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Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime Ref. 5175
The sound of history

To pay tribute to its 175th anniversary, Patek Philippe created a collection of limited-edition commemorative timepieces, and one of them stands out in particular. It is the so far most complicated wristwatch of the eminent family-owned watchmaking companies and decidedly one of the world's most elaborate wristwatches. This is due not only to the number of complications involved but also to the horological degrees of complexity, two of which have been added to the annals of watchmaking for the first time. Moreover, the Grandmaster Chime is the first double-face wristwatch presented by Patek Philippe that can be worn with either dial facing up: the one that focuses on the time and the sonnerie, the other dedicated to the full instantaneous perpetual calendar. Changing the face is very simple thanks to the ingenious reversing mechanism in the lugs. It is amazingly easy to operate and firmly secures the case in the selected position. Incidentally, the information for which a watch is most frequently consulted – the current time and the date – is displayed on both dials. The ultimate in user-friendliness and safety is assured with intelligent mechanisms that prevent potentially damaging manipulations and thus reliably protect the highly complex movement with its intricate cosmos of tiny parts.

Patek Philippe's Grandmaster Chime is a wrist-format timekeeping instrument of absolutely unprecedented complexity and ingenuity that establishes new benchmarks in terms of technical and aesthetic elegance. Its double-face case with a diameter of 47 mm, it accommodates four spring barrels and no fewer than 20 complications, including coveted functions such as a Grande and Petite Sonnerie, a minute repeater, an instantaneous perpetual calendar with a four-digit year display, a second time zone, and two patented global debuts in the domain of chiming watches: an acoustic alarm that strikes the alarm time and a date repeater that sounds the date on demand.
 
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Leading up to Patek Philippe’s 175th anniversary, speculation and anticipation were running wild in watch enthusiast circles around the globe. And the recurring theme rising to the forefront of the collective Patek devotee’s imagination was that of a grande sonnerie. A grande sonnerie is a watch that features a minute repeater but is also able to strike the time in passing. In grande sonnerie mode, it strikes the hours and the quarters at each quarter; and in petite sonnerie mode, it strikes just the quarters. In both modes, it strikes the hours upon the hours.

This type of watch has been notably absent from Patek Philippe’s repertoire of horological achievements — an absence that is particularly conspicuous since the brand is often considered to make the world’s best-sounding striking watches. Behold, just launched for Patek’s anniversary, the reference 5171 — a grande sonnerie watch that surpassed even our loftiest expectations, in terms of the sheer imaginativeness, functionalism and beauty of its execution, and is moreover in a single watch a combination of all major striking complications as well as an unprecedented date striking complication –all in a reversible case allowing either the ‘time side’ or ‘calendar side’ displays to be shown at will.

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Before you get all excited, hang on, because Patek is producing only six of these with a seventh for their museum — each pegged with the price tag of CHF 2.5 million. And in all likelihood, they will only go to the most significant Patek collectors on the planet.



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So what’s so amazing about this grande sonnerie? First of all it features three gongs and three hammers and strikes the quarters on a beautiful combination of three notes, creating a thrilling sonic aria that alternates with each quarter. Grande, petite or silent mode is selected with a switch integrated into the left side of the case. The two other pushers on the left side operate the watch’s second time zone, while the aperture next to the central pinion turns from blue to white to delineate day or night hours in the second time zone.


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One of the greatest innovations relates to its striking alarm function. The main subdial at 12 o’clock displays the alarm hours in 24-hour format, segmented in between each hour into quarters. By pushing the crown at 2 o’clock, you arm the alarm. This will cause the small bell shaped aperture inside the subdial to turn red. The alarm will actually sound two minutes before the prescribed time. So if it’s 1 o’clock that you’ve set the watch to, the alarm will strike 12 times for the hours, three sets of 3 notes for the quarters and then 13 more times for the minutes to signal it’s 12:58 — all in all, a combination of 33 strikes. Says Philip Barat, Patek Philippe’s product guru, “We decided that if it just struck one time at 1 o’clock, this would probably not wake you up. The least amount of strikes that the alarm can strike is when the watch signals it’s 1: 15, in which case it will strike one time for the hours and 13 times for the minutes —which should still wake you up!”



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Caliber GS AL 36-750 QIS FUS IRM

When in alarm mode, the alarm takes precedence over all over striking functions, which are blocked. To release it, you pull the crown. The crown has three positions: the first is for winding (one direction for the two barrels for the movement, and the other direction for the two sonnerie barrels with 30 hours of power reserve in grand sonnerie mode). The second position is for the alarm setting and the third position is for the time. Barat also points out that all strike functions are isolated so that if the grande sonnerie mode is ringing and you push the minute repeater — normally a recipe for disaster in a lesser watch — here, immediately after the sonnerie strike is over, the repeater strike will happen. A small aperture on the top right of the watch turns red when your sonnerie power supply is on the wane, though with 30 hours of reserve even in grande sonnerie mode the watch has a greater power reserve than two iPhones put together.



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But perhaps the most notable feature of the watch is the date-striking complication –yes, the Grandmaster Chime strikes the date as well, with the repeater train taking date info from the perpetual calendar train. The technical aspects of this function are the subject of a patent granted to Patek Philippe. Activate the pusher at 4 o’clock and the date is sounded in a combination of low-high coupled strikes (as opposed to the high-low strike that usually marks the quarters in minute repeaters) for the digit in the tens position, followed by consecutive single strikes indicating the digit in the units position of the date. In order to link the date to the perpetual calendar, the movement –Patek Philippe calibre GS AL 36-750 QIS FUS IRM –is fitted with a snail-and-rack system for transmitting the information from the calendar system to the repeating mechanism, in addition to the snail-and-rack system from which the repeater mechanism “reads” the time.


