Livingwatch Minute Repeater App: Time Telling And Demonstration App By Stephen McGonigle – And It’s Free!
by Ian Skellern
Repeaters are one of the most complicated complications for a watchmaker to make. It’s not only incredibly challenging and complex to create a mechanism that chimes the hours, quarter hours, and minutes on demand, those sonorous chimes have to both sound loud enough to easily hear and sound beautiful to the ear.
Because of their complexity, early seventeenth- and eighteenth-century repeater clocks struck just the hours and quarters. Minute repeater pocket watches did not appear until the late eighteenth century, and the first minute repeater wristwatch arrived 100 years later in 1892.
History of repeaters (shamelessly lifted from Wikipedia)
“The repeating clock was invented by the English cleric and inventor, the Reverend Edward Barlow in 1676. His innovation was the rack and snail striking mechanism, which could be made to repeat easily and became the standard mechanism used in both clock and watch repeaters ever since. The best kind of repeating clocks were expensive to make; a separate train of wheels had to be added to the striking mechanism, and to activate it one pulled a cord whereupon it would strike the hours and quarters, or even the hours and five-minute divisions (five minutes repeating). During the nineteenth century, such clocks gradually went out of use.”
Early repeaters chimed a small bell, which took up a lot of space so were not practical for pocket watches (and later wristwatches.) It was the ever prolific Abraham-Louis Breguet who invented the circular gong in 1793 and made the first practical repeater (pocket) watch. As an aside, Breguet’s timepiece number 2639 was his first wristwatch and happened to be an “oblong repeater for bracelet” commissioned and purchased by Caroline Murat, sister of Napoleon Bonaparte and the queen of Naples.
Some form of Breguet’s gong is still used in virtually all chiming watches today.
The downside to minute repeaters (aside from their price)
While minute repeaters are both mesmerizing to watch and listen to, they do not tell the time in what most of us would find a logical way. While there are rare decimal repeaters that strike the hours, tens of minutes, and minutes more comprehensibly, translating most repeaters as they strike the number of hours, the number of quarter hours, and then the number of minutes after the quarter hours isn’t something most of us can do instinctively.
The time at 10:53, for example, chimes: ten dongs (ten hours), three dings (the quarter hours, 3×15 minutes), and eight ding/dongs (number of minutes after the quarters).
If you hear a 10-3-8 chime, you don’t instantly think 10:53.
Livingwatch Repeater App
Stephen McGonigle, co-founder of McGonigle watches and founder of Magon watches, has developed (or perhaps more accurately “is developing”) an IOS app called Livingwatch, now available (for free) on the Apple Store. At present the app features a quarter repeater pocket watch that does the following:
1. Tells the correct time dial side with its hands.
2. Strikes the time (hours and quarters) when the “slide” is activated.
3. Displays the repeater mechanism (and escapement) working on the back of the watch.
4. Provides a description of how a repeater works (click link at the bottom of the app).
To develop the app, McGonigle worked with Dr. Donnacha Daly, head of the bachelor program in Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning at Lucerne’s University of Applied Sciences and Arts, as well as head of Workshop and Maker Space Fabian Schwärzler and Léo Wyrsch, a student programmer (who did most of the work).
This is only the first edition of the Livingwatch app. McGonigle is working on an alarm function so that the repeater chimes at a set time as well as a minute repeater version. In the future he expects to offer wristwatch versions. The app will update as these new releases become available.
At present, the app is only available on the Apple Store for iPhones and iPads (though I discovered that it works on my Mac laptop too), but McGonigle is also working on an Android version.
You can download the Livingwatch repeater app at apps.apple.com/us/app/livingwatch/id1600720308.