A complex mechanism in this masterpiece
of the watchmaker’s art makes it possible to
tell the time by listening instead of looking.
Actuated by a repeating slide, this complication announces the time musically, using three different sounds. A low note is struck for each hour, then two notes, one high and one low, for each quarter-hour, and lastly a single high note for each minute elapsed since the last quarter-hour struck. The heart of this mechanism consists of two gongs struck by hammers and a complex mechanical memory.
Designed to enable the user to tell the time in the dark, this charming function is still one of the best-loved complications, despite the development of other solutions, such as luminous hands and figures.
This ingenious timepiece necessitates a complex movement capable of two parallel operations so that it can continue to perform its function of time-keeping while striking the hour. Only meticulous selection of metals and precise adjustments can produce a striking mechanism with the purity and sweetness of tone that lend the minute repeater its charm. The demands made by its construction are so great that only a few minute repeaters, individually numbered, leave the workshops of Le Brassus each month.
On a “traditional” minute repeater, the external repeating slide actuating the striking mechanism is linked directly to the winding lever. Thus, when the mechanism is wound up, the repeating slide uncovers an opening in the middle of the case, inevitably exposing the movement to infiltration by humidity. Blancpain has remedied this weakness by developing an ingenious gear system that ensures water-resistance in order to incorporate the mechanism in its Léman Minute Repeater Aqua Lung model, water-resistant to 10 bar.
In 1987, using an exceptionally slim movement, Blancpain managed to design the smallest and slimmest minute-repeater watch ever made, as well as a self-winding version. In 1993, Blancpain presented a further innovation, the first minute-repeater wristwatch with automata.