When the Habring2 Five Minute Repeater arrived at the Deployant office for a long term review, the writers got all excited. Everyone wanted to spend time with this rather unique striking watch from an independent watchmaker well known for his ingenuity. And also because it is the least expensive striking watch we have encountered in recent years.
As a result, the watch went to several of our staff, each spending 3 to 5 days with the watch, often subjecting it to torture testing which we never would dream of meting out to any other striking watch. But we are not dare devil testers, we did this at the insistence of Richard Habring himself, who was so proud of his work, that he was willing, in fact was very keen to subject the watch to the plethora of tests. Here is our full hands-on review. For full disclosure, that the author is friends with Richard for a good part of the last two decades, but the views expressed are honest and not biased due to this.
We have covered the work of Richard Habring in earlier articles, the Habring2 Doppel3 Split Seconds Chronograph and the Habring2 Jumping Seconds Pilot. The Habring2 company and projects represents the epitome of his work as a watchmaker in collaboration with his wife Maria. Richard is known as a top watchmaker, with great technical talent, especially in the art of simplification of complicated traditional movements to make them easier and cheaper to manufacture. He is well known for the patents he filed while under the IWC umbrella, working for Kurt Klaus. And continues this streak with Habring2, as the husband wife team of Richard and Maria.
Of striking watches
The is some dispute on who actually made the first repeater pocket-watch. One source say that it was was built by Edward Barlow, while another school thought supported Daniel Quare as the inventor. In 1687, King James II decided to put the question to test by having each watchmaker submit a quarter repeater for examination by his council. He tried each, and gave a preference to Quare.
The main difference between the watches is that Barlow’s used two push pieces, one to release the hourly chimes and another sounded the quarter hours. And Quare used a pin that stuck out near the pendant, which when depressed sounded both the hour and quarters. King James had his preference noted in the London Gazette, and most sources attribute the invention of the repeater to Quare.
A. L. Breguet then improved on the design by using gongs that curve around the movement in 1795. And it is this basic design blueprint that modern striking watches are based on.
And their chimes
How does one tell the time with a striking watch?
The most recently expired hour is always struck first. If we assume the time is 12:59, the hammer first strikes twelve times against the hour gong. The convention is to strike the hours on a gong with a high pitch. These chimes are followed by another set for the expired quarter hours. The second set of chimes are differentiated by an a different acoustic signature, and often by a double strike, each set comprise of one high and one low pitch per elapsed quarter. In our example, three sets for three quarters. The watch stops here for a quarter repeater. The wearer knows that it is later then 12:45, but not yet 1:00.
If the watch is a minute repeater, then it continues to strike the elapsed minutes from the last quarter as low pitch chimes, in this case 14. So for 12:59, the minute repeater goes 12 high pitch strikes, 3 high/low sets, and 14 low strikes.
In the five minute repeater, it strikes up to 11 high-low chimes to reflect the analog 5 minute intervals. For our example of 12:59, it would strike 12 high pitches strikes, 11 high/low sets to indicate it is past 12:55, but not yet 1:00. Quite interestingly, this is the way the Chinese time is told colloquially in Singapore – as 十二点十一个字 (loosely translated 12 o’clock, 11th index). Coincidence or planned?
Decimal Minute Repeaters were probably first made by Kari Voutilainen. In recent years, the Lange Zeitwerk Decimal Repeater, Credor Spring Drive Minute Repeater, and Jaeger LeCoultre Hybris Mechanica 11 are examples of these type of repeaters. They work like the 5 minute repeater, but strike the elapsed minutes after the final 5 minute chimes. For our example, it would go 12 high, 11 high/low, and 4 low to denote 12:59 exactly.
In the grand scheme of things, Minute Repeaters and Decimal Minute Repeaters are a quantum leap in terms of complexity to quarter repeaters and the 5 minute repeater in our sights for this review.
