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Published: 24 July 2017

Inside the Patek Philippe Art of Watches Grand Exhibition

On July 13, Patek Philippe launched The Art of Watches Grand Exhibition. Cipriani 42nd Street, the restaurant and event space in the former Bowery Savings Bank just opposite Grand Central Station, has been transformed into a two-story museum showcasing the history and craftsmanship of the 178 year old, family-owned watchmaker. With ten rooms (including the Theater Room, Current Collection Room, Museum Room, US Historic Room, Rare Handcrafts Gallery and Grand Complications Room) spanning more than 13,000 square feet, the exhibition includes some of the most exceptional and rare pocket and wrist watches the company has ever produced, as well as interactive activities and demonstrations by artisans and watchmakers.

The ten rooms are spread across two floors, with the entire structure wrapped in a back-lit lattice display of the company’s iconic Calatrava cross logo. Visitors begin the journey with a short film that details the personal history and professional achievements of  founders Antoni Patek and Adrien Philippe before their subsequent meeting in 1851. The Current Collection room that follows has been designed to replicate the historical Geneva Salon. On display are some of the most recognizable models, including the Calatrava and Gondolo.

 

A full-screen wall in the Napoleon Room displays a live view over Lake Geneva from the Patek Philippe Salon on Rue du Rhone in the Swiss city, while special edition World Time watches, each with a cloisonné enamel motif of the New York skyline, stand in glass cases.  Twenty-seven notable timepieces from famous U.S. collectors, including  watches worn by Duke Ellington (a Reference 1563, a water-resistant Split Second Wrist Chronograph purchased in Geneva on July 28th, 1948 during the musician’s Swiss tour) and Joe DiMaggio, are on display in the Historic Room.

On loan from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston was the autonomous quartz desk clock, made for the young president in 1963. This clock was given to him during his visit to West Berlin in June 1963 on the day after his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech. Presented by the German retailer and designer Heinz Wipperfeld this clock showcases the time in Moscow, Washington DC, and Berlin.

The grand exhibition includes timepieces dating back to 1530, including the first wristwatch Patek Philippe created, as well as unique and non-traditional  watches and clocks. 


The First Patek Philipppe Wristwatch. Rectangular yellow gold case, hinged back. White enamel dial. The cover is enameled in black and set with rose-cut diamonds. Circa 1868.


Love Duel. Pair of duel pistols with perfume sprinkler and watch. Made for the Chinese market. Moulinié, Bautte & Cie. (case). Movement: fusé and chain, key winding, verge escapement with hairspring. Dial made of white enamel. Indications: hours (XII) and minutes (60) from center. Case shaped like a  pistol made of engine-turned, chased gold, flinqué enamel with agate and pearls. By pulling the trigger, a flower shoots out of the barrel and sprays perfume. Circa 1805.

Among the extraordinary display of remarkable timepieces, a highlight of the exhibition was the Calibre 89, created in 1989 on the 150th anniversary of the company. With its thirty-three complications, this double-faced pocket watch would remain for more than 25 years the most complicated portable timepiece ever created. It took nine years to build, including five years of research and development and four years of construction. Its movement is comprised of 1728 parts, and was produced as a limited edition of four. This model was commissioned by Patek Philippe to master watchmaker Paul Buclin, to assemble, finish, and regulate the Calibre 89 prototype for exhibition. This marks the first time that the public can view a fully functional version, and also the first time that the Calibre 89 has ventured beyond of the walls of the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva.


Watch’s indications include, on the front side, a full perpetual calendar displaying the year in an aperture, the age and phases of the Moon, a split-seconds chronograph, and a second time zone with jumping hours. The reverse side presents the astronomical indications, with sidereal equinoxes and solstices, and the signs of the zodiac, together with a rotating celestial chart. The acoustic indications comprise Grande and Petite Sonnerie and a minute repeater, chime in on four gongs, and an alarm on a fifth gong. It is also endowed with several exclusive mechanisms, including a patented system for indicating the moveable feast of Easter, and a secular perpetual calendar, based on a cycle of 400 years. The latter requires no adjustment until the 28th century.

Images courtesy Erin Wurzel.

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