In 1989, Patek Philippe celebrated its 150th anniversary by launching a limited edition minute repeater wristwatch, reviving the prestigious but dormant complication. The man at the helm spearheading this revival? Then President Philippe Stern.
Over three decades later, Patek Philippe is honoring Stern’s legacy with another tribute minute repeater unveiled for his 85th birthday. But who is Philippe Stern and what’s the story behind this special celebratory timepiece? The Reference 1938P-001 Minute Repeater Alarm is an exclusive platinum watch featuring an all-new movement with a patented alarm function that chimes the time programmed on the dial.
Only 30 pieces will be produced of this unique watch created specially in tribute to Philippe Stern on the occasion of his milestone birthday. Philippe Stern was president of Patek Philippe from 1993 to 2009 and spearheaded a revival of the minute repeater wristwatch during his tenure. His passion for complicated watches, especially minute repeaters, inspired the manufacture to develop this innovative commemorative model.
At the heart of the watch is the new caliber R AL 27 PS, an automatic movement with a minute repeater and alarm. It took Patek’s engineers years to integrate an alarm mechanism into their famed minute repeater calibers. The alarm chimes the time set on the dial by winding the gongs, just like a minute repeater activating on demand. But instead of striking immediately when activated, it waits until the current time matches the programmed alarm time before sounding.
Creating the proprietary alarm system within the minute repeater module required adding 227 extra parts to the base movement. Patek Philippe had to completely redevelop the striking mechanism to allow switching between the two chime modes. This included new components like a lever and column wheel to select modes and a fusee system to temporarily disconnect the striking barrel from the movement.
The ingenious setup allows the watch to chime a programmed alarm time on the same two gongs as the minute repeater with just the slide of a switch. Despite the added complexity, the watch remains easy to operate via the pushers and crown. Patek secured four new patents to protect the groundbreaking technical concepts underpinning the R AL 27 PS caliber.
As an artistic flourish honoring Stern, the watch features his portrait in enamel miniature painting on the black Grand Feu enamel dial. It depicts him in subtle gray and white tones applied with fine brushwork. The platinum case echoes historical Patek Philippe officer-style watches that Stern helped popularize during his tenure.
Stern’s signature is engraved on the 22K gold rotor, which is visible through the sapphire caseback. The back is shielded by an engraved dust cover that reads “To my father, 85 years of watchmaking passion” in French. Echoing tradition, a diamond is embedded at 6 o’clock in the baseband.
With its innovative strike mechanism, artistic dial, and exclusive platinum case, the Reference 1938P-001 encapsulates the watchmaking heritage Philippe Stern devoted his life to preserving. It will stand as a unique tribute to one of the legends of Swiss watchmaking on his landmark birthday.