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Watch Word This Week: Decimal Repeater

A special breed within the rarefied world of minute repeaters, the decimal repeater finds a home in Panerai’s first chiming watch.

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Earlier this month, Panerai unveiled its first-ever repeater watch, the Radiomir 1940 Minute Repeater Carillon Tourbillon GMT. Several things make this 49mm timepiece special: It’s the brand’s first chiming watch. It’s also its most complicated timepiece. It chimes the time for two time zones. And then, there is the fact that it’s a decimal repeater.

A complication that chimes the time in a mechanical watch, the minute repeater dates back to a time before street illumination was commonplace. Then and now, these technically challenging, and thus pretty pricey, watches remain relatively uncommon.

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The display caseback of the watch, showing the P.2005/MR movement with its three hammers (bottom) and the wire gongs around the perimeter.

Within this rarefied, sonorous world, a particular breed of repeater is even rarer – the decimal repeater. While a minute repeater chimes the hours, quarters and minutes, a decimal repeater chimes the hours, ten-minute intervals and minutes. So, if the time is 2:57, a minute repeater would chime twice (two hours), then thrice (three hour-quarters), and 12 times. A decimal repeater, on the other hand, would chime twice (two hours), then five times (fifty minutes) and seven times (seven minutes).

Panerai is not the only brand to create a decimal repeater in recent years. A. Lange & Sohne’s Zeitwerk Minute Repeater, the brand’s headliner timepiece last year, is one such example. Brands like Breguet and Seiko have also made decimal repeaters, although independent Finnish watchmaker Kari Voutilainen is most closely associated with the complication, having launched the Masterpiece 6, the first of several decimal repeater watches bearing his name, in 2004. The decimal repeater is a feature that makes a lot of sense (unlike some horological complications, frankly), especially in a digital world, and we are pretty confident we’ll be seeing more of them in time to come.

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