Chiming watches are some of the most desirable marvels that watchmaking has ever produced. They can take multiple forms, such as alarm watches or minute repeaters. But when it comes to watches that strike the time, that “musically indicate” the time, the rarest, most exclusive, most impressive and most desirable is the grande sonnerie. Only a handful of watchmakers are capable of manufacturing such a complication, which strikes the time “au passage” and not on demand. Today, Patek Philippe presents a new model, deceptively simple yet utterly complex. Meet the Grande et Petite Sonnerie 6301P.
Background, Repeating & Grande Sonnerie Watches at Patek
The grande sonnerie and petite sonnerie hold a special place in the world of Haute Horlogerie. There is only a handful of watchmakers capable of manufacturing such works of arts, often regarded as the ultimate horological complication. Both the grande and petite sonnerie strike the hours and quarters in passing, though only the grande sonnerie repeats the hours at every quarter. Usually, they feature a selector to silence the mechanism and are combined with a minute repeater to chime time on demand. Their creation requires utmost technical expertise as hundreds of components are required to interact simultaneously and strike time indications perfectly. All this while managing energy consumption and space…
Patek Philippe started to produce minute repeaters from its first year of existence (in 1839), having thus a long tradition in crafting acoustic watches, including grande et petite sonnerie movements. More recently, Patek Philippe was the brand to produce again minute repeaters in the 1980s after the quartz crisis, as Philippe Stern decided to relaunch their production to celebrate the company’s 150th anniversary in 1989.
Today, Patek Philippe continues this long tradition, crafting some of the best chiming watches on the market. For the story, the sound quality of every Patek Philippe repeater watch is validated by President Thierry Stern before it leaves the workshops. Minute repeaters are of course part of the collection and Patek is one of the rare manufactures that still offers a grande sonnerie watch in its collection.
Very few watchmakers have produced Grande Sonnerie wristwatches. We can list Philippe Dufour (who shall be credited for creating the first grande sonnerie wristwatch in 1992), François Paul Journe, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Audemars Piguet, Bvlgari (Roth/Genta), Dominique Loiseau, Frank Muller, Vacheron Constantin and Greubel Forsey. And naturally, there is Patek Philippe that introduced their first grande sonnerie wristwatch for the 175th anniversary of the Maison in 2014 with the GrandMaster Chime.
Some of Patek’s most impressive Sonnerie watches
The Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication – One of the most complicated watches ever to be created (and the most complex of its kind when completed), the “Graves” was commissioned by an American Banker, Henry Graves Jr., took three years to design, and another five years to manufacture the watch – which was delivered in 1933. The Supercomplication features no fewer than 24 functions, including multiple chiming complications. It came with a “Grande sonnerie” (Westminster chimes) with carillon, a “Petite sonnerie” with carillon, a minute repeater and an alarm.
The Patek Philippe Calibre 89 – To celebrate the 150th anniversary, the Manufacture presented the Calibre 89. This astonishing pocket watch was an impressive technical achievement, featuring 33 complications and 1,728 individual parts – even more impressive as it was built in 1989, when high-end mechanical watchmaking didn’t yet fully recover from the quartz crisis. Just like the Graves, the Calibre 89 featured a “Grande sonnerie” (Westminster chimes) with carillon, a “Petite sonnerie” with carillon, a minute repeater and an alarm.
The Patek Philippe Star Caliber 2000 – To mark the new Millennium, Patek created yet another Supercomplication pocket watch, named the Star Caliber 2000. With its Grande Sonnerie that strikes in passing and minute-repeater for the strike on demand, it is the first timepiece that can play the correct sequence of the Westminster Chime. It is composed of 1,118 parts and featuring a total of 21 complications.
The Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime – To celebrate its 175th anniversary, Patek introduced an impressive timepiece, once again packed with complications, but this time in a wristwatch format, the Grandmaster Chime. Its ultra-complex movement was first housed in the reference 5175. Only seven examples of this fully engraved double-faced wristwatch were made, one of which is displayed in the Patek Philippe Museum, Geneva.
Housed in a unique reversible case, the mind-blowing calibre of this micro-mechanical masterpiece required 8 years of development. It consists of 1,366 parts and unites no fewer than 20 complications, including multiple chiming functions. It is the most complex sonnerie wristwatch ever created. Besides the grande and petite sonnerie, it includes a minute repeater, a patented date repeater (chiming a sequence of two notes in succession for the tens and a single note for the units) and a patented alarm (that strikes the alarm time).
Following the 175th edition, the Grandmaster Chime was released in the permanent collection with the reference 6300. If the functions were identical, the case was simpler and less decorated.