The Habring2 Five Minute Repeater
For starters, we found the Habring2 Five Minute Repeater to be a handsome watch. The aesthetics are not as refined as the offerings from the major maisons offering striking watches, but we feel totally in line with the pricing expectations.
This is not the first Five Minute Repeater under the Habring2 brand, the first was several years ago, but the base movement used was the ubiquitious ETA with a Dubuis Depraz module. In this new edition, the base movement is an inhouse movement by Habring2 which is also used in the Felix.
The Case, Dial and Hands
The Habring2 Five Minute Repeater is housed in a handsome, svelte looking titanium case. The three part case is given a brushed finish on the case middle, with high polish on the very thin upper bezel and the back bezel. The sapphire glass is sharply concave in the front and treated with anti-reflective coatings on both sides. Very sharp looking, and this turned out not only to be an intended pun, but also in reference to the fact that titanium cases have a sharper, higher pitched sonic signature than those in precious metals.
The case is rated to a water resistant depth equivalent to 3 ATM, which is remarkable for a striking watch. Almost all striking watches do not have any water resistance. Also interestingly, the back bezel is not screw down, but is secured by only 3 screws. We also note that the crown is also not screw down, perhaps testament of the confidence of Richard, who is a diver and have experience designing diving watches, like the IWC Deep One.
The crown is sufficiently large with a coin edge pattern to afford a good purchase to wind the watch.
The striking works is commanded to perform by a pusher, which looks like a chronograph pusher at 10 o’clock. There is considerable effort required to push the plunger to activate the striking works. The pusher is equipped with gasket seals to prevent water intrusion which makes the activation harder. Further, the strike volume is rather high, requiring a powerful spring, which also increases the resistance.
We note that an all-or-nothing mechanism is not installed, so if one does not push the plunger completely, one would not get the correct number of strikes from the repeater mechanism.
The dial is almost non-existent. Richard tells us that this is to create a transparent face to the watch from both sides to allow the mechanism and the movement to be viewed. A small chapter ring of brushed titanium finished in rhodium plating is engraved with the hour markers is placed on the periphery of the watch face and serve as the vestigial dial. We find the white titanium bits on the dial opening up to reveal the brass wheel train to be quite attractive.
A set of very elegant, swallow hands, made in hand blued steel graces the dial side. A small blued steel subsidiary seconds indicate the passing seconds on a sub-dial at 9. We do note that the entire hands ensemble makes it difficult to read, especially in the dark, but its where the repeater works come into play brilliantly – chiming out the time without the need to read it from the dial!
The face of the watch has a rather raw feel, as the finishing is done in an industrial style. We understand that this is Richard’s goal, and confirm that visually it achieves this aesthetic. The polished parts contrast with the brushed parts, and in certain lighting condition, it can almost glow. We think it as very attractive, but some of our friends who we showed the watch to have commented that they do not really like the rustic look.
As the case is in titanium, the watch feels very light, and comfortable, despite the 43mm case diameter.
The movement is based on the same in-house movement as the Habring2 entry level model – the Felix. The Habring2 A11 is used as a base. And a 5 minute repeater module, the Dubuis-Depraz the D90 handles the striking duties. Habring2 buys the module from DD, and completely finish and assemble the movement in-house.
As mentioned, the force required to activate the pusher is rather substantial, often leaving a small dent on the finger with each push. But this large force is required due to the huge mainspring required to move the Wolframcarbide weighted hammers. These heavy hammers have more momentum, and creates a stronger strike than a lighter one. The gongs are also directly attached to the crystals, and use the crystal as a further sound board to ensure that the sonics of the gong are strong, loud, and clear.
Turn up the volume and play the video.
To our ears, the sound of the Habring2 is characterised by a slightly bright tone, with a good attack, and a short but pleasing decay. The sound of the regulator does not intrude in any way. And the volume, though not measured as we do not have the tools, is loud and easily heard over background noise, even from an arm’s length away. The striking is strong, and the blows to the hammer can be felt through the case.
