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Does anybody know about a good book or resource about Minute Repeaters...

November 18 2006 at 2:06 PM
Magnus Bosse  (Login mbosse)
AP Discussion Group

 
which describes how to achieve a good sound (and tackles beneath the movement also case and dial design, as these are essential components!)?

Thanks a lot! Any input much appreciated!

Best regards,
Magnus


 
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Lord_Arran
(Login Lord_Arran)
AP Discussion Group

Dear Dr. Bosse, I think that Paul will be able to tell you, also Peter Ineichen, senior>

November 18 2006, 5:31 PM 

boss of Ineichen auctions in Zurich. He is a great wis, particularly with pocket watches and after all watch making began there (watches you can wear I mean).

Warm regards also to Isabelle. Ever yours

Lord Arran

 
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nickd
(Login NickDownes)
PP Discussion Group

Wish I did...

November 20 2006, 2:33 AM 

Hi Magnus,

I've been looking for quite a while for something on this subjet, but can find very little. In fact, there's precious little documentation on repeaters in general.

As you're in Switzerland, I wonder if you could contact the PP museum to ask to look in their library. They have a large collection of books on the top floor of the museum, and apart from anything else, it would be great to have the cases unlocked and to have the right to sniff around

nick


 
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ThomasM
(Premier Login thepurist178)
AP Discussion Group

Having spoken to some of the leading craftsmen in this sub-speciality

November 20 2006, 2:59 PM 

about the very subjects you are asking about - both the technical specifics and the general available AUTHORITATIVE literature on the subject ("textbooks" if you will) I have to the conclusion that

a) there are no "universally respected authoritative tomes" on the subject, a la Berners or LeCoultre's Complicated Watches

b) there are widely repeated "rules of thumb" -

- size of case
- size of movement
- "tuning" by removing metal from the gong, usually from the area near the block


There are also usually generally accepted but still yet to be rigourously proven "thoughts" on the subject like tempering (horse urine of virgin mares) and how a case is "worked" having as much influence on the final sound as the size of the hammers or the "airiness" of the case.

There are some acoustics "truisms" - tranducers should be light and rigid - that generally hold true (why Ti is usually the preferred case metal for volume of sound, if not necessary quality of tone) in most situations and cases (pun intended)


All above can be elborated, by Suitbert, me, or any experienced repeater specialist at AP RP (Le Brassus and Le Locle), VC, DR/GG, PP; and most of the highly regarded specialists or Master Watchmakers who have done work in this area like Dufour (but see comments below) and Kari Voutilainen.

But bottom line - I have taken to saying, "If they could, they would."

They don't (produce consistently good sounding, loud, well tuned repeaters) so I conclude they can't, yet.

One of the greatest INDIVIDUAL wristwatch repeaters in terms of purity of tone, pitch, resonance / reverberation, average/above average volume - Philippe Dufour Petite Grande Sonnerie No. x

A very mediocre INDIVIDUAL wristwatch repeater in terms of purity of tone, pitch, resonance / reverberation, average/above average volume - Philippe Dufour Petite Grande Sonnerie No. x-2

Most consistent brand for repeater sound quality and volume - Patek Philippe (yet, I have heard really lousy PP repeaters) but for the most part, they are pretty darned nice.

Most widely ranging repeaters (from "among best of best" to "among worst ever heard") - Audemars Piguet

Most consistently too soft volume, with sound quality ranging from very nice to pretty lousy - Blancpain.

And the single highest percentage of great sounding repeaters (so far, 100%, but then, he's only made 4 under his own name ) from one producer/under one brand - Kari Voutilainen - his Masterpiece 6 is magnificent (pitch is just a little off) and MP 7 and 8 are right up there with the best.

To my mind and ears, Daniel Roth (the company, owned by Bvlgari now) seems closest to having the "secret formula" in terms of sound quality for their sonnerie, but they still need to work on the volume. consistently (recent productions) beautiful tones, pitch, but consistently too soft.

Cheers,

TM


 
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Ronald Held
(Login ronaldheld)

Thomas, why is it that there is no algorithm for making a repeater...

November 21 2006, 8:42 AM 

with the desired acoustic characteristics?

 
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ThomasM
(Premier Login thepurist178)
AP Discussion Group

technology, resources, willingness, and commercial necessity

November 21 2006, 1:23 PM 

Hi, Ronald,

I've got to run, and will try to come back to this later, but for now -

think Strad, Guernari, etc vs those made by other masters, vs those made "industrially"

PP (PS and M.M) and DR (GR, others in the workshops) are both pursuing committed internal research programs which include advanced recording and acoustic digital/analogue waveform analysis, tonal quality comparisons, etc. I imagine other "significant" repeater producers - Cristophe Claret; VC; MJLC; BP; AP; APRP; et al - are doing their own research as well.

