The Amazing Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime

Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime Has it All

Watch collectors are a predictable lot; it’s pretty easy to see what interests them and what does not.  What does not:  anything with a quartz movement.  What does: elaborate mechanical watch complications.  Anyone can build a wristwatch that tells the time or displays the date, and with a quartz movement, you can get both of those things for just a few dollars wholesale.  Making those features work with moving parts is a bit more complicated.  Doing that, and adding an additional twenty complications, as you’ll find in the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime, is what sets the company apart from everyone else in the industry and is the sort of thing that truly excites collectors.  To celebrate the company’s 175th anniversary, which actually took place in early 2014, the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime has been introduced, and the company says that it is the most complicated wristwatch ever made by the company, and that includes the Henry Graves Jr. Supercomplication, which Patek Philippe made in the early 1930s.

Patek Philippe Grandmaster ChimeThe Supercomplication was unique; they only made one as a special order item, and it was a pocketwatch.  The Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime is a wristwatch, which necessarily puts all of the moving parts, of which there are more than 1500, into a much smaller form factor.  The Grandmaster Chime has two faces; one prominently displays the time, with the date visible via smaller dials.  The other face prominently displays the instantaneous perpetual calendar, with the time visible via smaller dials.  Unique (and patented) to the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime is a swivel mechanism that allows the wearer to choose which face they wish to use.  Once selected, the chosen face will lock safely into place.

The Grandmaster Chime isn’t something that was hastily thrown together; Patek Philippe estimates that the company invested more than 100,000 man hours in the development of the timepiece, which includes six patented complications.

Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime Watch Complications

Among the twenty complications offered with the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime are:

Grande and Petite Sonnerie – This will sound the hours and quarter hours.  This doesn’t sound all that complex, but these complications require a lot of power to operate, and the company was insistent that they wouldn’t implement this feature unless they could maintain at least a 24 hour power reserve.  The Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime exceeds this; the feature will work for 30 hours without rewinding the watch.

Minute repeater and alarm – On demand, this feature will sound the hours, quarter hours and the minutes that have elapsed since the last quarter hour.  According to Patek Philippe, this feature has never before been incorporated into a wristwatch.

Date repeater – Yes, the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime will sound the date for you; it sounds ten day increments using a high-low strike and the remaining days with a high strike, making it possible to hear the date.

Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime - perpetual calendarInstantaneous perpetual calendar – This feature is so complex that it has been given its own face as a display.  The four-digit year is displayed in the center of the face, while three separate dials indicate the day of the week, the date of the month, and the name of the month.  A smaller dial at the top of the face indicates the time.

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Second time zone – The Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime will also make it possible to display time in a second time zone, a useful feature for travelers.

Second time zone day/night indicator – Is the sun shining in your second time zone?  This will let you know.

Leap year cycle – Is this a leap year?  You might want to know that.

Moon phases – We’re not sure why this complication is so popular among watch aficionados, but it’s more or less a staple of high-end luxury watches and is included here, just because it’s probably expected.

Dual power reserve indicators – Dials on the main face indicate reserve power remaining for both the timekeeping movement and the strikework mechanism.

Patek Philippe Grandmaster ChimeThe Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime is meticulously crafted with a hand-engraved case, and the case is made from 18k rose gold.  Sapphire crystal covers both faces, and the strap is made from alligator leather.  The Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime is not water resistant, but we doubt that anyone is likely to wear theirs near water.  In fact, we’re pretty sure no one will be wearing theirs at all, as these are likely to be locked away by their buyers.

Patek Philippe has a long history of manufacturing truly amazing, and sometimes, one of a kind, timepieces.  As time passes, it becomes more and more difficult for the company to outdo themselves, and the pressure to be constantly innovative must be enormous.  It’s one thing to create a watch with twenty complications, but it’s something else again to incorporate those features into a wristwatch form factor.  The Supercomplication, built more than 80 years ago, was a huge timepiece even by standards of the day.  The Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime, by comparison, is surprisingly small, with a case measuring just 47.4 millimeters across.

Obviously, the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime isn’t for everyone; in fact, most Patek Philippe watches are priced well beyond the budget of the average consumer.  In the case of this particular model, it’s not only priced beyond the reach of the average consumer, but it’s also priced beyond the reach of all but the most well-heeled of collectors, with a price of $2.5 million U.S.  Don’t go reaching for your checkbook just yet, as even having the money isn’t likely to get you one of these amazing pieces.  Patek Philippe has announced that they will only be making seven examples of the Grandmaster Chime, and one of them is going to be kept on display at company headquarters.  That means that only six of them will be for sale, and a company spokesman says that prospective buyers will be interviewed to ensure that they’re a “good fit” to buy and own this remarkable timepiece.  Unofficially, we suspect that all six examples of the Grandmaster Chime were spoken for long ago by well-known collectors of the brand, and it’s unlikely that any of them will be available for sale to the public, at least directly.  It’s likely that within a few years, one or more of these may change hands on the secondary market.

In this age of electronic timekeeping and ubiquitous and reliable quartz movements, it’s refreshing to see a company such as Patek Philippe continuing to raise the bar when it comes to mechanical movements and elaborate mechanical watch complications.  The Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime is not only an amazing feat of engineering, it’s an amazing work of art.

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