By Rebecca Doulton
It’s been a whirlwind 12 months for Swiss watch brand Patek Philippe as it puts the final feather in its anniversary celebrations. The not-to-be-missed Watch Art Grand Exhibition, celebrating 175 years of Patek Philippe watches, runs until 7 June in London’s prestigious Saatchi Gallery, and is a unique opportunity to get a first-hand feel for why Patek is considered the “ne plus ultra” in the realm of haute horlogerie.
For watch lovers who haven’t had the opportunity to visit either the Patek Philippe watch museum in Geneva, its majestic Rue de Rhone boutique or its manufacture, this is the next best thing. Providing visitors with a 360-degree view of the Patek Philippe watch universe, the exhibition is a treasure trove of 400 historical and contemporary pieces, including the 175th anniversary Grandmaster Chime watch - the most complicated two-faced wristwatch with a mere 20 complications and a price tag of SFr 2.5 million.
According to Mark Hearn, managing director for Patek Philippe UK, the exhibition will provide the public with general knowledge about watchmaking and also some remarkable information about the company: “We are bringing so many historical timepieces to the exhibition that visitors will be able to learn about horology in general, the history of watchmaking, and also find out interesting information about this fascinating industry, which is not only composed of watchmaking but also rare handcraft techniques.”
Ranging from the Grand Complications room to the Royal Collection room, 15 thematic areas showcase some of the most magnificent timepieces ever created. The Royal Collection room has been designed to recreate the Crystal Palace Great Exhibition of 1851 and is a rare chance to view Patek Philippe watches commissioned by royalty, including a pendant watch belonging to Queen Victoria, and a high jewellery watch with a pearl bracelet kindly loaned by Queen Elizabeth II for the occasion.
For a taste of the unparalleled historical wealth stored in Patek’s museum in Geneva, the Museum room exhibits 100 of the world’s greatest timepieces spanning the last five centuries, including a 16th century portable watch, and some of Patek’s landmark pieces, including an automaton in the form of a bird’s cage with music.
To celebrate this epic exhibition, Patek Philippe has created a series of Dome clocks and wristwatches portraying some of London’s most iconic landmarks and classic English motifs, such as the Tudor Rose. All the timepieces devoted to London can be admired in the Rare Handcrafts Gallery. Hardly a static viewing, live demonstrations by Patek’s celebrated enamellers, along with gemsetters and engravers, offer a unique peek into the meticulous attention to detail and superlative craftsmanship of these artists. The Binocular and Interactive rooms welcome you into the microscopic world of watchmaking - a great way to introduce younger visitors to the exhibition.
Sunday 7 June is the last chance to see this rare show of Patek Philippe watches, and the day has been set aside as a family day with activities planned for all ages.
Patek Philippe Watch Art Grand Exhibition
27 May to 7 June 2015
Saatchi Gallery, London
Monday to Saturday from 09:00 to 19:00
Sunday from 10:00 to 16:00