Alloy question ....

Dear collectors,

i have always been curious with the material, or alloy which minute repeaters are made out of ...

can you please help me to answer this question.

what material or metal alloy is involve in creating the minuter repeater GONG .. ??

what kind of metal material may create such accoustic sound ??

in addition, is the minute repeater Hammer made out of stainless steel ?

or is it a different metal than stainless steel ??

thank you in advance.....

the gong of the minute repeater is made of steel but the brands
02/18/2008 - 11:00

remain extremely secretive on exactly what they do to it. There is a rumor that says that to get the best sound the metal needs to be first dipped in horse urine!!!!

The hammers are also made of steel.

I think that this is what makes repeaters so fascinating, the materials used are common but the craftsmanship and experience needed to make a steel wire make those lovely chimes is unbelievable! VC also modifies the case as for it to procure the best resonnance for the gongs meaning that you can't just take two cases and fit them with any repeating movement!

Re: the gong of the minute repeater is made of steel but the brands
02/18/2008 - 12:36

Dear Alex ....

i want to say : thank you...for explaining to me a small mystery which i wondered for quite some time. 

as for the steel alloy you mentioned,

i would like to ask another question,

in terms of the material used,

as time goes,

will modern minute repeaters has much better sound quality than old days ?

in terms of accoustic,

will a minute repeater make in the future be better than a repeater made today , yesterday ??

because of science, will minute repeaters be made better and better ?

or there is only so much one can improve ??

thanks again

I'm not an expert but my feeling is that repeaters are probaly the
02/18/2008 - 12:53

last bastion of 100% manual work and experience. 

Who knows if 20-50 years down the line someone comes up with an alloy with a fantastic sound but the real difficulty is using it in a very small space and creating everything around it to enable it to create a fantastic chime.

Its not the alloy which is the most important but the way the watchmakers work it. Absolutely all brands use steel for the gong and hammers but only two brands IMHO (VC and PP) have mastered the crisp crystalin chime so it all comes down to craftsmanship and experience.

Between VC and PP...
02/18/2008 - 18:48

who has the better sounding chimes? Are they about equal in the quality of their sound, or does one of the two brands have an edge over the other?



from the ones I've heard
02/18/2008 - 19:39

I've heard all the modern VC repeaters and the Patek Sky moon tourbillon as well as a model (I forget the ref) which was made for their 150th anniversary.

Its tough to compare because you need to hear these watches "side by side" but I heard them at different moments. I can't say which sounded better but all sounded fantastic.

I really like repeaters but more often than not I've always found a fault with the ones I had heard and nothing which would push me to rob a bank to buy one (well the Dufour Grande & petite sonnerie could fit the bill ) the PP and VC were truly "flawless" to my ears, perfect crisp chimes. The goal of these brands, unlike many others is not to make the loudest one (even though it is very important to hear them -  heard the cal 2755 in a romm with people talking and background music and it still sounded loud enough), but the best sounding repeater.

For me they are way ahead of the competition in this field.

Alex, have you had the opportunity...
02/18/2008 - 21:42

to hear the Dufour Grande Sonnerie? If so, in which way was it different from the VC and PP repeaters you have heard?



I've had the pleasure of hearing the Dufour Grande Sonnerie and
02/18/2008 - 22:01

it sounds amazing

I really can't say in what way it was different as to be able to compare I would need to listen to the watches at the same time and not throughout time like I have. I would definately put it in the same category as the PP and VC models. Did it sound better? I don't remember but at this level of craft the differences are minor.

02/18/2008 - 22:33

The opportunity to see and hear the Dufour Grande Sonnerie and the VC 2755 is incredible! Your photos are also fantastic, they well display the amazing Dufour craftsmanship. Thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge of these great pieces Alex.



Who started to first produce repeating wristwatches in vintage?
02/21/2008 - 23:45

PP or VC? I think it is the latter, but really?

I think the first minute repeater wrist watch was from Omega (Louis
02/24/2008 - 17:19


some stuff on repeaters...
02/18/2008 - 17:59

Hi AudiA3,

There are three main aspects as to quality of sound from a repeater: (from what I see as the least important to the most important)

1. the gong: material, tweaking and number of turns. The materials I think will not change much from what they are unless there is a radical change. The tweaking is very important and I believe can only be done manually. The number of turns the gong makes around the watch can maake the sound resonate more (cathedral gongs go around the watch 2 or 3 times).

2. the resonating body: not all materials transmit the sound as well. FP Journe made his sonnerie souveraine in steel as it transmits the sound better than precious metals. If my memory serves me right, from good to worse we have: steel, red gold, yellow gold, white gold, and much worse platinum. Now some companies are actually makign the sapphire crystal as the main resonation transmitting body, apparently with great success.

3. the main element: the space of resonance. If you imagine the repeater watch as a musical instrument, you can imagine that the size of the resonating bodies is crucial, and probably the most important factor. A grand piano will always sound better than the smaller versions. I have not heard the "loudest wristwatch" repeaters, but from my (limited) experience, a 100 years old pocket watch (with no hightech materials) will sound a lot better than any wristwatch. Maybe not in terms of  "quality" and "purity" of the sound, but if you ever hear the difference between a pocket watch and a wirstwatch you will know what I mean.

