Patek Minute Repeater Tourbillon. WTF?

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Patek Philippe Minute Repeater Tourbillon closeup

To commemorate the opening of their new digs, Patek Philippe has dropped the Patek Philippe Minute Repeater Tourbillon. HoDinkee’s Jack Forster had a major Patekgasm. “In terms of classic fine watchmaking, the movement is, in its most essential elements, almost reactionary; not only is there simply nothing to criticize, but there is also a feeling of leisurely disregard for any sort of practical constraints on time and cost of production.” Oh please . . .

It may feel like Patek created this watch for sheer f*ck of it, but the Swiss watchmaker is in the business of selling watches.

Mr. Foster can sleep soundly knowing that the Swiss watchmaker will make a substantial profit on the $710k timepiece. The new Patek Philippe Minute Repeater Tourbillon isn’t a limited edition; you can multiply their per-piece margin by a factor of ten.

Patek Philippe Minute Repeater Tourbillon against blurry stuff

I’m sure private collectors are making discreet enquiries as I write, putting their private pilots on notice that a quick jaunt to Geneva is in the offing. Good for them.

Mr. Foster’s ode to Patek’s genius, attention to detail and flawless workmanship may threaten death-by-erudition, but it’s spot on. We’re all better for living in a world where classic horology creates products previously reserved for royalty and robber barons. Now available to others at Patek Philippe’s discretion.

But Jesus is this thing ugly.

Patek Philippe Minute Repeater Tourbillon money shot

There I said it. And I’ll say it again. It’s as if Mr. Stern directed his designers to make a gold Patek Philippe Hublot Big Bang. That chimes. Oh, and throw in the world’s most useless complication (a tourbillon).

Not to put too fine a point on it, if it was a dog I’d shave its ass and make it walk backwards. If nothing else – and there is plenty else – those skeltonized happy hands look like cat eyes.

I get it. This is a watch where you can see everything. Gongs that are normally hidden or placed discreetly are on full display. As are a myriad of other bits and pieces that make the watch do its thing, finished by hand with microscopic precision. Patek didn’t want the watch’s hands to obscure anything, ever.

And so they don’t. But where’s the symmetry, the elegance, the understated magnificence of, I dunno, every other watch that Patek Philippe makes or has ever made?

Patekophiles may point me to equally aesthetically “challenged” Patek Philippe complications. (I’m told there’s one on the video above.) Do me a favor. Don’t. This one is bad enough.

Spell my name with two “r’s” (farrago) and you’ll have a good idea what I think about the combination of elements creating this timepiece. The indices tell us that legibility is a secondary concern. The prominence of the branding tells us that Patek flexing was given the highest priority. What is the word tourbillon doing on the top of the dial? Or on the dial in the first place?

Patek Philippe Minute Repeater Tourbillon caseback

To be fair, I’m also no fan of the caseback. Forgiving the movement’s misaligned screws, the superstructure surrounding the movement is magnificent – in the sense that I’d be the first to commission Patek to build a solid gold garden trellis. Am I the only one who expects a watch movement to fill the caseback?

I could go on, but why bother? If you love it, I’m OK with that – although I wonder if slavish devotion to Patek’s feats of horological engineering, decoration and finishing has clouded your vision. And refer you the wikipedia entry for the term Rube Goldberg.

caseback closeup

Patek Philippe stands bestride the watchmaking world like a colossus. To continue the Shakespeare quote, “We petty men walk under his huge legs and peep about. To find ourselves dishonorable graves.” As I draw ever closer to the day I’ll shuffle off this mortal coil, I humble myself at the feet of the fabled Swiss watchmaker,

Forgive me, my horological betters, for raising a Roger Moore-like eyebrow at the Patek Philippe Minute Repeater Tourbillon. This is the first Patek I’d sell if it were given to me. And that’s saying something.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Are those second hand indices are printed on the back of the crystal?

    I’m not one for these naked watches, but there must be a way to some translucent or peekaboo dial to allow a compromise between viewing the moving parts and actually being able to read the thing without struggle.

    What’s up with those stars on the red one in the video?

  2. Watchmaking makes me laugh sometimes. I’ve seen and sold jewelry that’s been in the Smithsonian and at least with jewelry, worst comes to worse, you can part out the stones and most people understand gem value without much explanation. Whereas, this watch’s only value is that it’s difficult to make (most likely with Chinese parts) and that Patek made it. I’m not sure what the true value is for this piece, tbh. I guess this is why watchmaking makes me laugh.

    • Years ago, in Medieval Art 101, the professor asked her freshmen, why were illuminated manuscripts so expensive? And we all said, because of the labor involved–that’s why the printing press was so significant.

      But, of course, medieval labor was cheap–it was the materials that were expensive (vellum, in particular). It’s a very modern point of view that finds labor a source of value.

      I think the difference you are describing,b jewelry and watches, is the difference between valuing materials and valuing labor. As you say, a stainless steel watch has very little value when melted down.

      • Interesting point, but I can tell you that some jewelry requires intense labor and the use of skilled craftsman to have a piece of jewelry come to life. One maker, Oscar Heyman in particular, still uses machines from the 19th century because no modern machine can do the work. With their necklaces and brooches, there can be hundreds of hours of work to create the piece. Also, if you want to see true art work, look at Siegelson.com

  3. Nice, colorful write up. I had a blast and I couldnt agree more.
    Fun aside, what I don’t like, beside this watch, is the path PP seems to have taken.
    It feels like something is off, weak energy comes from their recent releases including the Calatrava 6007A-001. That’s not normal.
    Beside the usual suspects and new variations of them, PP by definition is supposed to deliver indisputed heavy hitters in term of design, tecnology and features (call them complications if you like) and setting the stage for the(ir) upcoming icons of the horological realm.
    Even with trying hard I can’t see any of that recently.

  4. Great write-up. But I will tell you what I really appreciate. I confess that by default I gave PP the benefit of the doubt. The watch didnt strike me, either, but my default position was “it’s Patek. They probably know something I don’t about good design.” Then I read this and think “no, my first instinct was right. This is a mess.” Sometimes you just need the emperor’s nakedness called out.

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