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Review: Made in Germany – The Tutima Hommage Minute Repeater

by Frank Chuo on August 12, 2019

Tutima Hommage Minute Repeater

Tutima – derived from the Latin word for “safe, secure” – isn’t a watch brand that many are familiar with, even amongst enthusiasts. But this Glashütte brand has roots dating back to 1927 and began life as Uhrenfabrik Glashütte AG (UFAG). Chairman and Managing Director of UFAG was Dr. Ernst Kurtz, a jurist who quickly recognized that it was not the still widely utilized pocket watch to which the future would belong, but the wristwatch. Very soon, his best models had no need to shun comparison to Swiss brands; they were christened ‘Tutima’. A brand was born.

Much like other German names including A. Lange & Söhne, Stowa, and Wempe, Tutima was assimilated into the war effort come WWII, building pilot’s watches for the Luftwaffe. Hours before the official end of the war, Glashütte became the receiving end of a devastating air raid that left its factory destroyed. Eventually, the communists stepped in and the rest is history as we know it.

Thanks to his foresight, Dr. Kurtz was able to move to West Germany shortly before the bombing and the end of the war. This meant a new start for Tutima, and the brand managed to thrive. In the 1960s, the reins were handed over to a confidant of Dr. Kurtz’s, Dieter Delecate. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, many traditional Saxon brands sought to return home, including Tutima. However, a quick move was not an option because Tutima, unlike the rest, had already established itself in the West. It wasn’t until 2005 when Delecate bought Glashütte’s former rail station maintenance depot that Tutima’s new home in the Saxon village began to take shape. In 2008, the new factory was finally put to work, and thus began Tutima’s endeavors in Glashütte.

In tribute to the brand’s homecoming, Tutima created the Hommage Minute Repeater. Designed by Rolf Lang – former Chief of Restoration at A. Lange & Söhne and father to Marco Lang of Lang & Heyne – the highly complicated watch was to become the first minute repeater designed and manufactured in Germany. In 2011, following the inauguration of the new Tutima manufacture, the Hommage Minute Repeater was presented and history was made. There are currently only two versions of the watch: one in rose gold, and one in platinum. Here, we take a closer look at the less conservative, platinum variant of Germany’s first in-house minute repeater wristwatch.

The Case, Dial, and Hands

The case of the Hommage Minute Repeater is simple in design. It is rendered in either rose gold or platinum, fitted with a crown at 3 o’clock and a minute repeater slide at 9 o’clock. At 43 mm in diameter and 13.4 mm in thickness, the watch isn’t small and, some would say, is typically overbuilt.

Screw-pins, rather than the more usual sprung bars, hold the strap between the lugs; it does not only look better, but is also more secure.

The platinum version of the watch (as seen in the photographs) features a skeletonised dial. The ruthenium dial in solid gold is mostly hollowed, save for the hour and seconds tracks. This allows for a breathtaking, nearly unimpeded view of the gorgeous movement that drives the watch. Meanwhile, back on the surface, one can see the evocative Breguet-style Arabic numerals and dots that mark the hours. The company marquee is printed onto the seconds sub-dial and a very fitting and well-deserved “MADE IN GERMANY” script appears at the 6 o’clock position. Indicating the time are a pair of sharply finished alpha hands for the hours and minutes, and a baton hand for the seconds.

Onlookers are treated to the view of polished steel minute repeater parts set on a rose gold plated backdrop.

The Movement

The Hommage Minute Repeater is powered by the Calibre 800 – a movement that is German through and through. Before it, minute repeater movements from Germany were based on Swiss ébauches from the likes of Jaeger-LeCoultre. The Calibre 800 was designed, manufactured (except for the hairspring) and assembled in Glashütte, making it the first of its kind. The 42-jewel movement is fairly large at 32 mm x 7.2 mm. It has a 65-hour power reserve when fully wound and operates at a traditional 3 Hz beat rate. The balance wheel that regulates the Calibre 800 is a screw balance with 14 gold weighted screws and 4 regulating screws, and is fitted with a free-sprung Breguet hairspring.