The Torture Tests
We subjected the watch to several weeks of testing with activities ranging from normal day to day stuff, to sports oriented duties not often demanded of a repeater watch. We took the watch to the market, to lunch and dinner, we rode our bike with it on our wrists, for runs, and even for swimming. And under all circumstances, the Habring2 Five Minute Repetater performed flawlessly. Striking the hours and 5 minutes with loud, clear, harmonic notes 100% of the time.
“All the time wearing the watch and it works perfectly! Repeater sounded as good! With that, it concluded my “abuse” of the New Habring2 5 min repeater. Pass with flying colors in terms of resistance! Note that it’s not even a sports watch! A repeater! Who in their right mind would do that!? At around US$20k, the watch is worth considering: it’s a repeater, independent maker and able to run and swim with it!”, says George Tan, Deployant Friend who used (abused?) the Habring 2 for a weekend. “Only negative comment? Perhaps the aesthetics is a bit too raw but then again some people may like it to be simple?”
The Competitive Landscape
The Habring2 Five Minute Repeater has a recommended retail of €17,750 before taxes, a price which strikes (pun intended) us as eminently reasonable, and probably a best buy in the exalted world of striking wrist watches. In terms of competitive offerings, the landscape is quite barren. We found only one in current collections, and a few which have been discontinued.
The Epos Oeuvre D’Art Five Minute Repeater. (price approx US$17,000 in stainless steel.)
Also the Nivrel 5 Minute Repeater (US$23,000 18k pink gold case. Uncertain if still in production as it is not found on current Nivrel catalog).
Kelek and Chronoswiss used to also offer a 5 Minute Repeater, but the complication is no longer featured in their catalog. Kelek is now part of Breitling, and the brand has disappeared from the dial signatures. Prices ranged from US$5,000 in 2003 for the Kelek to circa US$20,000 in later years.
All the competition are automatic. All use the ETA 2892 as the base with a Dubuis Depraz module for the striking works. This contrasts to the Habring2 which uses an in-house base movement with a Dubuis Depraz module. Is the module the same? We cannot confirm either way, but a visual comparison of the modules of the other watches to the Habring2 suggest that they are not the same. The layout is similar, but not the same, and we suspect Dubuis Depraz made some modifications over the same base repeater for the Habring2. Further final assembly is done by Richard himself, and we understanding the final tuning of the sound too.
Sonically, the tonal signature is quite similar. But subjectively, we feel that the Habring2 is louder, with a crispier, perhaps brighter sound. The other watches also do not have any depth rating.
In conclusion, we make no bones about absolutely loving the time we spent with the Habring2 Five Minute Repeater. Every (5) minutes of it…and every one of us. The watch worked flawlessly. The sonics are not quite there when compared to minute repeaters from the big maisons, but it is perhaps the best among the five minute repeaters. We note that minute repeaters from the big brands typically sell for 5 to 20 times as much as the Habring2. And at €17,750, the Habring2 is a remarkable value.
Habring2 Five Minute Repeater Specifications and Price
Basic Felix movement; hand-wound with 48 hours of power reserve; 28,800 half oscillations
per hour = 4 Hz; tangential screw fine adjustment; anti-magnetic escapement with Carl Haas
balance spring in chronometer quality; KIF shock resistance pursuant to DIN and NIHS; 18
Hand-polished edges and hand-engraved balance cock
The repeater module is the result of a new collaboration with Dubois Depraz (DD90
measuring 36 mm in diameter and 3.75 mm in height). The repeater is triggered by pressing
a pusher at around the ten o’clock position.
Titan Grade 2 (middle part) or Grade 5 (polished base and crown). Grade 2 is also available
for allergy sufferers.
Diameter: 42 mm
Height (visible) 11 mm, total height over the lens 13.5 mm.
Front lens concave ground profiled sapphire glass with AR coating; glass base
Blued leaf-shaped steel hands; discreet dial hoop in the lens, rhodium plated. Unobstructed view
of the movement’s internal workings from both sides.