ON THE TRAY IN FRONT of me is Switzerland’s best-kept and most-anticipated secret of the year: the dazzling white dial inside a glowing circle of rose gold that is Patek Philippe’s 175th-anniversary Grandmaster Chime. Thierry Stern, 44, the fourth generation of his family to head the luxury watchmaker brand, supplies the statistics: 47 mm in diameter, 16.1 mm thick, the watch required eight years to develop; the movement has 1,366 components, including three gongs and three hammers, 20 complications and two dials; the case has 214 parts.
The watch case’s elaborately hand-engraved laurel wreath recalls pocket-watches of centuries past. “We did a pocket watch for our 150th and for the millennium,” says Mr. Stern. “For our 175th, everyone expects another pocket watch.” He slides away the silk cover to reveal the Grandmaster Chime.
Only seven will be produced―six for clients and one for the Patek Philippe Museum. Its price? 2.5 million Swiss francs, or $2.6 million.
Mr. Stern justifies the figure with more statistics: eight years of research and development involving engineers, watchmakers and designers; 60,000 hours to produce the components for the watches; 100,000 hours for two watchmakers to assembly the watches. Even at that spectacular price, he says he cannot make a profit.
The Grandmaster Chime has four chiming complications. One new complication is an alarm that chimes the time for which it is set. Set the alarm for 7:30 and you will hear seven hour tones and two quarter-hour tones. If set for 1 o’clock―a time that would sound only one easy-to-miss tone―the alarm sounds at 12:58 with 12 hour tones, three quarter-hour tones and 13 minute tones.
The other new complication, the date repeater, chimes the date. Press the pusher positioned at 4 o’clock and on a single digit date you will hear that number of dings (seven for the seventh of the month). On the 17th, you will hear a ding-dong indicating 10 days followed by seven dings.
Other Highlights of the Past 25 Years
(1) STAR CALIBER 2000 // For the millennium, Patek Philippe created another double-dial pocket watch, the Star Caliber 2000. Two of its 21 complications have rarely appeared on watches: the time of the meridian passage by Sirius, the night sky’s brightest star, and the time of meridian passage by the moon. It is 72.2 mm in diameter and 32.3 mm thick.
(2) SKY MOON TOURBILLON // 2009’s Sky Moon Tourbillon was an early foray into double-dial wristwatches. The white dial shows the time, a perpetual calendar with leap year and the age of the moon. The blue dial has a sky chart and the phase and orbit of the moon. The watch, 43 mm in diameter and 16.2 mm thick, is also a minute repeater.
(3) CALIBER 89 // In 1989, Patek celebrated its 150th anniversary with a double-dial pocket watch, the Caliber 89, which is 89 mm in diameter, 41 mm thick and weighs 1.1 kilograms. The watch has 33 complications, including a thermometer, the time of sunrise and sunset, the signs of the zodiac and the date of Easter. Research, development and manufacture required nine years.