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If all this isn’t enough, the watch is double faced and features a case that can actually swivel in its lugs and show off its stunning perpetual calendar second dial (with quickset back and forth adjust function for the year that is linked with the leap year indication) selected by Philippe Stern and based on a museum watch dating to 1915. As the alarm function was completely the desire of Thierry Stern, this one watch is also the living repository of the two great Stern men involved in this magnificent creation designed to showcase 175 years of accumulated mastery in the very highest levels of the art of watchmaking.




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The Patek Phillipe Grandmaster Chime 175th Anniversary Perpetual Date Repeater, Grand et Petite Sonnerie with Minute Repeater and Alarm, presented by Philippe and Thierry Stern

Movement: Caliber GS AL 36-750 QIS FUS IRM.

Manually wound mechanical movement, 20 complications, chiming mechanism with 3 gongs and 5 different time strikes (Grande and Petite Sonnerie, minute repeater, alarm with time strike, date repeater); second time zone with day/night indicator; instantaneous perpetual calendar (date on both sides, day of week, month, leap-year cycle, four-digit year display, 24-hour and minute subdial, moon phases, strikework mode display, strikework isolator display, alarm ON/OFF, crown position indicator, and power reserve indicators for the movement and the strikework

Functions: 3-position crown
• Pushed home: To wind the movement clockwise; to wind the strikework counterclockwise
• Pulled halfway out: To set the alarm time
• Pulled all the way out: To set the time

• Strikework mode selector at 9 o’clock

Case: Round, with patented reversing mechanism on the axis from 12 to 6 o’clock, 18K rose gold, 214 parts, sapphire crystals on both sides, protected against dust and moisture, not water-resistant Laurel wreath motif on bezel, caseband and lugs relief-engraved by hand, hand-engraved function inscriptions and symbols on caseband and pushers

Time side dial: 18K gold, silvery white opaline, center with radially undulated guilloché pattern, applied 18K gold Roman numerals,local time hour and minute hands in black nickel-plated 18K white gold, hour hand for second time zone in 18K rose gold Hands for alarm time, movement and strikework power-reserve indicators, strikework mode and crown position in 18K rose gold

Calendar side dial: 18K gold, silvery white opaline, center with polished gold frame for the four-digit year display. Subsidiary dials for the 24-hour display, day, month, date, and leap-year cycle with black printed scales and black nickel-plated steel hands

Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime Ref. 5175 Patents and innovations

Patent: Alarm mechanism with time strike
Mechanism that acoustically indicates a preset alarm time with hour, quarter-hour, and minute strikes using the chiming mechanism of the minute repeater.

Patent: Isolation of the Grande Sonnerie in the Silence mode
Mechanism that totally uncouples the Grande Sonnerie from the movement when the Silence mode is selected, eliminating friction and thus power consumption.

dPatent: Selection of strikework operating mode
Mechanism that allows the automatic time strike to be selected or disabled with a single slide switch: Grande Sonnerie, Petite Sonnerie or Silence. Formerly, two separate switches were needed to make these settings.

Patent: Date repeater
Mechanism that obtains date information from the perpetual calendar and forwards it to the repeating mechanism. Manufacture president Thierry Stern is the inventor.

Patent: Reversible wristwatch case
Wristwatch case with rotating and latching devices in the lugs, allowing it to be turned along the axis from 12 to 6 o’clock and locked in either of 2 positions.

Patent: Mechanism for a four-digit year display
Mechanism that automatically synchronizes the four-digit year display with the leap-year cycle and allows convenient correction of both displays in either direction.

Innovation: The strikework differential
An innovative masterpiece of micromechanical engineering (not patented): the differential between the strikework double barrels and the two strikework mechanisms for the Grande Sonnerie (incl. minute repeater and alarm) and the date repeater.
It has a diameter of 7.2 mm and consists of 19 separate parts, one of which is an 11-part ball bearing with 7 balls with a diameter of 0.3 mm each. Despite its small size, it is robust enough to transmit the torque of the strikework barrels which exceeds 1700 gmm.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
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Twenty Complications

I could walk you through each of the 20 complications, one by one, explaining how they integrate, and how the displays work together, but then you’d still be reading as the 200th anniversary watch is announced. Instead, a list: (deep breath)

Grande Sonnerie
Petite Sonnerie
Minute repeater
Strikework mode display (Silence/Grand Sonnerie/Petite Sonnerie)
Alarm with time strike
Date repeater
Movement power-reserve indicator
Strikework power-reserve indicator
Strikework isolator display
Second time zone
Second time zone day/night indicator
Instantaneous perpetual calendar
Day-of-week display
Month display
Date display (on both dials)
Leap year cycle
Four-digit year display
24-hour and minute subdial
Moon phase
Crown position indicator



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Watch Layout

Alright, uncross those eyes, and I’ll do a little explaining.

The two dials are roughly divided between the time-telling side on the front and the calendar side on the back. The front has the alarm setting dial up top and the date and moonphase down at 6 o’clock. On the left is the power reserve for the movement, and on the right the power reserve for the sonnerie. Turning the watch over, you have (moving clockwise from 12 o’clock) the second timezone display, the month, the date and leap year cycle, the day of the week, and, in the center, the year.

The Calibre 300 movement has 1,366 parts and holds six different patents for new mechanisms. Included in these two patents are a repeater that will chime out the date on command and an alarm that rings out the time instead of only a standard tone. Just the movement is 37mm across and 10.7mm high -- larger than some of Patek’s watches.


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Discussion Starter #6
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Limited to seven pieces, one of which will reside in the Patek Philippe Museum, the Grandmaster Chime Ref. 5175 is priced at 2.5 million Swiss francs, equivalent to about US$2.63 million.
 
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