A watch that should have been first presented thanks to a unique piece for Only Watch 2023 (which has been postponed), we knew that Patek Philippe was on its way to presenting a new model entirely dedicated to its former President, father of the current President and a man of great importance for both the brand and the Swiss watch industry, Mister Philippe Stern. In order to celebrate his 85th birthday, and as a tribute to his father, Thierry Stern (of the fourth generation of the Stern family, appointed president in 2009) honours his father by creating a special edition of 30 watches, a complex model including a newly developed movement, created solely for this piece and never to be used again. Here’s the Patek Philippe Minute Repeater Alarm 1938P.
What could be a better tribute to the man who has been at the head of Patek Philippe from 1993 to 2009, a manufacture specialized since its inception in chiming watches, than a minute repeater…? Well, a watch combining another favourite of the brand, an alarm function. Dubbed the reference 1938P, as a tribute to Philippe Stern’s year of birth, this new and exclusive model naturally features a minute repeater – his favourite complication – as well as an alarm chiming the programmed time. This complex mechanism was one of the five acoustic functions and one of the two patented world firsts unveiled in 2014 for the manufacture’s 175th anniversary on the Grandmaster Chime Reference 5175, a watch now in the regular collection under the reference 6300. It now finds its way in a simpler (sort of) watch.
The Minute Repeater Alarm 1938P is a familiar Patek Philippe design, with all the classism we’ve come to expect in its grand complication collection. As such, the 41mm platinum case (with the classic diamond between the lugs at 6 o’clock) is reminiscent of converted pocket watches with straight lugs adorned with screwed-in strap bars. However, what truly matters on this dial, and that is somehow explicit when looking at the crown, is that something special hides on the back. The 1938P features an officer-style back, as the rear sapphire is protected by a hinged dust cover bearing the hand-engraved inscription “A mon père, 85 ans de passion horlogère” (To my father, 85 years of watchmaking passion). Platinum has been chosen as the most noble of metals, but also because it represents the greatest acoustic challenge for a minute repeater when the aim is to obtain the beautiful sound you expect from a Patek – platinum is dense and isn’t known to produce the best of sounds.
The dial of this Minute Repeater Alarm 1938P is maybe the most polarizing aspect of this watch. Again, it is as classic as possible (save for one element…) with an 18k gold base covered in Grand Feu black enamel. Applied Breguet numerals and hands in white gold indicate the hours and minutes, while rose gold is used for the 12-hour alarm hand. The left side of the dial is decorated with a portrait of Philippe Stern in Grand Feu white and grey miniature painting on enamel.
Under the hinged back is the Calibre R AL 27 PS, a movement that feels familiar as it shares its base architecture with other automatic minute repeaters of the brand, including the use of a micro-rotor. However, multiple evolutions are to be noted, including 4 new patents. In addition to the minute repeater function, actuated by a trigger on the left side of the case, the challenge was to create a watch in which the minute repeater and the alarm chime on the same two classic gongs while retaining the system of a slide piece set into the left flank of the case. This required that upon actuation of the slide, the movement be capable either of instantly striking the time displayed on the dial (in minute repeater mode) or of putting the strike on hold until the time displayed corresponds to the programmed time (in alarm mode).
Compared to a minute repeater-only version of the calibre 27, this new movement has 227 additional parts, including a lever and column wheel for selection of the chiming mode and a fusee device with a strike-work detent mechanism that temporarily disconnects the power source (the strike-work barrel drum) from the striking mechanism. One of the patents concerns a device that switches with complete safety from one chiming mode to the other. The alarm function is also easy to use thanks to a push-piece integrated into the crown serves to select the chiming mode, which is displayed in a small bell-shaped aperture at 3 o’clock. When the watch is in minute repeater mode (black bell) the user can actuate the repeater slide at any time to hear the chimes of the hours, quarters and minutes elapsed since the last quarter. When the watch is in alarm mode (red bell) the slide must be actuated again to wind the alarm. When the alarm has been actuated but has not yet sounded (white bell) it is possible to return to minute repeater mode by pressing on the push-piece without releasing the strike.
The decoration of the movement found in this Minute Repeater Alarm 1938P is also unique. The chamfered edges of the bridges and hammers are gilded. The 22K yellow-gold mini-rotor is rhodium plated with yellow-gold edges and adorned with a black-lacquered hand engraving reproducing Philippe Stern’s signature.
Worn on an alligator leather strap in shiny black with a platinum fold-over clasp, the Patek Philippe Minute Repeater Alarm 1938P For the 85th anniversary of Philippe Stern will be a limited edition of 30 pieces. It will be priced at CHF 890,000. For more details, please visit patek.com.