Let’s delve into the unveiling of Patek Philippe’s latest horological masterpiece, a manifestation of homage to its former president, Philippe Stern, in commemoration of his 85th birthday.
Unveiled on a Friday, the eminent watchmaker introduced a profoundly personal and exceedingly rare platinum Minute Repeater Alarm, Ref. 1938P-001. This timepiece stands as a tribute from Thierry Stern, the current president of Patek Philippe, to his father, the erstwhile president, Philippe Stern, marking the celebration of his 85th milestone.
Remarkably unconventional, the watch showcases the countenance of Stern Sr., meticulously captured in a white and gray miniature portrait executed in grand feu enamel. This exquisite depiction graces a grand feu enamel black dial, with “Email” denoting enamel in French beneath the seconds counter. It’s a poignant gesture from son to father, prompting contemplation on which discerning collectors would be inclined to bear the elder Stern’s visage on their wrist. However, beneath the surface lies the allure for Patek Philippe aficionados. Thierry Stern has spared no effort in crafting this tribute, housing it with the exclusive Caliber R AL 27 PS—a fusion of the renowned R 27 caliber, previously featured in the Grandmaster Chime Ref. 5175 for the brand’s 175th anniversary, and a 12-hour alarm function that chimes at a predetermined time, discerned through the 18-karat rose-gold Breguet-style hand.
Adding to the exclusivity, this new caliber is destined solely for the 30 iterations of this timepiece, never to grace another, thereby amplifying its rarity. The intricacies of the movement are revealed under a hunter caseback, bearing an engraving that reads, “A Mon Père, 85 ans de passion horlogère” (“To my Father, 85 years of watchmaking passion”). Beneath the sapphire crystal glass, an extra touch of sentimentality adorns the 22-karat yellow-gold rotor, embellished with the engraved signature of Philippe Stern. Enhancing the distinctiveness are the chamfered edges of the bridges and hammers, adorned with a gilded finish.
The self-winding caliber R AL 27 PS ingeniously integrates the alarm function into the R 27 caliber, necessitating a rethinking of the minute repeater mechanism to harmonize the two. Both the alarm and minute repeater share the resonance of the same two gongs. Activated through the slide piece on the left flank of the case, the movement can either promptly strike the time in minute repeater mode or suspend the chimes until the displayed time aligns with the preset alarm time. Indicators for these modes reside in the bell-shaped aperture beneath the Patek Philippe signature. In minute repeater mode, the bell appears black, while in alarm mode, it turns red. A push-piece in the crown empowers the user to toggle between the two modes. In alarm mode, the slide must be activated again to wind the alarm, transforming the bell from red to white. A white bell indicates that the alarm is set but yet to sound, providing the flexibility to revert to minute repeater mode by pressing the push-piece without engaging the striking mechanism.
This piece, reminiscent of a traditional minute repeater, harmoniously sounds the hours, quarters, and minutes on demand. However, the 12-hour alarm, set via the crown in its middle position, chimes two minutes before its designated time, enriching the auditory experience. For instance, if the alarm is set at 3 o’clock, it resonates at 2:58. Thus, the user experiences two low-pitch strikes for the hour, three double high-low strikes for the quarters, and 13 high-pitch strikes for the remaining minutes.
This masterpiece is limited to a mere 30 pieces worldwide. While collectors may grapple with the notion of wearing Philippe Stern’s countenance, Patek Philippe enthusiasts are bound to covet this creation for the mechanical artistry it encapsulates, alongside the privilege of owning the pinnacle complication from one of the most revered and elusive watch brands globally.