Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grand Tradition Répétition Minutes Perpétuelle: Hearing Is Believing (With Video)
Sound. It seems like a simple concept: vibrations in the air picked up by your ears that your brain interprets as hearing. What could be more straightforward?
Well, sound, for one. You see, the word “sound” is sort of a colloquial term for how we interpret pressure waves passing through a medium and interacting with our body. Even then we are limited to a specific frequency; “sound” is more than what we can hear.
The human body can receive and audibly “hear” vibrations between the frequencies of 20 Hz (very low, slow-moving sound) all the way up to 20 KHz (very high, fast-moving sound) with a few exceptions. Above 20 KHz is considered ultrasound and below 20 Hz is considered infrasound, the realm where you are more likely to feel the sound but not technically hear it.
Sound is kind of a crazy concept because even describing it as a pressure wave moving through a medium is dumbing it down quite a bit. Sound is first a concept in physics that describes the propagation of a pressure wave through a medium as either a longitudinal or transverse wave.
Longitudinal describes the compression of a material, like air, that creates a sound wave as the material compresses in the direction of the wave to carry the energy outward. Transverse waves are back-and-forth oscillations of a medium, like a guitar string, at 90 degrees to the direction of the wave.
And yet, it isn’t even that simple because sound can be a combination of both types of waves, depending on the medium, and is further affected by temperature, density, transfer to a new medium, and the physical shape and viscosity of the medium.
Sound waves can be reflected, refracted, or attenuated (slowed) as a result of these variables, so sound, according to physics, can do all sorts of crazy things (like levitate physical matter).
This is why minute repeaters, especially the best ones, seek to be expert manipulators of physics and the materials of the world. Getting a pressure wave (in this case a transverse wave in the gong that changes to a longitudinal wave once it leaves the case and transfers to the air) to reach your ears with as much energy as possible is the ultimate goal.
There are many ways to go about this task, and for Jaeger-LeCoultre (with its more than 200 chiming calibers made to date), the new Master Grande Tradition Répétition Minutes Perpétuelle is an exercise in creativity that has resulted in a pretty awesome creation.
The watchmakers at Jaeger-LeCoultre are hot on their own heels, following up the Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel that launched at SIHH 2019 four short months later by the Répétition Minutes Perpétuelle. And unlike what many brands do, this new piece is not simply a variation of the January launch but instead an entirely new movement and significantly different aesthetic design.
While the Gyrotourbillon 5 (as its ubiquitously called) of January focused on extreme mechanics, the Répétition Minutes Perpétuelle is a return to the classicism the Master collection emphasizes while still expressing the engineering expertise of the brand. The exterior aesthetic is clean and easily readable with no intense skeletonization or cutaways in the dial to highlight the mechanics.
Usually I enjoy watches that do show the mechanics, but it is just as interesting to know that there is a gorgeous movement underneath reserved for the wearer alone.
Visually, the dial layout is similar to the Master Ultra-Thin Perpetual Enamel, including the cutout for the digital year and the “security zone” window just above the central axis of the hour and minute hands.
The main layout difference is the moon phase, which has been relocated so that it combines with the weekday subdial at 9 o’clock. While this might seem like a minor detail, it is a bit stranger when you notice that the moon phase isn’t a disk that rotates behind a window as per usual, but is instead a fixed engraving that uses an indicator hand to slowly circle the subdial and provide a vague allusion to a moon phase.
This is a bit disappointing for me – but unless the moon phase is hyper accurate it isn’t really the reason we are here, anyway.
That reason is the minute repeater, a creation that plays a bit with expectations for the mechanics in a strange ode to the past. Looking toward pocket watch sonneries and their large gongs, the gongs found in the Répétition Minutes Perpétuelle seek to outdo modern gongs with a few key changes.
This gong show sounds good
First things first: the gongs are made not of round but rectangular steel, allowing for a thicker gong (if the maximum dimensions are kept the same). That extra material can make for a deeper and fuller tone thanks to more vibrational mass.
The next step was to have the gong take up as much space as possible, making them a bit longer, though not cathedral-gong length, only around 1.5 times the regular length. But it doesn’t stop there: Jaeger-LeCoultre expanded the area of the case that they inhabit.
This means that not only do they wrap around the movement, but they change planes from the rear to the front giving the gong much more vibrational volume compared to flat gongs.
This added volume and the fact that the gongs inhabit both the front and rear of the movement mean the transfer of sound goes in both directions out of the case.
