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Movements and Complications

Minute Repeaters and More: A Guide to Chiming Watches

Discover the magic and mechanics behind chiming watches.

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Few watches are as captivating as chiming watches. These watches, also called striking watches, chime the time on demand or as the hours pass using gongs (hammers) in the movement. These complicated movements contain hundreds of components, and it can take up to 300 hours for a highly trained watchmaker to assemble the movement. Creating loud, clear sound is also a challenge for watchmakers, as the cases naturally muffle the chimes within. Only the best luxury watch brands can make chiming watches, and only their best watchmakers are qualified to assemble them. 

What Are the Different Types of Chiming Watches?

The main types of chiming watches are alarm, minute repeater, grande sonnerie, and petite sonnerie watches. 

Alarm Watches

True to their name, alarm watches have an alarm function. You can set the alarm, and it will chime at the designated time. 

Minute Repeaters

A minute repeater chimes the time down the minute using two gongs with different tones: one low, one high. First, the minute repeater chimes the hour using low tones, then the quarter hours using a combination of low and high tones, and, finally, the minutes using high tones. For example, 12:49 would chime as 12 low tones, three alternating low and high tones, and nine high tones. You can activate the minute repeater on demand with a slide or a button integrated into the case. There are 1,440 minutes every day, so these watches are programmed to play 720 different sequences on demand, one for each minute in the 12-hour period shown on the watch.

Grande Sonnerie

Like a bell tower or a grandfather clock, a grande sonnerie strikes the number of hours every full hour, and also strikes the quarter hour along with the hour automatically. It requires a huge amount of energy to chime that many times a day, so they are impressive and complicated movements. They typically have two mainspring barrels — one for the time, one for the striking — that have different levels of power reserve. These watches also have silent modes so that you don’t have chimes interrupting you every 15 minutes. Most brands combine grandes sonneries with minute repeaters so you can also chime the time on demand. 

Petite Sonnerie

A petite sonnerie chimes the hour and quarter hours but does not chime both at the same time like a grande sonnerie. It chimes only the hours on the hour, and only the quarter hour on the quarter hour. 

Patek Philippe Ref. 7040

Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Minute Repeater Ultra-thin

A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Striking Time

Breguet Classique 5447

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Minute Repeater Supersonnerie

H. Moser & Cie. Endeavour Concept Minute Repeater

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Memovox Timer

Bulgari Divas’ Dream Divina Mosaica

Chopard L.U.C Full Strike

Jaquet Droz Bird Repeater

Girard-Perregaux Minute Repeater Tourbillon with Bridges

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