It was English clockmaker Daniel Quare who patented the minute-repeating mechanism in the late 17th century, before the invention of electricity. With his minute repeater, Quare discovered an audible way that his clock could tell the time, even in the dark.
While the repeater wristwatch was first achieved in the 19th century, Ulysse Nardin was one of the earliest watch manufacturers to fuel its rebirth in the late 1980s, with the Swiss Manufacturer highlighting the sublime chimes of hours and minutes through the additional innovation of tiny jaquemarts on the dial.
Originally found in clock towers, jaquemarts are automatons, mechanical figures that strike the hour. The 10th-century bronze figures on the campanile of St Mark’s in Venice are a fine example. Their swinging hammers resonate against the ancient bell to remind flirting couples at the Caffè Florian that time is moving on.
When Ulysse Nardin first revived the minute repeater for a new era, it was these figures that inspired its watchmakers to create an original minute repeater with jaquemarts, the 1989 San Marco Hourstriker. As shown here, several expressions of these beautifully crafted, limited edition timepieces have followed in the years since. Yet Ulysse Nardin remains one of the few masters of haute horlogerie with the necessary savoir-faire and artistry to integrate jaquemarts onto the dials of its timepieces; timepieces that are as wonderfully whimsical as they are precision timed. From the playful irreverence of a safari scene to the imposing figure of Genghis Khan, each showcases the inventiveness, craft and innovation of the watchmakers at the Swiss manufacturer.
The 2002 Genghis Khan is the first ever Westminster Carillon Tourbillon Jaquemarts Minute Repeater. The highly collectable timepiece incorporates several extremely difficult mechanical complications, not the least of which is its one-minute tourbillon, visible on the black onyx dial. Handcarved in 18ct gold, the jaquemart figures celebrate the story of Genghis Khan. This warrior, statesman and founder of what is remembered as the largest empire in history is without doubt among the world’s most important figures.
A minute repeater with a Westminster carillon is another astounding mechanical feat. It requires five different gongs to sound in harmony for the carillon effect. The movements of the sabre-wielding jaquemarts on the left are synchronised with the gong sounding the hours, while the horse rider with his spear thrusting into a ring indicates the minutes.
The Safari Jaquemarts Minute Repeater boasts two cloisonné dials that give this collector’s timepiece its three-dimensional appearance. Meticulously produced by Ulysse Nardin company Donzé Cadrans, renowned specialists in enamel dials, the intricate cloisonné work is of extraordinary beauty and quality. The dials are mounted on top of each other, with space in between to reveal a little fish being caught in a crocodile’s jaws. The jaquemarts move in synchronicity with each strike of a gong, and activation of the minute repeater causes a lion’s paw to stretch forward and reach for a monkey, who swings back and forth from his branch.
Uniting the craft and innovation of watchmaking with the fine art of hand-engraved jaquemarts is the 2015 Jazz Minute Repeater by Ulysse Nardin. It pays glorious tribute to that vivacious, complex music that beats across continents and cultures with the rhythm of true passion. Demonstrating the spirited essence of jazz is the workmanship of the jaquemarts, the animated figures that move in sync with the activated minute repeater. The 18ct-gold musicians begin to play when the minute repeater lever is activated, and the hours, quarters or minutes make their unique sound.
A labour of love and remarkable skill, the real challenge in the creation of the minute repeater lies in the ability to harness and project superior sound quality. Despite modern technology, the melodic sound of a repeater is dependent on the human ear and must be individually tuned by a master watchmaker.
The 2017 Limited Edition North Sea Minute Repeater is an incredibly realistic depiction of the mighty offshore drilling rigs that dig deep for the world's precious “black gold”. The glimmering champlevé enamel rig, seen from a low angle, rises majestically from the black sea, with its delicately wrought waves in the foreground. Three 18ct-gold cranes – the jaquemarts – move and sound when the minute repeater is activated, indicating the hours, quarter hours and minutes.
Known for its crystalline chimes as well as for its impressive mechanical timekeeping, the minute-repeater complication is not only highly respected in the horological world but sought after by connoisseurs. Indeed, from this North Sea Minute Repeater edition to the Genghis Khan Westminster Carillon Tourbillon, each Ulysse Nardin minute repeater timepiece represents the finest in haute horlogerie, a breathtaking example of centuries-old artisanship, creative innovation and watchmaking expertise.