Patek Philippe Pays Tribute to Philippe Stern with the Minute Repeater Alarm Ref. 1938P

Equipped with repeater and repeater alarm.

To celebrate Philippe Stern’s 85th birthday, Patek Philippe has released the Minute Repeater Alarm ref. 1938P-001. The 30-piece limited edition is a minute repeater with a novel alarm function that chimes the programmed time, powered by a new calibre that will never be repeated.

The watch is also a tribute in a literal sense: the fired enamel dial bears a monochromatic portrait of Philippe Stern, now the honorary president of Patek Philippe and the man who laid the foundations of the Geneva watchmaker’s present-day success.

Initial thoughts

This watch was long anticipated since it was first teased for Only Watch 2023, where it was announced as a unique piece made for the charity auction followed by a limited edition release. Now we have the specifics of the watch and it is impressive in technique, even if the dial is surprising at first sight.

Evocative of the iconic black-and-white portrait of Francis Ford-Coppola’s 1972 film The Godfather, portrait of Mr Stern initially feels out of place in such a classical watch. But then it is perhaps not as apparent on a wrist when reading the time, and more importantly, considering Mr Stern’s achievements he deserves an overwhelmingly prominent place on a watch.

It is a certainty that the buyers of the 30 watches will be clients personally acquainted with Mr Stern – word has it that all were allocated by Geneva prior to launch – and I imagine all of them would be happy to concede part of the dial to him.

With four new patents filed for the completely new movement inside (albeit one that borrows from the Grandmaster Chime calibre), the ref. 1938P amplifies Patek Philippe’s commitment to chiming watches.

Despite the complexity of the movement, the operation of the watch is straightforward and user friendly. With the ability to quickly switch between the two chiming modes of minute repeater and alarm at the push of the button in the crown, and setting the 12-hour alarm hand in 15-minute increments using the crown itself.

Movement aside, the ref. 1938P is notable for its “officer’s” case that harks back to Philippe Stern-era designs with its hinged back and elegant crown guard that doubles as the hinge. The only downside is its size – 41 mm diameter and 14.2 mm thickness – which results in proportions that are less graceful than most  creations of Mr Stern’s time.

A fitting tribute

There is a lot to say about the ref. 1938P, given the many historically-inspired details that Patek Philippe has incorporated into it. Starting with the the overall design, it is reminiscent of classical repeaters that Philippe Stern helped design during his leadership of the company from 1993 to 2009, after which he was succeeded by his son Thierry Stern.

At 41 mm wide with an officer’s style hinged caseback and thin straight lugs, the design cues which link back to the brands heritage are clear. Traditionalists will recognise many elements of the case design in particular, though the dimensions are decidedly more contemporary.

Once the hinged back is lifted the cal. R AL 27 PS is on full display. Based on the cal. R 27, one of Patek Philippe’s longest-lived calibres, the movement has a familiar layout but an unusual new style of finishing. The bevelled edges of the bridges and rotor are gilded, a subtle accent but one that is nonetheless novel for Patek Philippe.

And then there is the personal touch of Mr Stern’s signature engraved on the micro-rotor. This is matched by a dedication on the inside of the case back from Thierry Stern to his father: “À mon père, 85 ans de passion horlogère” (To my father, 85 years of watchmaking passion).

Inside the movement there is a lot going on – 227 additional components were required over the base cal. R 27 repeater movement, resulting in a total part count of 561, about double that of a conventional repeater. Majority of the new parts cater to the repeating alarm function, which originally debuted in 2014 in the Grandmaster Chime.

The movement is a conventional minute repeater that can be activated by the slide on the case side, but also a repeater alarm that chimes a programmed time. Setting the alarm to 5:15, for instance, will see the alarm chime five hour strikes and one quarter strike.

The brilliance of this movement comes from the fact that both the alarm and minute repeater work off the same hammer and gongs, and therefore the same train. By placing the watch in alarm mode the strike-work barrel is disengaged from the strike train until the time selected by the alarm hand is reached.

Given the complexity of the movement, it is unsurprising that safety features have been built in, such as when switching between the alarm and minute repeater settings. Toggling between he two is indicated by a bell shaped aperture at three o’clock that goes between black (minute repeater mode), red (alarm mode), and white (alarm activated).

The final standout feature is the grand feu enamel dial with portrait of Philippe Stern. While the portrait is unorthodox, the rest of the dial is classical.

There are applied Breguet numerals in white gold, except between nine and 11 the have been omitted for the portrait, along with a gold-powder minute track.

To match are three Breguet hands – white gold minute and hour hands along with a rose gold alarm hand that advances in 15-minute increments when the crown is in the middle position. There is also a small seconds sub-dial at six o’clock, while the Patek Philippe logo is printed in the same grey as the portrait and placed between two and three.

Key facts and price

Patek Philippe Minute Repeater Alarm “A Tribute to Philippe Stern”
Ref. 1938-001

Diameter: 41 mm
Height: 14.2 mm
Material: Platinum
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: Humidity and dust-protected only

Movement: Cal. R AL 27 PS
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, repeater alarm, and minute repeater
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Power reserve: 48 hours

Strap: Alligator leather strap with folding clasp

Limited edition: 30 pieces
Availability: Sold out
Price: CHF890,000 before taxes

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