Of all the challenges — self-inflicted or otherwise — that a watch company has to deal with, manufacturing repeaters is said to trump even tourbillons and perpetual calendars for sheer difficulty. The reason is simple: activating the chiming of the hours, quarters and/or minutes is straightforward in pure horological terms, but the acoustic aspect is an entirely different discipline.
Not only does the watchmaker have to incorporate hammers and gongs into the case, adding to the hostility of the microscopic environment by adding a violent action, the repeater has to “sound good”. Mere ringing like an alarm watch, designed to agitate the listener, won’t do; it has to sound simply gorgeous. While sound quality is entirely subjective, a matter of taste, how loud something will go is unequivocally measureable.
Our world is awash with repeaters that treat your ears to divine music. The problem, though, has always been how loudly they can do it. Unlike pocket watches, at two or three times the diameter of a wristwatch, the 36–44mm size one might comfortably strap to one’s wrist does not offer the resonant surface that encourages sound levels loud enough to be heard distinctly more than a few inches from one’s ear. The watchcase, the gongs and the sounding area simply aren’t big enough.