A low-pitched bell for each hour. Two medium-pitched bells for each quarter-hour and a single, higher-pitched bell for each minute of the final quarter hour. These are the crystalline sounds that ring out on demand, at the heart of Audemars Piguet timepieces.
This highly complicated mechanism was created by Dominique Burdet’s team in the Grand Complications Workshop at the Manufacture in Brassus. “We produce the Jules Audemars and Royal Oak minute repeaters, as well as a pocket model. Each watch requires between 700 and 1,000 hours of work, which means we rarely make more than three per year and per watchmaker,” says master watchmaker Burdet, who has worked for the brand in the Vallée de Joux for almost 20 years.
The movement parts are delivered unfinished, then polished and assembled one by one. The slightest error would have repercussions on the melody of time. “To create a beautiful sound, you need a lot of experience and expertise. The watch is patiently tuned, like a musical instrument, and must always strike the correct number of times. To accomplish this you must arm the movement with enough force to power a spring that operates the hour, the quarter-hours, the half-hour and the minutes that follow,” he explains.
For the past few years, the interest of collectors and enthusiasts in this type of model has grown, particularly for the pocket watch which now has a waiting list. “Owners regularly visit our workshop. They love to tell us about their relationship with their minute repeater, the pleasure they get from hearing it ring and from surprising their family and friends with it,” Burdet says with a smile.