The Revolution Guide to the Patek Philippe Watch Art Grand ExhibitionBy Stephanie Ip
Not everyone may be into watches like we are here at Revolution, but most would have heard of Patek Philippe and know that it is one of the most important watch brands in the world. We’re not just saying this. The Patek Philippe Watch Art Grand Exhibition, which opened in Singapore over the weekend and runs until October 13, has already proven to be a huge hit, counting over 35,000 people in pre-registrations for the public event.
The exhibition, located at the Sands Theatre at Marina Bay Sands, covers over 20,000 square-feet of space with over 10 rooms that detail the historical and cultural importance of Patek Philippe. There’s a lot (and we mean, a lot) to take in, and so we’ve tasked it upon ourselves to break it down for you. Here’s our ultimate guide to the Patek Philippe Watch Art Grand Exhibition 2019 Singapore Edition and what to look out for.
Once you enter the exhibition, the first thing that catches your eye is probably the gigantic rainbow-hued art installation that hangs from the ceiling. Designed by Tokyo-based French artist Emmaneulle Moureaux, “100 Colors in the Spirit of Majulah Singapura” is composed of 11,500 paper frangipani flowers in 100 shades of colours. The frangipani is native to Singapore and the installation captures the spirit and precision of Patek Philippe craftsmen and watchmakers.
Do not miss the animated film in the first part of the exhibition, which tells the story of Patek Philippe, from its founding by Antoni Patek and Jean Adrien Philippe, to the current leadership under the Stern family.
Pick up your audioguides after the film, where you’ll be ushered into the Current Collection Room, which showcases its entire catalogue (minus the Grand Complications, which has its own dedicated room). About 200 models are on display, including the new 2019 limited edition models made specially for the event. For more on the special editions, click here.
The current collection is presented in a reproduction of the Patek Philippe Salons situated in the historic headquarters in Geneva’s Rue de Rhône, which the company has resided since 1853.
Pro tip: if there are too many people crowding around the display case for the special editions, there’s another set in the next room, sitting quietly next to the huge tome Patek Philippe: The Authorized Biography by Nicholas Foulkes.
The next room brings you right back to the 19th century, in a replica of the Salon Napoléon III, a showroom at the original Patek Philippe headquarters in Geneva where guests used to be received. The likes of automobile pioneer James Ward Packard and New York banker Henry Graves junior passed through these hallowed salons, elites who owned the grandest of grand complications and completely transformed the landscape of watch collecting.
There is a panorama of the Lake Geneva with its iconic fountain spring in the room as well, the same view you would have if you were in the historic building in Rue du Rhône. Take a brief respite here before heading to the next room (which is also my favourite).
Over 100 exhibits from the Patek Philippe Museum have been painstakingly chosen for the exhibition and now makes its first appearance outside of Geneva in the Museum Room. The Geneva museum houses the private collection of Philippe Stern, the company’s Honorary President. Thierry Stern is current President and is the fourth generation of the family at the helm of the company.
The Sterns have collected timepieces from every period and every major manufacture and watchmaker for over 40 years, and made their unique collection accessible to the public through the Geneva museum, and now also here, at the exhibition in Singapore.
Start from the left as you walk around the room and don’t forget to use your audioguide to hear tidbits about each fascinating timepiece. Here you’ll find pocket watches and unique pieces commissioned by royalty, as well as the very first inventions in watchmaking — from the first portable clocks, the first wristwatch, to the first world timers and so on.
If you’re lucky you might see museum curator Dr Peter Friess walking around the room. If not, we also have a podcast episode with him where you can hear him talk about the vast history of Patek Philippe and the challenges of condensing it into an exhibition.
Rare Handcrafts Gallery
Next up is the room where you can learn more about engraving, enamel painting, wood marquetry and engine-turning, which are a few of the rare handcrafts Patek Philippe has kept alive over the centuries, and which decorate the dials of its wristwatches and table clocks.
In this room, the artisans demonstrate their craft, pausing every now and then to answer queries or let people peek at their work through loupes and microscopes. Elsewhere around the room, their works are displayed across the room, including 32 exclusive timepieces, including specially commissioned “Singapore Grand Exhibition 2019 Rare Handcrafts” editions.
Anita Porchet is one of the most well-known enamelers today, and a frequent collaborator with Patek Philippe. She is also on hand to share her works with exhibition goers, patiently explaining (through a translator) the different enamelling techniques.
After a short film introducing you to the world of Patek Philippe workshops in Geneva, you’ll walk into the Movements Room, which showcases the entire collection of Patek Philippe movements still in current production. There are 55 movements in total, from the most basic time-only calibers to the most complicated.
The calibre 300 is the movement inside the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime, one of the most complicated wristwatches the company has ever produced. The movement features 20 complications, and exhibition goers can immerse themselves in the masterpiece by going on the virtual reality experience, where they can attempt to put together one of the complications and understand how all the parts come together.
The room after this is the Engineer’s Room, where the Calibre 300 is more detailedly mapped out, and technical specialists are on hand to explain how the timepiece is developed.
Grand Complications Room
The Grand Complications Room presents the unique opportunity to see all of Patek Philippe’s most complicated wristwatches all at once, including the Grandmaster Chime, Reference 6300, and the Alarm Travel Time (Ref. 5520). The world premieres of the Word Time Minute Repeater (Ref. 5531) and the Minute Repeater Tourbillon (Ref. 5303R) are also displayed. You can read more about the new Grand Complication Ref. 5303R here.
Patek Philippe might be a long established brand but it’s not staying still. It operates a think tank called “Patek Philippe Advanced Research,” and for the first time, you can view of all its creations in one of the showcases in this room.
Many of its patents have since been utilised in the production of its current collection, but it is fascinating to see where it all began. Silinvar technology is one of the major breakthroughs Patek Philippe had in this department, which is used to produce silicon-based watch parts including the balance, the escape wheel, flat hairsprings and escapements.
The Watchmaker’s Room
We are nearing the end! Here is where you will be face to face with Patek Philippe’s master watchmakers standing behind their établis, their workbenches, who are here to share their knowledge and explain how the movements work for the general public.
The Photocall area that follows is where you return your audioguides and take a snapshot against the red backdrop for keepsakes, Before you go, don’t miss the Singapore Room, which is back at the entrance hall, a showcase of watches that are connected with the Southeast Asia region, including watches on loan from collectors in the region.
The Watch Art Grand Exhibition opened on September 28 and runs until October 13, 2019. Open daily from 10 am to 7 pm, admission is free. Interested parties need only register for complimentary tickets at patek.com.