The engravings on the wheels are gold plated, while the bridges and rhodium are finished with Geneva striping,” says Barat.
“A sapphire crystal reveals the entire movement, including the ballet of the three striking hammers and the centrifugal governor. Now we can appreciate the acceleration and deceleration of the centrifugal governor, which regulates the speed of the strike work.”
As a bonus, the watch is also delivered with an interchangeable solid caseback. Although the uniqueness of the watch lies with its range of strike work, the dial leverages Patek Philippe’s expertise in artisanship and rare handcrafts. In grand feu black enamel with glazed finish, the dial is decorated with applied Breguet numerals and white gold leaf- shaped hands in white gold, with luminescent coating.
“Like all platinum models by Patek Philippe, a diamond adorns the case band. This Ref. 6301 has one at 12 o’clock as an exception,” says Barat, pointing out that the usual position for the diamond at 6 o’clock has been to be moved to accommodate the strike mode selector.
Now comes the all-important question: Is the Ref. 6301 a limited edition? The answer is no, but that tells only half the story.
“The grande sonnerie mechanism is the most difficult to master,” insists Barat. “The watchmaker assembles the entire movement, regulates it and chooses the sound. Finally, the watchmaker controls the movement and encases it.”
Leading up to the launch, a special workshop had to be created to prepare watchmakers for the production. Before they are deemed qualified, they must have had several years of production experience, as well as in the minute repeater workshop.
“We are talking about five years minimum. This is followed by about six months of training to master the assembly of the movement and the casing process. It takes several years for the watchmaker to be able to work independently on this movement,” says Barat.
“This is not enough to be a good watchmaker; total immersion is needed to understand its entire finesse and complexity, and to
assure its optimum dependability.”
(All images: Patek Philippe)
This story first appeared in Prestige Malaysia’s January 2021 issue. To read our January 2021 issue, pick up a copy from the nearest newsstand or subscribe on Magzter.