Minute Repeaters

Every day at 12:59 a.m. and 12:59 p.m., a Breguet watch will chime 32 times. At those moments, you might want to bring your watch up to your ear so that you can fully appreciate that soft, unique music.

Of course, these sounds don’t just happen. Rather, they’re the result of expert and painstaking work ― a true labor of love.

Breguet’s workshops are located in Switzerland’s gorgeous Vallée de Joux, which is surrounded by the Jura Mountains and famous for being the home of the most complex types of watchmaking on Earth. Since 2003, these headquarters have undergone four separate and extensive expansions, and today, they’re state-of-the-art in every way.

Let’s examine a few of the intricate procedures that take place every day at these Swiss watchmaking shops. For one, the company’s craftspeople carefully test the gongs of every watch and adjust them as necessary. The minute and hour sounds must be in harmony, which typically requires multiple alterations.

The watchmaker first listens to the sounds of the gongs at his or her desk. Afterward, this specialist will go into an anti-echo sound chamber and concentrate on the gongs from a distance of 20 centimeters. That way, he or she can ensure that the sounds are precisely correct. This chamber is entirely free of noise; “silence chamber” might be a more appropriate name for it. Thus, it can really isolate the enchanting tinkling of the gongs.

Returning to the bench, the watchmaker can make subtle adjustments to the minute repeater to render the sounds perfect. If need be, this craftsperson will remove the gongs entirely so that they can be fine-tuned. That process could involve filing or shortening the gongs. Afterward, he or she will return to the sound chamber to test the repeater yet again.

The sound is just one special aspect of these watches. Another is the tourbillon. In 1801, the founder of the company patented the first tourbillon, coining its name in the process. In essence, it’s a mechanism that keeps the balance wheel and the escapement in constant and extremely slow motion.

At one time, tourbillons made watches more accurate. Today, they make watches more astounding. They’re highly ornate and wondrous to behold. The company now offers 11 tourbillon models. Among them is one that winds automatically and is only 3 millimeters thick. Equally impressive is the Tourbillon Messidor, which seems as though it’s floating in midair, held in place by magic.

Putting a tourbillon together is a meticulous operation. Consider how the La Tradition Tourbillon is constructed. This mechanism includes a fusee, which is a kind of pulley, and a silent magnetic regulator, which uses the power of magnetism to control the watch’s sounds. It happens to be the world’s most precise watch regulator.

For their part, the hammers of a La Tradition Tourbillon watch move vertically and strike the gongs from below, which amplifies the sound. Another important element of this watch is the fine, delicate chain that winds its way around the barrel. The watch contains a blocking apparatus that ensures that this chain cannot be wound too tightly; therefore, this system keeps the chain from breaking.

In addition, the brand uses the same metal for its watches’ cases and gongs. Thus, if a case is made of red gold, the watch contains red gold gongs. Similarly, if the case is made of white gold, the watch’s gongs will also be white gold.

Other important parts of these watches are a titanium balance wheel with a silicium spiral, a bridge that’s finished by hand, and a series of screws that are almost unimaginably small. Plus, the screwdrivers that this manufacturer employs are carefully calibrated. Consequently, they can tighten each screw to the exact degree that’s required.

Further, to complete one of these exquisite products, a watchmaker must construct a titanium cage for the tourbillon. These cages resemble the cage that the company’s founder patented in 1801.

In the end, what Breguet strives to achieve is balance. In mechanical terms, all of the minuscule elements of its watches must be in perfect harmony with one another. On top of that, the brand is able to achieve a striking balance between time-honored techniques and cutting-edge systems. Its team members take great pride in Breguet’s storied past and in the processes that have been passed down from generation to generation. At the same time, they continually adopt high-tech methods and technological wizardry that make Breguet’s watches even more sophisticated and beautiful.

 

About IBG Worldwide

IBG Worldwide is a video platform dedicated to demonstrating how the finest timepieces are made. It hosts documentaries that educate collectors in the many techniques used in the creation of sophisticated mechanical watches.

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