Patek Philippe has created an extraordinary watch — 1938P-001 — to celebrate the 85th birthday of Philippe Stern, the company’s president from 1993 to 2009 and current honorary president. This exclusive watch features a minute repeater and an alarm that sounds at the programmed hour on the two gongs of the repeater mechanism.
The series is limited to 30 pieces, and each is equipped with a unique movement that will not be reproduced in the future. Additionally, the watch stands out for its platinum case in the official style and the black grand feu enamel dial, which includes a miniature portrait of Philippe Stern in white and gray enamel.
Since its founding in 1839, Patek Philippe has solidified its position as an exemplary brand in the world of notable watches, whether through striking hour indications (large or small) or through impressive on-demand repeaters. In 1989, in celebration of the company’s 150th anniversary, Philippe Stern (then its director) reintroduced the minute repeater in wristwatch format with the launch of the renowned automatic caliber R 27, the first movement of this type entirely conceived and produced in-house at the Manufacture. Since then, over the years, minute repeaters have regained their prominent place in the Patek Philippe product line, currently becoming the largest collection of wristwatches with minute repeaters in current production, with about a dozen models exclusively featuring this Grand Complication or combining it with other functions (such as grand and small strikes, tourbillon, perpetual calendar, chronograph, world time, etc.).
To celebrate Philippe Stern’s 85th birthday, Thierry Stern (current president since 2009 and the fourth generation of the Stern family) chose to honor his father by creating an exclusive series of 30 watches. These watches feature a completely new movement, developed exclusively for this edition and will not be used again. Named with the reference 1938, the birth year of the honorary president, the watch was conceived as a minute repeater, Philippe Stern’s favorite complication, combined with a unique sound function: an alarm that rings at the preset hour. This sophisticated mechanism was one of the five sound functions and two patented world premieres revealed in 2014, during the Manufacture’s 175th anniversary, in the Grandmaster Chime, reference 5175. This wristwatch, the most complicated of Patek Philippe with 20 complications, is equipped with the manual caliber 300 “GS AL 36-750 QIS FUS IRM.” The Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime, incorporated into the regular collection in 2016 with reference 6300, combines a large and small chiming, minute repeater, date repeater that plays the calendar on request, and an alarm that rings at the programmed hour.
Integrating the programmed alarm function into the iconic caliber R 27 proved to be an extremely challenging task. The development of the new automatic caliber R AL 27 PS required a complete revision of the minute repeater mechanism by Patek Philippe engineers to incorporate the alarm. The challenge was to create a watch that would trigger both the minute repeater and the alarm on the same two classic gongs, preserving the locking system on the left side of the case, a distinctive visual detail of Patek Philippe minute repeaters. To achieve this feat, the movement, after the lock was activated, needed to be able to instantly sound the displayed hour on the dial (minute repeater mode) and interrupt the percussion mechanism until the displayed hour matched the programmed hour (alarm mode). Unlike conventional minute repeaters, where triggering through the bolt immediately activates the sound, the inclusion of an alarm system required the sound barrel to be detachable from the mechanism for activating the sound components (such as the quarter-hour hand, minute hand, and hour hand).
To overcome these technical limitations, 235 new components were added, including a scale and a column wheel system to select the sound mode and a fusee device with a sound trigger. The latter is used to temporarily disconnect the power source (sound barrel) from the sound mechanism, a feature usually reserved for watches with large sound mechanisms. The development of the caliber R AL 27 PS resulted in the registration of four new patents for mechanisms that enable the safe transition between sound modes, the delay of the alarm ring until the appropriate hour, ensuring the correct sequence of “hours, quarters, and minutes” bells in all situations, and ensuring that the sound barrel is always fully charged each time the lock is activated. This allows the watch to ring up to 31 beats for the alarm if necessary (for example, at 12:58).
Like this limited-edition model, other Patek Philippe watches are available at David Rosas.