Queen Victoria’s watch and other horological treasures at Patek Philippe’s exhibition
The Patek Philippe Watch Art Grand Exhibition opens on Sep 28 at Marina Bay Sands Theatre. Here are some of the rare pieces to look out for.
Owning a Patek Philippe timepiece is a rare privilege reserved for an exclusive few. Rarer still, is the opportunity to get up close and personal with horological treasures from the 180-year-old Swiss watchmaker from Geneva.
From Saturday (Sep 28), visitors to the Patek Philippe Watch Art Grand Exhibition at the Marina Bay Sands Theatre will be granted a unique, behind-the-scenes look into the last independent, family-owned watchmaking manufacturer and discover, first hand, why its timepieces are so highly prized by collectors the world over.
Singapore is the fifth city to host this exhibition after Dubai, Munich, London and New York, and it is the largest at 1,800sqm; unsurprising given Singapore’s reputation for its relatively high concentration of watch connoisseurs.
The exhibition, which is open to public, runs till Oct 13. It is organised into 10 themed rooms, each meticulously curated to house models that best showcase Patek Philippe’s watchmaking expertise.
The most venerated of which, perhaps, are to be found in the Museum Room.
These exceptional rarities have been flown in from the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva, considered one of the world's foremost horology museums, and this is the first time that such a large number of timepieces have left their home on the Lake of Geneva to be showcased abroad.
Like the museum, the room is divided into two sections: The Antique Collection, which traces the early days of watchmaking in Europe, and the Patek Philippe Collection, which showcases key pieces from the company’s founding year in 1839 to the present.
Among these historical artefacts is a fob watch presented to Queen Victoria in 1851, as well as the first Swiss wristwatch ever made, which was created for Countess Koscowicz of Hungary in 1868.
“Patek Philippe invented the crown winding system in the 1840s and they changed the industry with this invention,” said Dr Peter Friess, curator of the Patek Philippe Museum, during the exhibition preview.
Prior to this, a watch needed to be wound with a key and not only did it render the watch unusable if one were to lose the key, the probability of dirt accumulating in the keyhole would also threaten to damage the inner micro-mechanics.
“They presented this invention nine years later at the Great Exhibition in London and the Queen stopped by Patek Philippe’s booth and she bought that piece. Soon, every royal in Europe had to have a Patek Philippe, including the Countess of Hungary,” shared Dr Friess.
“This was the big breakthrough that catapulted Patek Philippe to the number one position right away and today, every mechanical watch has a crown to wind the watch and set the hands,” he added.
In the special Singapore 200th Anniversary Room, which is dedicated to celebrating the country’s bicentennial, there are timepieces that pay tribute to the city and the region. Some of these are on loan from museums and private collectors from around the world.
Look out for a pocket watch depicting the port of Canton in miniature painting on enamel, illustrating Singapore’s role as a trade hub between the Far East and Western nations, which was commissioned for the Chinese market around 1830, as well as a dome table clock decorated with Thai ornamental motif in cloisonne enamel infused with silver spangles.
The marvels of the submarine cosmos can be admired in the latter, themed “Tropical Island”, while two of the Patek Philippe pocket watches on display once belonged to King Rama V of Siam (now Thailand). Then, there’s the dome table clock crafted in 2015 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Singapore’s independence featuring the Esplanade.
Some of Patek Philippe’s artisans from Geneva will also be present for a “live” showcase of the various fine crafts, such as engraving and enamelling, that are involved in producing a Patek Philippe timepiece.
Finally, the Napoleon Room recreates the plush environs of the company’s historical salon in Rue de Rhone in Geneva, complete with a panoramic ‘view’ of Lake Geneva, giving visitors a glimpse of the history, culture, art, and natural surroundings that inspire Patek Philippe’s watchmaking mastery.
The Watch Art Grand Exhibition runs from Sep 28 to Oct 13 at the Marina Bay Sands Theatre. Admission is free.