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.

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For Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie, the challenge was to produce a repeater wristwatch that would match or exceed the output levels of even a generously sized pocket watch. The team at Audemars Piguet approached the problem as a musical instrument or loudspeaker designer would. They measured the output in decibels from a specific distance, ultimately achieving a level 10 times that of a typical wristwatch repeater.

This was accomplished through a blend of tradition and innovation, using hammers and gongs, but in a radically conceived, vented case with modern materials. What this means for the sound volume is that the acoustic intensity produced by the Supersonnerie is equivalent to that of three minute-repeater pocket watches striking at the same time. Yes, you can utter the word, “Awesome!”

For those who love minute repeaters, this watch is nothing less than a game-changer: no more bringing a watch up to one’s ear just to hear it. “Bravo!” as they would shout at an opera.

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