Step into the world of Swiss watchmaking and grand complications at Patek Philippe’s Watch Art Grand Exhibition

SINGAPORE (Sept 16): For watch collectors everywhere, the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva is an important destination that is probably on their bucket lists. The Swiss watchmaker’s history is filled with industry firsts and groundbreaking innovation fused with grand complications and lustworthy designs that make visiting the ­museum a must for watch lovers.

If Geneva is not on your travel list this year, and you have not had the chance to make the pilgrimage to this horology museum, you are in luck, because the museum is coming to you. From Sept 28 to Oct 13, Singapore will play host to Watch Art Grand Exhibition: Discovering the World of Patek Philippe. The event will be held at Marina Bay Sands and the Singapore edition is the fifth since the exhibition started in Dubai in 2012.

Back then, the Grand Exhibition lasted only four days. It has since grown and travelled to the world’s biggest cities, stopping over in Munich, London, New York and now Singapore. This stop is a timely one as it coincides with Singapore’s bicentennial celebrations, marking the importance of Singapore and Southeast Asia to the watchmaker.

Every year, the exhibition pays tribute to its host country. In 2017, when it was held in New York City, Patek Philippe showcased a collection of historic timepieces with American themes and icons. It also launched special-edition World Time pieces — a nod to growing transatlantic air travel back in the mid-20th century.

In this leg of the travelling exhibition, Patek Philippe continues to recreate what it would be like to step into the usually private world of fine mechanical watchmaking. The exhibition has 10 themed rooms that will showcase its current collection, special limited-edition timepieces created for Southeast Asia, rare handcrafts, its museum collection of antiques and historical pieces from the Patek Philippe collection, movements, grand complications and interactive experiences.

History of time

As this will be the first time that so many of Patek Philippe’s treasures will be showcased outside of Geneva, the Museum Room will most definitely be the highlight for watch connoisseurs. The museum section is divided into two departments — as it is in Geneva. The Antique Collection will give visitors the chance to step back in time and discover masterpieces from the mid-16th century, including intricately enamelled pocket watches, musical automata and some of the first technical timepieces. The Patek Philippe collection shows off the family-owned company’s key timepieces since it first started in 1839.

Look out for founder Antoine Norbert de Patek’s pocket watch, which he obtained in 1842 for his 30th birthday. Also on display is the beautifully enamelled and jewelled watch presented to Queen Victoria in 1851 at the Great Exhibition in London, where the world’s first keyless watches were on display. Keep an eye out for the first Swiss-made wristwatch, which was a key-winding and hand-setting women’s watch made for Countess Koscowicz of Hungary in 1868, as well as Patek Philippe’s famous super complications — the Caliber 89 and Star Caliber 2000.

Ode to Singapore and the region

As Singapore celebrates its rich and storied history during this bicentennial year, Patek Philippe pays tribute to our young country and its Southeast Asian neighbours with a dedicated exhibition space. The display features a selection of time­pieces from the 1800s that reflects the history, culture, art and natural surroundings of the region, and Singapore’s role as a trade hub. They include a Genevan pocket watch with a port of Canton enamel painting (1830), a dome table clock in cloisonné enamel with a “Tropical Island” theme, and two Patek Philippe pocket watches that belonged to King Rama V of Thailand.

Live at the Grand Exhibition

While aficionados will enjoy soaking in the world of Patek Philippe, the exhibition is not just for experienced watch collectors. With myriad activities, including family days with child-friendly activities, those who are only just exploring their interest in watches or are looking for something different to do on the weekend will be drawn to this showcase.

Besides the static displays, there will be live demonstrations of how artisans, like enamel painters, and mechanical watchmakers skilfully go about their craft. Visitors can sit back and relax in the Cinema Room to learn more about Patek Philippe’s rich history, or get involved at the Interactive Room for a hands-on experience and in-depth tour of the Patek Philippe manufacturing process and calibre engineering.

For those looking to take home a Patek Philippe work of art, the Current Collection Room is likely to be the final stop. When you enter the space, you will immediately feel like you have entered the Patek Philippe Salon on rue du Rhône in Geneva, which the watchmaker moved into in 1853 with a 15-year agreement that turned into a 166-year-long part of its heritage. In 1891, the company bought over the premises and it has become an iconic sight just off Lake Geneva. This room takes inspiration from the original salons with their hanging chandeliers and luxurious furnishings.

Watch Art Grand Exhibition: Discovering the World of Patek Philippe takes place from Sept 28 to Oct 13 at Marina Bay Sands. Visit www.patek.com/watchart2019 for tickets. Admission is free.


Stacey Rodrigues is a freelance editorial consultant who believes that every great story starts with a glass of wine