Voice of the Angel
From 'Voice of the Angel: History of Vacheron Constantin Minute Repeaters 1' www.thehourlounge.com
by Alex Ghotbi with support from Vacheron Constantin
31st of October 2013
" ...According to my good friend George the minute repeater is a very useful….travel watch ! Before my wide eyes and gaping mouth as how could someone so knowledgeable have such little clue “hear me out” insisted George, “it is a watch for the intensive traveler” he continued. “When you wake up in the middle of the night and have no idea where you are just activate your minute repeater and if you hear a soft and loving voice asking you what that sweet sound is? You know that you’re in your hotel and traveling, if a rough voice tells you to stop playing with your watch and go back to sleep…you know you’re at home!”
Other than these traveling...or rather matrimonial issues let us take a step back. Repeating watches were first created out of necessity….that of telling time in the dark. The 1st quarter repeater was invented circa 1675 by English watchmakers Edward Booth, Daniel Quare and Thomas Thompion but the Priviy Counsil of London issued the patent to Daniel Quare in 1687.
The Quarter repeater would chime the hours and each quarter however the 1st watch to be able to strike the minutes appeared in the first decade of the 18th century even though attributed Thomas Mudge in 1750.
In these watches bells were used for the chiming but in 1787 the use of gongs (circular strips of steel) as we know them today were developed by AL Breguet and this enabled the repeating watches to become much thinner and to emit a clearer note.
Even though extremely popular in the 18th century, the invention of the safety matches in 1845, making it safe to light candles as well as the arrival of electricity and luminous hands at the end of the 19th century, repeaters became more and more rare and reserved to a handful of makers.
Vacheron Constantin made its first minute repeater pocket-watch in 1812, before combining striking mechanisms with major complications throughout the following decades and created its first wristwatch minute repeater in 1930.
In a letter addressed to Vacheron on Oct 1819 Constantin expresses his satisfaction at the news that the repeating watch manufacture is operative and at last he will be able to offer them to his customers “make attractive guilloche examples so that they are appealing, to get the greatest reliability…and make the pieces in our name with light cases for those who want them without their becoming too expensive”.
In another letter from the same year he continues “Now that you are organized for this kind of item you can make them reliable in such a way as not to fear reproaches, and one of our names will give them a great deal of favor”
One of Vacheron Constantin’s first multicomplication wrist watches was the ref 3620 from 1936.
Made for a client in Spain this unique gold tonneau shaped watch features the day of the week, the date via a retrograde hand and a minute repeater.The dial has the originality of having the numerals in blue rather than the habitual black.
It is believed that this is the first wrist watch to feature a retrograde hand (something which became a trend in the watchmaking industry 60 years later!).