The Calibre 800 as seen through the sapphire crystal case back

What makes the Calibre 800 truly special, apart from the fact that it was the first German-made minute repeater movement is its finissage. Elements such as the gold chatons, the engraved balance cock, and the three-quarter plate are dead giveaways of a fine movement from Glashütte. Instead of Glashütte ribbing, Tutima had opted for a frosted finish on the surface of its rose gold-plated movement. The engraving on the balance cock is done with the relief method and by hand. All the steel parts of the minute repeater mechanism – including the racks and levers on the dial-side, and the hammers at the back – are chamfered and polished to a blinding sheen.

The quaver and clef treble motifs are engraved in relief onto the movement denoting the musical nature of the timepiece.

The movement is also endowed with plenty of outward and inward angles, which is almost always a telltale sign of an ultra high-end movement.

If there can only be one sentence to describe the Calibre 800, it’d be that it is the ultimate “hommage” to traditional Glashütte watchmaking.

Numerous inward and outward angles can be seen in this close-up shot alone.

The Competitive Landscape

The minute repeater remains one of horology’s most revered complications. For any brand to build one from scratch is a feat worth celebrating, let alone one that boasts such high finishing. The Hommage Minute Repeater can proudly stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the world’s finest minute repeater watches, German or Swiss. Both versions of the watch were priced in the ballpark of a quarter of a million dollars (USD) when they were set for delivery back in 2013, with the platinum version priced a little higher. The rose gold variant was limited to 20 pieces, while only 5 of its platinum sibling was made.

Due to its contemporary sizing, the Hommage Minute Repeater has quite a presence on the wrist. Sliding it under a dress cuff may be difficult.

So how does the Hommage Minute Repeater truly compare with the industry’s best of the best? Just a stone’s throw away from the Tutima manufacture is A. Lange & Söhne. There was talk that Lange were in the process of developing their own minute repeater when Tutima presented their musical showpiece. That watch emerged in 2013 as the Grand Complication with a jaw-dropping battery of high complications including the minute repeater, grande/petite sonnerie, and split-seconds chronograph. The lessons learned from developing the Grand Complication were applied to developing the remarkable Zeitwerk Minute Repeater. As if jumping numeral time displays weren’t impressive enough, the Zeitwerk was endowed with a decimal minute repeater function in 2015. Like the Hommage Minute Repeater, the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater shines in the finishing department. For a watch that is still considered avant-garde even today, its market price of just under half a million Euros – while opulent – is only fair.

The A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater, on the wrist. A pusher, instead of a classic slide, activates the minute repeater.

But when it comes to minute repeaters, none are more exquisite and coveted than those crafted by Patek Philippe. The Ref. 5078 is the prototypical Patek Philippe minute repeater – a simple time only watch that beguiles the uninitiated. The cognoscenti will immediately spot the slide on the left flank of the case and realise that it is no mere Calatrava wristwatch. Patek Philippe minute repeaters – the Ref. 5078 included – are known for their exceptional musicality and clarity. Equality impressive is the fact that the Calibre R 27 PS that drives the Ref. 5078 fits inside an elegant 38 mm case. It is not nearly as difficult to assemble a large minute repeater movement than a miniaturised one like in the Ref. 5078. The variant in our photograph comes with a pristine white enamel dial. More recently at Baselworld 2019, the Ref. 5078 was updated with a black enamel dial with arabesque decoration. Expect pricing to be around CHF350,000 for either versions.

Every Patek Philippe minute repeater timepiece is personally inspected by Thierry Stern, president of the company, before leaving the manufacture.

Final Thoughts

It’s not so often that you come across a watch that was designed by a notable industry player, fitted and finished to the highest level, and built to celebrate a momentous brand milestone, while simultaneously setting a record as Germany’s first. The Tutima Hommage Minute Repeater is well and truly the greatest Saxon masterpiece that you’ve never heard of.

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