Patek Philippe’s ‘Watch Art Grand Exhibition’ is an unique event giving the public a rare perspective into the art of watchmaking within a family-owned company. It harks back to their origins, in 1839, when companies used trade fairs to showcase their products and build their brands. In this era of digital marketing, the personal and intimate nature of this event has enlightened hundreds of thousands of watch enthusiasts.
The visitors, including connoisseurs, schoolchildren, collectors and VIPs, have attended the five Grand Exhibitions organised so far: Dubai in 2012, Munich in 2013, London in 2015, New York in 2017 and Singapore in 2019. These free entry events included Family and Educational Days, bringing the art of haute horlogerie to young and old.
They have witnessed up close Patek Philippe’s keen interest in preserving the art of watchmaking. The broad array of dome table clocks, table clocks, pocket watches and wristwatches displayed are testament to artisans with a mastery of the most elaborate rare handcraft techniques – engraving, enamelling, wood marquetry and gemsetting.
It’s allowed this prestigious, Geneva-based company to indulge their artisanal skills and excellent craftsmanship with some limited, special editions timepieces. These exclusive items include the World Time Minute Repeater New York 2017 Special Edition (Ref. 5531) and the Minute Repeater Tourbillon Singapore 2019 (Ref. 5303R-010).
Another major attraction of these events are the live demonstrations by the company’s watchmakers and artisans. It’s a compelling experience for anyone interested in the history, tradition and intricacy of fine horlogerie.
Patek Philippe presents a world highlighting the past, the future, and the artistry of watchmaking.
The Swiss company’s President, Thierry Stern, reveals: “The exhibition is a beautiful reward for all watch lovers. It’s a fantastic chance for us to show the knowledge and history we have.”
And, it’s a remarkable history.
The company founded by Antoine-Norbert de Patek and Adrien Philippe has a rich legacy of patents and firsts. These include the patent for the perpetual calendar mechanism for pocket watches. They also produced the first complicated ladies’ wristwatch with a five-minute repeater in 1916.
Each exhibition has offered rare insights into the astounding world of Patek Philippe and provided a journey through horological history.
On show were complications and grand complications, ranging from perpetual calendars to minute repeaters, such as the most complicated Patek Philippe wristwatch, The Sky Moon Tourbillon. One-off pieces featuring rare artisanal skills, such as engraving or enameling, 16th century antique portable watches and watches pieces from the 1860s were also displayed.
The exhibition’s jewel in the crown was the Patek Philippe Star Caliber 2000. Nine years of research and development were invested into creating this masterpiece, which has 21 complications and contains six patented innovations. It features a Grande Sonnerie; the first of its kind that plays the correct sequence of the Westminster Chime.
This exhibition was based on three major pillars - a true reproduction of the Patek Philippe museum, the workshops and fine artisanship. It gave its visitors a chance to experience the company’s universe. All their grand complication models were on show, including the exceptional Star Caliber 2000 – the third most complicated timepiece ever crafted.
Some of the world’s most antique portable watches were exhibited, dating back to the 16th century and coming from the south of Germany.
Visitors had access to over 400 exceptional timepieces, including the Grandmaster Chime Ref. 5175. This is the most complicated wristwatch ever created by Patek Philippe, to celebrate the company's 175th anniversary in 2014.
The hugely popular Royal Room gave the London public a first glimpse of Queen Victoria’s open faced, keyless-winding and setting pendant watch with its matching brooch. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s timepiece was also exhibited at the Grand Exhibition, as well as the company’s first Swiss wristwatch made in 1868, sold to a Countess of Hungary.
To mark the event, a special limited edition series of watches for men and ladies were produced, based on the very British concept of an officer’s style case: a simple Calatrava and models with complications, including a perpetual calendar and minute repeaters.
New York 2017
Highlights included the Historic Room, featuring 11 timepieces from two legendary, early twentieth century Patek Philippe collectors, Henry Graves Jr. and James Ward Packard. One of these, the ‘Henry Graves Supercomplication’ pocket watch, was created in 1933 and featured 24 complications. It was sold by Sotheby’s in 2014 for a then record-breaking price of over $23 million.
Visitors also got a rare glimpse of former USA President John F. Kennedy’s autonomous desk clock, showcasing the time in Moscow, Washington D.C, and Berlin. American baseball legend Joe DiMaggio’s Patek Philippe, Ref. 130J, created in 1948 was on show too, one of the company's most sought-after chronograph references.
They created nine limited special editions of ladies’ and men’s to mark the event, decorated with motifs dedicated to the city of New York and the United States of America. These include:
- World Time Minute Repeater (Ref. 5531) New York 2017 Special Edition;
- Men’s World Time (Ref. 5230) New York 2017 Special Edition;
- Ladies’ World Time (Ref. 7130) New York 2017 Special Edition;
- Men’s Calatrava Pilot wristwatch (Ref. 5522) New York 2017 Special Edition;
- Ladies’ Calatrava (Ref. 7200/50) New York 2017 Special Edition; and
- Ladies’ Minute Repeater (Ref. 7000/250) New York 2017 Special Edition.
Special highlights included 120 historic timekeeping instruments from the company’s Geneva Museum, including some of the most complicated watches they’ve created – the Calibre 89 and the Star Calibre 2000.
Six special editions and an important collection of rare handcrafts timepieces inspired by the mix of cultural and artistic expressions of Southeast Asia and Singapore were presented. The commemorative watches released were:
- Minute Repeater Tourbillon (Ref. 5303R-010) Singapore 2019 Special Edition;
- World Time Chronograph (Ref. 5930G-011) Singapore 2019 Special Edition;
- Aquanaut (Ref. 5167A-012) Singapore 2019 Special Edition;
- Aquanaut Luce (Ref. 5067A-027) Singapore 2019 Special Edition;
- Calatrava Pilot Travel Time (Ref. 7234A-001) Singapore 2019 Special Edition; and
- World Time Minute Repeater (Ref. 5531R-010) Singapore 2019 Special Edition.
Patek Philippe also presented a rich collection of dome table clocks, pocket watches, and rare handcrafts wristwatches, decorated with the most challenging artisanal techniques ever to adorn timepieces. These timepieces display motifs that are inspired by the cultural and artistic heritage of Singapore and its neighboring countries.
“We are always on the quest for quality because we believe it is an essential and worthy pursuit over generations. The main goal of having this Grand Exhibition is really to educate people, and to give a passion to newcomers and collectors,” shared Mr. Stern.
Patek Philippe has announced that the sixth edition of its Watch Art Grand Exhibition is due to take place in Tokyo, Japan in 2022.
It’s yet another opportunity for watch lovers and enthusiasts to witness the extraordinary timepieces emanating from Patek Philippe - a brand where the brightest minds come together to create objects of timeless beauty and precision.