The Patek Philippe Minute Repeater Alarm – a Tribute to Philippe Stern

Looking after it for the next generation.

Watches are highly sentimental objects, often transcending the core function of measuring time by marking it as well. Many a timepiece has changed hands between father and son, the weight of the heirloom being measured not only in grams of platinum or gold, but also in meaning and emotion. But in rare circumstances, and on the most auspicious of occasions, celebrations are observed by the creation of something truly unique. If you happen to be Thierry Stern, the current president of Patek Philippe, then such a creation will be very special indeed.

In celebration of his 85th birthday, Patek Philippe has honored Mr. Philippe Stern with the release of the Minute Repeater Alarm Reference 1938P-001. A striking combination of tenebrism and craftsmanship, the 18k white gold dial features a portrait of the man himself – a dignified 3 quarter profile in Grand Feu white and grey enamel emerging from the inky depth of the Grand Feu black enamel background. It’s a dramatic, slightly asymmetrical design, evocative and cinematic, conjuring comparison to Coppola or the iconic silhouette of Hitchcock. An unintentional similarity to be sure, but it nevertheless communicates the presence that Philippe Stern still maintains at the manufacture and the admiration that it still holds for him in turn.

Patek Philippe Minute Repeater Alarm
Patek Philippe Minute Repeater Alarm

This new chiming masterpiece, limited to just 30 pieces, features an exclusive evolution of the caliber R 27 self-winding movement, which integrates the former manufacture president’s personal favorite complication – the minute repeater, (though that is not where the mechanical achievements end.) In addition to the epochal function, an alarm announcing the preset time was added, necessitating the addition of some 227 parts and resulting in 4 new patents. Set just beneath the dial’s signature at 3 o’clock is a small, elegant bell shaped cutout, an indicator for the chiming mode which can be changed via a pusher within the crown. When the beguiling aperture shows black, the watch is in the minute repeater mode. When white, it is set to alarm, wound and ready to announce a pre-determined time. Once the moment has past, the bell will show red, indicating that the slide must once again be actuated in order to wind the alarm function.

As with all examples of haute-horology, it is a complicated object in every sense of the word. However, Patek Philippe’s designers and engineers went to great pains to ensure that the use of these functions was not only intuitive, but also safe, lest the fear of malfunction diminish the joy of their creation. As one might expect, the enjoyment of the 1938P’s mechanism is not limited to the auditory or tactile, but also the visual as well. The platinum officer’s-style case back reveals the resplendent caliber R AL 27 PS movement. The center piece of the movement is the prominent, rhodium plated yellow gold micro-rotor, which is adorned with Philippe Stern’s signature, hand engraved and filled with black lacquer.

Patek Philippe Minute Repeater Alarm
Patek Philippe Minute Repeater Alarm

Upon the inside of the dust cover (a dreadfully utilitarian phrase for such an elegant barrier) are the words – “À mon père, 85 ans de passion horlogère” or, “To my father, 85 years of watchmaking passion.” It is the dedication of a son to his father, marking a lifetime of devotion to timekeeping of the highest order, engraved upon a watch which is itself a manifestation of that selfsame passion.


Image by Kai
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