Watches are often passed down through generations as family heirlooms. An inherited watch may carry the memories and stories of previous generations, making it a symbol of family history and continuity of life. Some people associate watches with personal achievements or milestones. For example, receiving a watch upon graduation or promotion or reaching a significant life goal can create a strong emotional connection with the timepiece. The craftsmanship and artistry of the watch also play a vital role in forging this attachment. Speaking of heritage and emotional bond, to celebrate the 85th birthday of Philippe Stern, Patek Philippe’s Honorary President, his son, Thierry Stern (of the fourth generation of the Stern family, appointed president in 2009) has created a special edition of 30 watches, called Minute Repeater Alarm (Ref. 1938P-001). It’s a complex model incorporating a newly developed movement, created solely for this piece and never to be used again.
The Stern family with Thierry Stern (President), Philippe Stern (Honorary President), and Claude Peny (CEO) has been the owners of Patek Philippe since 1932. While Philippe Stern has been involved with real estate projects and exceptional timekeeping instruments, such as Calibre 89, his son is committed to safeguarding Patek Philippe's technological leadership. Patek Philippe is indeed famous for its high-quality and complicated timepieces and the minute repeater is one of the complications for which the brand is highly respected. The new limited-edition timepiece comes in a 41 mm platinum case (with the classic diamond between the lugs at 6 o’clock), resembling converted pocket watches with straight lugs, adorned with screwed-in strap bars.
The dial of this watch gets an 18 ct gold base, covered in Grand Feu black enamel. It boasts applied Breguet hour markers, and hour and minute hands in 18ct white gold, while 18 ct rose gold is used for the 12-hour alarm hand. From 9 o’clock to 11 o’clock, the dial is decorated with a portrait of Philippe Stern — a Grand Feu white-and-grey miniature painting. Furthermore, the dial has a railway-track minute scale transfer-printed in white and a small seconds dial at 6 o’clock with a rose-gilt powdered quarter-hour scale for the alarm time.
The new movement has 227 components, which include a lever and a column wheel for the selection of the chiming mode, and a fusee device with a strike-work detent mechanism that temporarily disconnects the power source (the strike-work barrel drum) from the striking mechanism. The alarm function has been incorporated into the crown via a push button to select the chiming mode, which is displayed in a small bell-shaped aperture at 3 o’clock.
When the watch is in the minute repeater mode (black bell), the user can actuate the repeater slide at any time to hear the chimes of the hours, quarters, and minutes elapsed since the last quarter. When the watch is in the alarm mode (red bell), the slide must be actuated again to wind the alarm. When the alarm has been activated but has not yet been sounded (white bell), it is possible to return to the minute repeater mode by pressing on the push-piece without releasing the strike.
The watch is powered by a self-winding Calibre R AL 27 PS, offering minimum 43 hours and maximum 48 hours of power reserve, and comes with four new patents. The designers successfully took on the challenge of creating a watch in which the minute repeater and the alarm chime on the same two classic gongs. The caseback is protected by a hinged dust cover, bearing the hand-engraved inscription, “A mon père, 85 ans de passion horlogère (to my father, 85 years of watchmaking passion)”. The chamfered edges of the bridges and hammers are gilded, and the 22 ct yellow gold mini-rotor is rhodium-plated with yellow gold edges and adorned with a black-lacquered hand engraving, reproducing Philippe Stern’s signature. The watch is finished on an alligator leather strap with large square scales and a platinum fold-over clasp.