Bulgari Crafts $259,000 USD Three Hammer Carillon Chiming Watch

Do one of watchmaking’s historical throwbacks still have a place in its future?

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Bulgari has developed this Octo Roma Carillon Tourbillon with musicality in mind, developing new methods to improve the volume and tone of its hammer strikes.

The open dial reveals that the movement’s mainplate has been perforated with holes, the grate-pattern you can see in the upper segment of the dial, to allow for better transmission of sound around the case, the internal volume of which is directly related to the volume of the chime in a repeating watch.

Bulgari’s watchmakers have also removed material from the titanium caseband or middle, creating hollows to allow for more sound to escape beyond the case, again improving on volume levels.

Affixed to the case and apparent at the 10 o’clock position on the dial are the three highly polished gongs and hammers that give the Octo Roma Carillon Tourbillon an extra note over minute repeaters, which use a different note to strike both minutes and hours. The Carillon strikes the quarter hours in addition.

While the dial’s black and metallic dial might not at first appear the most exciting, this is a watch that must really be seen in the metal to fully appreciate as in reality the dial will be awash with movement, from the rotation of the tourbillon at the six o’clock, the spin-up of the governor at the nine o’clock which controls the rhythm of the chimes and the hammers themselves hitting the gongs. Pure horological theater.

Chiming watches neatly epitomize the continuing anachronism of mechanical watchmaking in the 21st Century; we don’t need them and yet they continue to be desirable.

Watches with audible outputs were first designed before people had electric (or even gas) lights in their homes and the idea of lighting a candle in the middle of the night to check the time was simply too much hassle. Instead, flipping the switch of a minute repeater and playing the necessary mental gymnastics with the varying tones of the gong hits to discern the time was seen as a practical solution. But that was at a time when people used horses to get around, so why do they still exist?

Mechanical watchmaking almost disappeared entirely following the advent of quartz technology in 1969 and eventually the industry realized it would need to reposition itself as a luxury if it were to survive. As the world sped up the idea of paying for an artisan to make something by hand resonated as a true luxury and few pieces of horology take as much time to make and perfect as a repeating watch.

Not only are they formed of many hundreds of of highly finished components, but they are essentially a musical instrument and one that, as is the case with this Bulgari, needs to be tuned by hand. The practice is so rarefied within the watch industry that it is not an exact science, often developed through trial and error, with watchmakers using hand files to remove minute quantities of metal from the gongs that encircle the movement, changing their tone each time.

That’s not to say that brands are not still working to keep this field relevant to contemporary markets, just look at Audemars Piguet’s Supersonnerie, a repeater that looks the way this Bulgari does, with its monochromatic black coating, titanium case and industrial-looking open dial, would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

Just 15 examples of this watch will be made priced at $259,000 USD, for more information head over to Bulgari.

Elsewhere in watches, Phillips sources full-set of important Patek Philippe perpetual calendar for Spring sale.

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