A Watch That Can Chime 2,500 Notes a Day

A Watch That Can Chime 2,500 Notes a Day

Postby koimaster » April 9th 2018, 4:32pm

By SONIA KOLESNIKOV-JESSOP

Published: November 26, 2009


The Grande Sonnerie, a musical timepiece that sounds the passing hours and quarters like a miniature tower clock, is so difficult to assemble and adjust that only a few watchmakers have mastered the art. Jaeger-LeCoultre has just joined that exclusive club.


Chiming watches incorporate intricate mechanisms that unleash sequences of tiny hammers to strike bells or gongs. In the Grande Sonnerie complication, each quarter is sounded by the appropriate number of chimes, followed by a repeat of the hour.

To build its new Hybris Mechanica à Grande Sonnerie, Jaeger-LeCoultre filed 17 patents, designed a completely new movement and introduced an innovative mechanism, baptized the Trébuchet Hammer, to improve the sound of the strike. It is also reviving the gong form it first used in 2007 in its Master Minute Repeater, manufactured in one piece and made from a special alloy.

Five years in the making, the Hybris Mechanica à Grande Sonnerie is said by Jaeger-LeCoultre to be the most complex wristwatch in the world, with 26 complications, and the only one that can chime 2,500 notes in a day — it plays “Carillon de Westminster,” the same chimes as Big Ben in London.

“This kind of highly complicated watch is always a milestone for a brand, and it is necessary to offer them to collectors if you want to successfully build your reputation for technical achievement,” said Jérôme Lambert, chief executive of Jaeger-LeCoultre. “As soon as your watches become collectibles, clients expect to be surprised every year.”

“Their commitment to the brand must be nurtured by true, consistent projects,” he said.

Instead of a traditional hammer, the watchmaker devised a double-axis system incorporating a special joint on a moveable arm. When released, the hammers accelerate until they touch a small trigger. This in turn releases a second moveable arm that accelerates them again just before they strike the gong. Jaeger-LeCoultre says this system improves the sharpness and clarity of the sound because it uses 80 percent of the force applied by the spring, whereas traditional hammer systems deliver only about 10 percent to 30 percent of the original striking force.

“We didn’t want to reuse principles that were developed years ago,” Mr. Lambert said. “We wanted to be innovative and this watch stands out for its conception and the choices we’ve made to build it.”

Jaeger-LeCoultre is selling the watch for $2.7 million as part of a three-piece set that also includes the Hybris Mechanica à Gyrotourbillon and the Hybris Mechanica à Triptyque. It comes in a specially designed leather-coated safe weighing well over a ton, which also acts as a watch winder and a sound enhancement system — the chiming of the watch inside can be heard from the outside even when the safe is closed and locked.

Mr. Lambert said the company intends to produce only 30 sets, which have all been presold to retailers. “Today, we know of 19 people who have already put a deposit for one of these,” he said. The first of the sets will be delivered starting in September next year.

Despite the downturn there is still a market for highly complicated and rare timepieces, with buyers willing to pay high prices.

“Ultimately, we’re only talking about selling six watches a year, as we can only deliver that amount,” Mr. Lambert said. “And there are still enough high-net-worth individuals that can afford and are willing to pay this price. This is confirmed by what is happening with orders so far.”
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