Finally, the Grandmaster Chime can also be credited as the most expensive watch ever auctioned. In 2019, a unique piece, reference 6300A in steel with a salmon dial, sold for a hammer price of CHF 31 million at the Only Watch charity auction.
Patek Philippe Grande et Petite Sonnerie 6301P
The new 6301P is based on the Grandmaster Chime watch, yet only focussing on the striking complications, as the display remains centred around the time and the time only – with one extra complication that sets this watch apart. As such, this is the first stand-alone grande et petite sonnerie watch from Patek Philippe.
The 6301P is a highly focussed and discreet watch that shares its aesthetics with another stunning Patek, the Split-Seconds 5370P. As such, its 44.8mm case made of platinum has an elegant shape with the typical recessed casebands and brushed internal surface. The rest of the case is extremely refined and sleek, so the focus is only on the complication. In this instance, it represents the total opposite of the exuberant Grandmaster Chime and its fully engraved case.
The dial is, once again, in the same vein as the 5370P, with its black Grand Feu enamel base. On its glazed surface are white gold Breguet numerals and leaf hands, coated with luminescent material. The display remains extremely classic, with central hours and minutes, a small seconds at 6 o’clock and two power reserve indicators, at 9 o’clock for the movement and at 3 o’clock for the sonnerie mechanism.
But what’s more important here is the movement. This Patek Philippe Grande et Petite Sonnerie 6301P is equipped with the calibre GS 36-750 PS IRM, which is based on the movement found in the Grandmaster Chime. Sonnerie watches are some of the most complex mechanisms to develop and assemble, and the main issue to solve here is space. Patek manages to have all 703 components in a compact calibre of 37mm x 7.5mm. The second issue is to manage energy. The sonnerie is demanding regarding power consumption and for this reason, most of these watches have two separate barrels, one for the timekeeping part, one for the chiming mechanism. Here, Patek created two pairs of barrels mounted in series, offering a comfortable 72h power reserve for the movement and 24h for the chiming complication. The watch is wound with a double-way crown, by turning it clockwise for the movement and anticlockwise for the sonnerie.
As for the sonnerie itself, the Patek 6301P is equipped with 3 gongs instead of the classic twin-gong configuration – with 3 different notes, high, medium and low. This architecture requires more space and more energy but provides a more complex and richer sound to the striking mechanism. All three hammers are equally shaped and sized, for a uniform strike of the gongs. Another challenge in the search for a perfect “Patek sound” was the use of platinum for the case, known to be more demanding than gold.
The sound of the sonnerie is done as such; hours with low notes, quarters with a succession of three strikes (high, low, medium, played once for the first quarter, twice for half hours and three times for 45min). At each quarter, the grande sonnerie chimes automatically the hours, followed by the number of quarters – which makes a total of 1,056 strikes per 24 hours. A petite sonnerie mode is also included, in which the watch only strikes the hours at full hours, and quarters at quarter hours, without repeating the hours. In silence mode, the chiming complication is deactivated. The choice of the mode is done by a trigger at 6 o’clock, between the lugs.
In addition to the grande and petite sonneries, the Patek 6301P also comes with a minute repeater function, which strikes the time “on demand” by pressing the pusher located into the crown at 3 o’clock. The watch then indicates the hours with low strikes, quarters with triple notes and finally the minutes since the latest quarter with high notes.
Another novelty for this watch is the use of a jumping second, a first for a grande sonnerie. Inspired by another watch for the 175th anniversary, the Chiming Jump Hour reference 5275, the new Grande et Petite sonnerie watch features a dead-beat seconds, equipped with a system that consumes less energy than a traditional remontoir. Again, a fairly complex mechanism that is exposed in a deceptively simple manner on the dial.
The back of the watch reveals the new calibre GS 36-750 PS IRM, with the typical large barrel bridge on the left side – a common feature on grande sonnerie watches – and the regulating organ as well as the 3 hammers on the right side. A rare feature at Patek, the balance wheel is held in place by a transversal bridge and not a classic cock bridge. The balance wheel is the brand’s Gyromax while the hairspring is the Spiromax, made of Silinvar (silicon). The finishing and decoration are, as expected, refined yet discreet again. The movement is certified by the Patek Philippe seal. As a reminder, here are the 6 complications: grande sonnerie, petite sonnerie, minute repeater, movement power reserve, sonnerie power reserve, jumping second.
The watch is worn on a classic black alligator strap with fold-over clasp and an additional solid platinum caseback is also included in the presentation box.
Price & availability
The Patek Philippe Grande et Petite Sonnerie 6301P is launched as a member of the permanent collection and is not per se limited – even though, due to its complexity, only a very limited number of watches will be produced per year. The price will only be indicated on request.
More details at Patek.com.