The history of the repeater
The horological repeater belongs to the most complicated watches on the market, due to the high complexity. From the front side you can only see little of the complexity, as the watch’s additional skills are not visible, but audible. The term ‘repeater’ in the world of watches refers to a time piece that is able to play a repeated acoustic memory signal. The technique of the repeater movement comes from a time without electricity and was already described and admired by authors in the 18th and 19th Century, such as the famous German Karl May. But the history of the repeater goes back even further.
At the end of the 16th Century King James II of England had to judge which of two competing parties he would entitle to the patent of the repeater mechanism within a pocket watch. Finally in 1687, the king spoke for the invention of clockmaker Daniel Quare. The reason for this decision was because both repeater inventions were able to strike the hours and quarter hours, but Quare’s repeater could be triggered using one pusher only, while the repeater of Rev. Edward Barlow and clockmaker Thomas Tompion required two pushers.
The whole idea behind the invention of the repeater was to get notified of the time even without the help of a church bell or candle light. Way back in time, the clock of the local church tower was the only time source for the people. As they began to own clocks them-selves, they still were not able to read them in the dark. The result was an invention which made it possible to make the current time of a clock audible.
300 years ago: The invention of the 5-Minuten Repeater
In 1695, watchmaker Daniel Quare succeeded in improving the accuracy of the repeater mechanism from quarter hours to a 7½-minute repeater. Between 1710 and 1712, almost exactly 300 years ago, the first pocket watch with 5-minute repeater mechanism was built and completed. Watchmaker Samuel Watson, who simultaneously invented the first known stop watch with heart rate measurement, developed the first 5-minute repeater. Finally in 1750, the Englishman Thomas Mudge invented the so-called minute repeater, a watch that is able to chime hours, quarters and minutes.
Despite today's technologically advanced society and the possibility to read off the time from some device at any time, anywhere: watch collectors still find a special fascination with the repeater. The reason for this is the admiration for the horological skills that are necessary in order to build such a complication. Not only the production of well over 400 movement components, but also their subsequent decorating, assembling, adjusting and fine tuning require extraordinary horological skills and consume a lot of time.
The NIVREL repeater: A legacy of Kelek
The story of the NIVREL repeater begins with the Swiss watch brand Kelek. NIVREL founder Gerd Hofer was working with Kelek as an exclusive sales representative for Ger-many, Austria and Holland until 1997. Since 1975, Kelek had marketed different models with a 5-minute repeater module made by the company Dubois Dépraz. As Kelek was purchased by Breitling in 1997, Gerd Hofer bought a large portion of the repeater move-ment stock from Kelek. The first 500 repeaters were built by NIVREL with the original Kelek movements. Even the design of the associated wrist watch found a strong orienta-tion in the original Kelek wrist watch.
Since then, all 5-minute repeaters by NIVREL have stricken the hours with a simple gong chime, all completed five minute steps with a double chime of two gongs. The acoustics here are created by two hammers that strike slightly offset. The hands of the watch indicate hours, minutes and seconds.
As with all known repeater watches, a trigger (here at 6 o’clock position) has to be pressed in order to cock a spring which holds the power to generated the chiming. Thanks to the so-called all-or-nothing function the repeater either chimes the correct time or does not chime at all. It refuses to chime when the spring has not been cocked strong enough. This feature prevents the movements from a technical damage.
Limited anniversary model: The NIVREL Repetition Classique SE 2012
For the special edition 2012 (limited to 100 pieces), the choice of the new watch case with a closed steel case back was essential. In general, all mechanical watches by NIVREL are provided with a crystal case back. However, the closed steel case back presented with the new repeater provides a much better resonating body for the sound of the repeater movement. Added to this was the idea of an individual and special case back engraving. Therefore, the backside of the watch was engraved with the picture of a classic repeater star wheel as well as the following hour wheel and some stylized hands in Breguet-style. Each repeater has its unique serial number and carries the engraving "300 Years 5-minute repeater".
The dial offers clarity and readability thanks to large Arabic numerals. The numbers are printed on the white-coated gloss dial. An optical focus is on the red 12, which gives the clock an unmistakable character. The face of the clock is enhanced even more by using very elegant, black lacquered hands in Brequet-style, the typical NIVREL repeater hands.