Instead of being attenuated by having to travel through the mass of the movement before transferring into the case and further into the air, it can resonate from either side of the case, which should improve sound transfer leading to louder and clearer chimes. But the different shapes of each gong also play a role in how they are each supposed to sound.
The low tone is produced by the gong that wraps helically around the movement, providing a fairly straight path for the vibrations to propagate throughout the gong and allowing for a fullness that works well with the “bass” note.
The high tone is produced by the gong that turns back on itself and provides a kink in the vibration propagation for the gong. This turns the gong into a sort of tuning fork that wants to resonate with itself at a higher pitch due to its length being effectively cut down from the kink, leading to a crisp higher sound.
The two shapes play with the vibrational waves very differently and are able to create sounds that are functionally similar but work in different ways. The two gongs are also laser welded together at the base, not only does this provide a more stable base to resonate from but allows a bit of resonance between the two to help develop complementary waves so the sounds fit better together.
On top of all that, Jaeger-LeCoultre uses trebuchet style hammers (basically with spring loaded upper halves) to minimize any interference with the hammer strike and provide a crisp impulse for a single, clear tone. The creation and transmission of the vibrations in the gongs is always paramount to a great-sounding minute repeater, and the Répétition Minutes Perpétuelle employs some cool techniques to amplify the delicate sound coming from these gongs.
Design and usability
After two great complications with top-notch results, one might ask how could this watch get any better?
The answer is simple: by keeping it wearable. Now this is a bit subjective, but at a thickness of less than 14 mm, it is thin enough that many may not call this a “thick” watch compared to some of the monster grand complications out there.
Granted, it still won’t be easy to fit it under your cuff, but it seems much less monstrous than some assemblies can be. Due to its construction on three levels (time movement, perpetual calendar, and minute repeater) it could definitely be thinner as a fully integrated movement, but considering it is three levels, and complicated ones at that, it feels rather reasonable.
As the main time assembly is sandwiched in the center you get the best of both worlds: a clear view of awesome mechanics and an automatic mechanism ensuring that the perpetual calendar doesn’t miss a day if you left it on the dresser for 24 hours.
The power reserve is still only 38 hours so it’s not going to save it over the weekend, but it can easily be worn intermittently through the week.
The Répétition Minutes Perpétuelle comes in two variations: one with a simple silver grained dial with printed indexes and applied markers or the much more complex guilloche dial featuring amazing translucent blue enamel and applied subdials that has loads of visual texture.
Each one is subdued compared to the Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel from January 2019, yet the Répétition Minutes Perpétuelle represents a careful and measured approach to a truly masterful movement.
I truly wouldn’t want to break the watch, so let’s break it down in our own way!
- Wowza Factor * 9.4 Seeing the gongs go from front to back is something I’ve never seen and it definitely made me exclaim a huge wowza!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 94.4» 925.748m/s2 It doesn’t matter who you are, the Répétition Minutes Perpétuelle has what it takes for weeks of late-night lusting!
- M.G.R. * 68.44 Three layers of awesome wrapped in a set of unique gongs, I’d say that deserves a strong rating!
- Added-Functionitis * Severe Aside from missing the chronograph this watch is practically a grand complication so clearly it requires prescription-strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for downright sweet swelling!
- Ouch Outline * 11.1 Waking up on your lifeless arm only to let the blood rush back in and begin an excruciating sensation! Seriously, it is actually strange how much it hurts, it’s such a simple thing. Still I’d gladly let all my limbs go limp to get this watch on one of my dangling wrists!
- Mermaid Moment * Gong! I have a strange sense of déjà vu. No matter, the sweet sound emanating from the extremely cool gongs is enough to make me call and reserve a venue!
- Awesome Total * 996.28 Begin with the caliber number (950) and add the total number of pieces between the versions (60), then subtract the thickness of the case (13.72) for a completely resonant awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.jaeger-lecoultre.com/us/en/watches/master/master-grande-tradition-repetition-minutes-quantieme-perpetuel.
Quick Facts Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Répétition Minutes Perpétuelle
Case: 43 x 13.72 mm, white gold
Movement: automatic Caliber 950, rotor sandwiched between repeater and perpetual calendar mechanisms, 38-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, two spring barrels, 585 components
Functions: hours, minutes; minute repeater, perpetual calendar with day, date, month, year moon phases; security zone indication
Limitation: 30 pieces per dial variation
Price: CHF 225,000 with silver dial, CHF 250,000 with guilloche enamel dial