Interestingly, I know that AP, APRP are doing serious "research" albeit in a less technologically advanced way. This may not be a bad thing; there are those (myself included) who feel that digital sound (re)production and analysis still leaves too much to be desired to be truly useful or conclusive.

I've discussed this with VC and BP as well - in their workshops, with the actual "master watchmakers" responsible for making and "tuning" their repeaters as well as production managers and product managers and management executives - the conclusions I feel comfortable drawing are the same - it is still very much a "gut / ear" feel type of approach.

Of course, I realize that I am just an enthusiast and founder of an obscure, niche website known for its "amateurishness" - there may be programs going on that I am not privy to, and the comments made to me by industry individuals may have been just to "get rid of" a bothersome Purist.

I have no illusions about my insignificance, and make no presumptions about what I "know."

Cheers,

TM

 
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chris russell
(Login patekkie)
AP Discussion Group

In view of that, it seems a bit perverse that these companies would choose to release...

November 21 2006, 12:18 PM 

second and third-class examples of these very pricey products to the public, with no discount for the poor performance of these virtual rejects. I think the intelligent buyer would by necessity make his/her purchase contingent on the acceptability of the tone and volume of the repeater mechanism.

 
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ThomasM
(Premier Login thepurist178)
AP Discussion Group

The problem, chris, are myriad, but there are few generalizable ones

November 21 2006, 12:36 PM 

Hi,

1) most consumers don't have the time, interest, willingness, or even chance if they wanted to, to compare multiple pieces, for benchmarking - over time, and simultaneously.

2) even the brands/producers themselves either don't have trained ears, don't care, or don't take the time. the majority of them are mechanics (in the most respectful way, not in a pejorative sense) not musicians or even instrument makers.

Being in the business you are in (and I think we've talked about my past interest and involvement in that industry, including following and supporting as a customer people like Tom Colangelo, Nelson Pass, Dr. Johnson, Dr. West, Koetsu-san, et al) I think the industry dynamics are not that much different.

Hopefully, with resources like ours (and the old Harry Pearson type independence - even if it might have been more myth than reality; I can only speak about ours and I know what that is) the consumers will have their eyes and ears opened, and the industry will respond appropriately - hopefully, out of principle and genuine interest; but at least out of commercial necessity.

Cheers,

TM

 
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ei8htohms
(Login ei8htohms)
AP Discussion Group

things change

November 21 2006, 4:26 PM 

HI Chris,

In addition to the problems Thomas already mentioned, another serious issue is the mutability of the many mechanisms that contribute the sound. There are a variety of adjustments that can be made to control the strength of the hammer strike and the amount of hammer recoil and these adjustments require precision in the extreme if optimal sound is desired. They also have to be coupled with the optimal striking point on the gongs which need to be precisely tuned so as to avoid dissonant overtones or cancelling frequencies upon decay and all of these parts are made of metals with various and conflicting tempering and hysteresis concerns that all change over time even in a stable environment, much less in a tiny metal box that is subjected to a great number of shocks and temperature changes. It's amazing they ever work and sound good actually.

_john

 
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ThomasM
(Premier Login thepurist178)
AP Discussion Group

The more I am around these things (both from a "clinical" standpoint and from a purely

November 22 2006, 2:03 AM 

consumer standpoint) the more I am increasingly conflicted - I both agree with you, and disagree with you.

Hi, John,

You and I both know just how finicky and how much unknown "black magic" there is in these things - a piece runs with a stable beat and solid in all positions, only to suddenly, without apparent reason, go wacky, either on the wrist or on a winder. Yet, a week later, it settles back down and works reliably for another several years.

Or the 7750's that just won't work right, even though the fundamental design is robust and quite accurate.

etc etc etc.

But on the other hand, these "miracles of complication" generalizations that you and I have bandied about, which can be traced back to Walt and of course before, more often than not lead the casual reader or those with less broad exposure to these things take these comments too literally, and perhaps conclude these things are either too sensitive, or over estimate the miracle that these things work at all.

The basic concepts and engineering actually aren't that complicated - basically, a hammer strikes a gong, much like a fork or spoon striking a lead crystal goblet, with the resulting vibrational energy producing acoustic "tings" or "tangs"

The system itself adds some complexity and of course influences the qualities of the tones produced (including the volume, of course) but overall, the basic function of producing tones ain't that "miraculous."

