When Patek Philippe announced a new advanced research project this year, the brand did not say it was for the new Ref. 5750 Advanced Research minute repeater. The world learned of this new mechanical timekeeping musical instrument at roughly the same time, a feat enabled by digital technology.
As usual, Patek Philippe put a lot of effort into the big reveal, showing a level of digital savoir-faire beaten only by its own watchmaking acumen. According to Patek Philippe President Thierry Stern, the Ref. 5750 Advanced Research minute repeater is both louder and has better harmonics, and it performs best on the wrist. This is all thanks to the new fortissimo ff module, which we will probably come to grips with in print.
By way of introduction, the manufacture followed up on its digital presentation with some specifics in the press information, including the following nuggets: Ref. 5750 Advanced Research is six times louder than plain vanilla repeaters; it does not sacrifice the Patek Philippe chiming watch’s vaunted sound quality and “long resonant fade out,” to achieve its decibel levels. Of course, we cannot report on anything further until we hear the watch, and hear back from the manufacture on our questions about the latest Advanced Research chapter.
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Still, Patek Philippe can be relied upon to be fastidious, and the Genevan brand always protects the particular quality of its chiming watches. For proof, you need only consider the fact that all Patek Philippe repeaters and sonneries are not water-resistant – technology in watchmaking clearly allows for some degree of water-resistance here, but Patek Philippe eschews this in favour of harmonics that it likes. There is an old school charm to this approach, especially when one considers that Stern listens to every single repeater before it leaves the manufacture. To us, the personal touch of Stern matters more than any digital QC.
Patek Philippe knows this quite well, we think, but it also wants to remind us (as if it needed to) that it puts all its technical muscle into its chiming watches. Stern says that Ref. 5750 Advanced Research is maybe 50% there when it comes to what he wants in terms of loudness, but he is willing to take it one step at a time. This brings us to the whole Advanced Research project at Patek Philippe, which has been known to the world since 2005 when it debuted the Silinvar escape wheel.
Prior to Ref. 5750 Advanced Research, the project focussed on improving chronometric performance – the 2017 development of a new mechanism to correct time zones in multi-time zone watches was an exception. It is worth remembering that Advanced Research projects at Patek Philippe are not just showy exercises. The Spiromax balance spring developed by the Advanced Research project is found today in many Patek Philippe movements, and so is the most advanced version of this balance spring, now called the Optimised Spiromax. Still, Ref. 5750 represents the first time Patek Philippe has brought the rigorous science of the Advanced Research department to the realm of musical time. Some may consider this risky, and it is, but we think it is high time.
To get into the nuts and bolts of this a little — we do not intend to dissect Ref. 5750 here — the watch is a very distinctive and highly limited proposition. Only 15 models will be made, making it the rarest of all the Advanced Research watches.
You might think that this is why platinum is in the picture here but this is not so. According to the manufacture, platinum was selected as the case material to provide the watchmakers with an additional challenge – this material is widely considered the least suitable when it comes to generating a bigger sound. Not strictly in line with the scientific method, perhaps, but we applaud the chutzpah.
Quirkiness aside, Patek Philippe has applied for four patents in relation to the development of Ref. 5750 Advanced Research and calibre R 27 PS. These are as follows:
Loudspeaker with freely oscillating wafer and sound amplification mechanism. These are two separate patents for components comprising sound amplification devices. There are also two patents related to the hammers and gongs of the repeater mechanism. The platinum hammers have one patent and so do the helical gongs, here with coplanar attachment; yes, platinum was chosen over steel here for the particular properties a hammer of that material would have.
That attachment might be the first thing that caught your attention when you looked at the caseback. In fact, you are not just looking through the exhibition caseback but also a wafer of synthetic sapphire with a thickness of just 0.2mm. This neatly showcases the secrets of calibre R 27 PS in becoming the amplifier for the chiming action of the hammers and gongs, functioning quite apart from the case and sapphire crystal itself. This is why sound propagation in Ref. 5750 Advanced Research does not depend on the case material.
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Other important details here include the relative slimness of the 40mm watch, at just 11.1mm thick. Patek Philippe has repeatedly stated its preference for slimness, and the watchmakers have done everything they could have to offset the additional space the fortissimo ff module required.
The dial design is also significant here, with Patek Philippe exploring a new aesthetic touch that is mirrored by the decoration on the platinum micro-rotor. Stern says that this would not normally happen at Patek Philippe but Ref. 5750 Advanced Research is such a limited proposition that he did not mind the experiment. As for that small seconds counter, a watch at this level is not about the passing of seconds, as we have written before.
The look of the watch might actually work better without it, although the mechanical action is attractive. We think that this is a detail that collectors will enjoy disagreeing about.
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