The mechanism that arms and releases the minute repeating is also a bit noisy. I believe VC has developped a way to reduce this extra noise to almost zero. It is however not a major component in the qulity of the sound, just a bit of background noise.

I believe in terms of traditional repeaters, VC and PP are way in advance of anybody at the moment. In terms of high technology use and associated innovations they might be lagging behind other companies.

Re: Re: more questions ....
02/19/2008 - 05:16

Hello Nico....

thank you for sharing your insights,

i have another question and like to hear of your opinion,

when you come across watch collectors planning to buy a minute repeater

will you recommend such collectors to buy pocket watch with minuter repeater function or wristwatch watch ??

what is your opinion when collectors decide to buy mintue repeaters,

do you think they are buying because of the sound ? the minute repeater function ? or the brand ?

as most collectors will not be able to test such function on a daily basis,

how do you think they should persue which brand or which model when making such enquiry .. ??

I'm not Nico but the main question is one of budget. A pocket repeater
02/19/2008 - 11:59

can be found anywhere from $5000k and up depending on the size and brand but for a repeating wrist watch you would need to add an extra zero to the previous amount (the IWC Portuguese repeater and the JLC reverso repeater can be obrtained at rather reasonable prices, if you want a VC or PP its more in the six figure catagory).

As to recommend to buy it all depends on the budget of the collector and what he wants. If its just a repeater than a PW is fine but if he want to wear the watch then its a different story.

I would say that people who buy minute repeaters buy them for the complication.

Just my 2c

Well, Alex, you took the words out of my mouth...
02/19/2008 - 17:35

Money money money.... wristwatch repeaters cost a lot of money. Good wristwatch minute repeaters cost tons of money.

before I continue, here is my best advice (but read the rest too): if you have the money to buy a wristwatch minute repeater, buy also a pocket watch minute repeater. No questions asked, don't debate this, don't lose sleep over it, no arguments. What, you're still here?

I agree with Alex in that the primary purpose of people buying repeaters is for the complication. It is not a very useful one, but it is one of the most mystical ones. The tourbillon is another one, but due to tourbillon craze in my eyes it has lost a lot of its magical appeal (well, it just "seems" so easy to make those things since every Joe, Jack and John seems to come up with a tourbillon model - probably not very good ones, but still).

Unlike other very high end complications, the minute repeater is much more accessible in the form of old pocket watches.

Disadvantages of pocket watch minute repeaters:

 - You cannot gloat in front of your friends as to the price of the watch (to some people the whole point of buying an expensive watch is to show off: see all those diamonds!! guess how much it cost me?).

 - It will probably need servicing if you want to keep it and cherish it. Not too expensive, but finding someone to do it is difficult.

 - You cannot wear it as easily as a wristwatch.

 - The style might be so "out of fashion" that you might be embarrased to show it to people who don't appreciate complications.

 - Some of the wirstwatches (eg: VC skeleton repeater) are just gorgeous.


 - You can buy 862 pocket watch repeaters for one good wristwatch repeater.

 - You just will not wear it as often as a wristwatch.

 - The sound compared to even the best wristwatch will astound you.

 - The sound.

 - The sound.

 - Teh sound.


 - ALWAYS listen to the watch before you buy it. Try to listen to many of them, including wristwatches and pocket watches.

 - There can be nothing worse that waiting eagerly for your watch and be disapointed in the sound... it would be heart breaking.

 - Don't do like me (ie: buy without hearing it first). But I got very lucky, the quality of sound is just superb.

 - Prices vary from $3-4K to much much more depending on brand, no brand, etc... Look at all that is available before making your choice.

 - When looking at "unbranded" old pocket watches, you usually get what you pay for (there are no "brand" premiums).

 - Although I would love to have a VC pocket watch repeater, they aren't that available. Price would be much higher too.

 - Since minute repeater pocket watches were made for a real purpose 100-150 years ago, buying one from an "independant watchmaker" as opposed to a "brand name" can be a good thing. There were some excellent watchmakers in those days.

 - Check the pedigree of the watchmaker (internet searches, forum questions); check for prizes, awards, etc... (gold medals in international events (universal expositions, ...) are the best as far as I am concerned along with chronometry prizes in international events as well.

Now, if I had the money I would buy some of the repeater wristwatches (VC skeleton, PP, Journe sonnerie souveraine and Dufour, George Daniels (special order of course)); or I could reduce third world debt by 10% for the same price. Seriously, if I had the money I would get one of those wirstwatches AS WELL AS a pocket watch minute repeater.

Some very good and useful pointers .... thank you
02/19/2008 - 18:41

hello Alex and hello Nico

you both have given me some sound advise regarding minute repeaters,

both about the choice and brand to choose from

also revealed the mystery of which alloy the gong are made out of.

later, i will post a question regarding repairing a minute repeater ..

cause the question will again touch on the subject of sound.

i look forward again to both your inputs.