What could be better than a Patek Philippe watch? How about more than 300 Patek Philippe watches, all in the same place at the same time. It’s a collector’s dream come true: Patek is hosting The Art of Watches GrandExhibition in New York from July 13-23. Housed in a historical landmark building in midtown Manhattan, the exhibit is free and open daily from 10-7. The hotly-anticipated display of rare and extraordinary timepieces is so spectacular it will draw watch collectors from all over the world as Patek Philippe rolls out the red carpet in grand style.
Because of their unparalleled quality and relative rarity, Patek Philippe watches are a cult favorite of collectors and celebrities. The handcrafted watches have been spotted on the wrists of everyone from Brad Pitt to the Dalai Lama, as well as historical figures including Picasso and Queen Elizabeth of England. The precise, high-quality construction of every single Patek Philippe timepiece is evident — they are made to last, and even watches made in 1839 when the company was formed are still functional today.
Patek Philippe chose an appropriately elegant venue for the exhibit’s location. The former “grand hall” Bowery Savings Bank at 110 East 42nd St. is decorated in Italian Renaissance style, with a hand-painted vaulted cathedral ceiling and elaborate stone mosaics on the walls. The awe-inspiring venue is currently operated by Cipriani, world-famous for its exclusive restaurants and signature peach bellini drink. The space, which is normally not open to the public, has been home to large-scale private events attended by titans of industry and celebrities including Robert DeNiro, Claire Danes and artist Chuck Close.
Patek Philippe Builds in Grand Style
Its grand style notwithstanding, Patek Philippe has built a two-story structure inside the space, with 10 individually-themed rooms on two levels. This is not your run-of-the-mill pop-up; it’s done the Patek Philippe way, with no detail untouched, no expense spared. All rooms have their own themed décor, and they include a Theater Room, US Historic Room, Rare Handcrafts Gallery and two Grand Complications rooms. Live watchmaking and artisan demonstrations are some of the interactive activities, and there’s even a Patek Philippe Café where guests can relax and refresh.
Interactive demonstrations with real human artists (Patek does all decorating by hand) of watchmaking, enameling, engraving and wood marquetry can be found in different rooms within the exhibit. Highly recommended for true mechanical watch aficionados is a virtual reality installation in the high complication movement room that takes you inside a complicated movement.
Time for Art
A wall-size blow-up photo of a hand-enameled watch graces one of the walls in the artistic crafts section, where world-renowned enamelist Anita Porchet’s recent masterpieces are on display. A standout of her original work for this exhibit are enamel paintings of New York City skylines on watch dials. There are two versions of the skyline paintings; one is a colorful daytime view from the west of the buildings with reflections painstakingly painted on the Hudson River. The night version is mostly in blue tones and includes the accurate stars in the nighttime sky above the city.
But, there’s more. Patek Philippe also introduced another first here: a minute-repeating world time zone watch in gold, namely the Reference 5531R World Time Minute Repeater New York 2017 Special Edition. World Time is a reference to the 24 major time zones in the world, each of which is represented by a city or country name on the watch’s dial. The Minute Repeater chimes the time including the hours and minutes, by the sliding up of a pusher on the left side of the watch. Not one to stop there, Patek also decorated this exquisite watch with cloisonné enamel on the dial. With no detail overlooked, the “standard” alligator strap and gold buckle complete the piece. This watch is powered and operated mechanically, meaning there is no battery or chip inside.
New and historical timepieces with a feminine touch are featured throughout the exhibition. Queen Victoria’s hand-enameled and jeweled pendant from 1851 is on exhibit in the Napoleon room. New watches dedicated to women include a diamond-encrusted World Time, a Minute Repeater and a classic Calatrava updated with a mother-of-pearl and diamond dial.
If you are a diehard watch collector or aficionado, run don’t walk to catch the exhibit before it closes on July 23. Fans of design and fine jewelry will love the interiors that are fully built out to reflect the theme and the shine of the diamond-set watches. For those who can’t make their way to midtown New York, there’s an app available for a limited time called The Art of Watches Grand Exhibition.