The "draw" of the hammer, as well as the recoil of the hammers after the strike;

the actual force with which the hammers strike - a functional sub-system, actually; and where they strike, on the gongs;

whether the coils are drawn as one unit from the block or soldered on;

how the metals (both gongs and hammers) are alloyed and worked - this area of repeater design and execution is where the "romantic" story of the use of equine urine from virgin mares used to "temper" the gongs comes from - don't laugh, readers, there might be some truth to this, though it is usually presented mostly tongue in cheek - how? Most likely uric acid...;

how the movement interacts with the resulting waveforms; how the case amplifies or dampens the sounds; whether the case is on the wrist (usually dampening) or pressed against a piece of paper, to act as a membrane amplifier; how long the gong is (being round, how many times it goes around the movement) and how thick and where - hence, the practice of "tuning" the pitch of the gongs by removing metal from the gongs, usually from the area near where the gong attaches (or emanates from) the block;

all of these ways to tune and adjust repeaters are well known and reliable in that they do influence the sound and/or volume, though exactly how is still not completely known - a sort of "Unified Theory" of repeater design, execution, and tuning is missing.

Scientific methodology usually works from a "ceteribus paribus" approach - identify variables, try to control as many of them as possible, and isolate and vary one to see how the tone and pitch are effected.

The problem is, I suspect, the final sound quality of any repeater is an inextricable result of the whole - the movement, case, dial, rest of the movement, etc etc etc.

So studying ceteribus partibus sub-systems of meterials and adjustments and set ups might end up being more misleading than helpful, as a general theoretical foundation, because it cannot take into account the systemic, secondary, tertiary, etc levels of interaction between the various variable.

Put simply, just because using a stiffer, lighter case material results in louder "sound" for one repeater, may not be the case for another.

I realize strict scientific rationalists will have a field day shooting down my "points" and I have to resort to specific examples.

(gotta run, more later, but bottom line is, getting a consistently great sound and volume IS very difficult and more unpredictable than reliable, even if getting something to work at all, to produce SOME sound, is not all that difficult)

 
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Zak
(Login zigwhentheyzag)

Thanks Thomas!

November 21 2006, 2:13 PM 

This is one of the most comprehensive overviews of the niche that I have ever come across.

Much appreciated! And from the sounds of it, I look forward to hearing more.

Best,
Zak

 
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ThomasM
(Premier Login thepurist178)
AP Discussion Group

You are too kind, Zak, others like Suitbert and John can surely give much more

November 22 2006, 2:04 AM 

technical and comprehensive overviews, if they only had time.

Hopefully, they can be drawn into the discussion.

Best,

TM

 
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jtbradley
(Login jtbradley)
PP Discussion Group

All very interesting

November 22 2006, 3:03 PM 

Interesting thread. Thanks all.
Given the ostensibly "Black Arts" involved in conjuring great tones from a repeater, I suspect that even if PP, AP, VC, PD, Roth, etc. knew the admixture of elements to consistently make sweet sounding repeaters, they'd keep it well-guarded (too the extent that these things can remain well-guarded in the sometimes incestuous swiss watch industry).

Perhaps the ultimate factor is a Manufacture's willingness (or unwillingness) to let poorer sounding repeaters onto the marketplace. E.g., perhaps PP is the most consistent merely because it is the most stringent when it comes to quality control and not because it knows some otherwise unknown secret about manufacturing repeaters.

And the truth could also (probably does?) lie somewhere between outright better know-how and stringent quality control.

John

 
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Magnus Bosse
(Login mbosse)
AP Discussion Group

Dear All, thanks a lot for your efforts,...

November 21 2006, 2:57 AM 

I will certainly follow your advice, and hope there will be a solution for an existing minute repeater movement...

Cheers,
Magnus


 
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cepheus
(Login cepheus1960)

books on minute repeaters

November 24 2006, 9:57 AM 

I found a few references that might be of interest to you.

F. LECOULTRE, "A guide to complicated watches", Switzerland, 2004, 216 p.

Donald DE CARLE, "Complicated watches and their repair", ??


 
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Magnus Bosse
(Login mbosse)
AP Discussion Group

Thanks a lot, very helpful bibliographic info. NT

November 26 2006, 4:47 AM 

.


 
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cepheus
(Login cepheus1960)

books on minute repeaters

December 1 2006, 6:11 AM 

Dear Friend,

If your German is up to date, I advise to take a look on a well-known Internet sale site

Bruno HILLMANN, Die Reparatur komplizierter Taschenuhren, Berlin, 1924, nr. of pages not mentioned.

Fine reading!

 
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Magnus Bosse
(Login mbosse)
AP Discussion Group

Great idea, thanks! As a native German I hope my language skills suffice...! NT

December 3 2006, 1:20 PM 

.


 
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