A Guide to the Patek Philippe Watch Art Grand Exhibition Singapore 2019

What to expect.
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Having only begun yesterday and open until October 13, the Patek Philippe Watch Art Grand Exhibition in Singapore is a watchmaking extravaganza – with free entry to the public – that’s already a box office hit on its opening weekend.

Reputed to have cost some 20m Swiss francs, the vast historical and cultural showcase is the biggest Patek Philippe has staged to date, with 10 rooms spread over 1900m2, or over 20,000ft2. Pre-registrations for the event exceeded 35,000 people, with the total tally after two weeks expected to substantially surpass that; the first day alone saw some 4000 visitors pass through.

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The venue: Sands Theatre at Marina Bay Sands

But as important as its broad appeal is the fact that the exhibition has drawn some of the world’s most important watch collectors to the city state. Outside of a factory event in Geneva, there probably hasn’t been this many custom Patek Philippe wristwatches together in one place.

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A custom dial ref. 5970J owned by the gentleman collector known as @horology_ancienne

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One of the major contemporary timepieces on show: the Star Calibre 2000

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And arguably the most major watch of any sort in the exhibition: the landmark Calibre 89, the most complicated portable watch ever at the time of its creation in 1989

The six limited edition watches created especially for the event have garnered the most headlines, but the exhibition itself is worth a long visit because there’s a lot to see. It covers not just Patek Philippe, but also horology in general.

That’s especially true in the Museum Room, where a half-millennium of watchmaking history is presented in a dozen or so watches. Amongst the exhibits are some of the world’s earliest watches dating from the 16th century, exquisite enamelled timepieces for the Chinese market, and even one of the most important English watches ever, the watch no. 39/88 by John Arnold, a quarter repeating chronometer “of the best kind”.

Here’s a quick walkthrough of the event, which runs till October 13. Tickets are required, but they can be obtained free online.

The event opens with a vast hanging paper sculpture created by Tokyo-based French artist and designer Emmanuelle Moureaux. Titled Majulah Singapura, also the name of the country’s national anthem, the installation is composed over 11,000 paper flowers in 100 different colours; the flowers are inspired by the frangipani, which is native to Singapore.

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Majulah Singapura on the right, and the reception desk on the left that reproduces the the upper facade of the Patek Philippe Salon in Geneva

The very first section of the exhibition is a small theatre playing on loop an animated film detailing the history of Patek Philippe, starting from its founders Antoni Patek and Jean Adrien Philippe. That’s followed by the Current Collection Room that replicates the look and feel of reception room of the Geneva Salon, with the entirety of the catalogue – save for the Grand Complications – on display.

The line-up naturally includes four of the limited editions made for the event.

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patek philippe aquanaut 5167A singapore 2019

Aquanaut Singapore 2019 Ref. 5167A-012

patek philippe world time chronograph 5930G singapore 2019

World Time Chronograph Singapore 2019 Ref. 5930G-011

Just as one would in the Geneva Salon, the next room is the Napoleon Room, a heavily decorated room that overlooks Lake Geneva. Here the lake scene has been reproduced with a film on wall-length screens.

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The Napoleon Room is characterised by velvet, thick carpets and ornate wallpaper

From there one goes into the Museum Room and back in time. The exhibits here summarise some 500 years of portable watchmaking history. If you’re lucky, museum curator Dr Peter Friess will be on hand to answer questions.

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The one-off wristwatch from 1925 that was the first ever to have a perpetual calendar

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The display of paired watches made for the Chinese market in the 19th century. The two at bottom centre each feature an incredible enamel miniature painting reproducing Raphael’s ‘The Madonna of the Chair’ that’s a mirror image of the other

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“The Lotus Flowers”, a pair of pocket watches made for the Chinese market, c. 1825

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The Star Calibre 2000, an astronomical grand complication pocket watch made to mark the new millennium

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Several world time wrist- and pocket watches are on show, including this ref. 2523 HU with a cloisonné dial

Then it’s the Rare Handcrafts Room dedicated to clocks, wrist- and pocket watches decorated with artisanal crafts like enamelling and wood marquetry. The exhibits here are interactive and illustrative, with both wood marquetry and guilloche specialists demonstrating the craft, and also famed enameller Anita Porchet, an independent artisan but a frequent collaborator with Patek Philippe.

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One of the unique pocket watches made for the event, “Old port of Singapore”, decorated in grisaille enamel

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Another event-specific creation, “White Tiger”, executed in miniature enamel painting and guilloche

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A Dome Clock made for the event that reproduces a motif of batik, the fabric dyeing technique from Indonesia

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The wood marquetry craftsman using a fret saw to cut tiny pieces of exotic wood

Artisanal skills then give way to technology in the Movements Room. All Patek Philippe movements in current production are on display, with a few highly complicated movements detailed in-depth. And watchmakers from the factory in Geneva are also present to further explain the finer details of the calibres, including the cal. 300 of the Grandmaster Chime, the most complicated wristwatch Patek Philippe has ever made. And the Grandmaster Chime movement is also presented in a virtual reality tour.

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The next section is the Grand Complications Room. All of the brand’s most complex wristwatches are on shown, including collector favourites like the ref. 5370P split-seconds and the ref. 5270P “salmon”.

The exhibits also include the pair of watches made for the event, the World Time Minute Repeater Singapore 2019 Ref. 5531R-010 and the Minute Repeater Tourbillon Singapore 2019 Ref. 5303R-010.

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patek philippe grand exhibition singapore 2019 grandmaster chime

The grandest of grand complications, the Grandmaster Chime

And that’s followed by the Watchmakers Room, which takes its name literally. It’s an interactive display of four watchmaker desks, each staff by a watchmaker who explains a specific aspect of a movement, ranging from the functioning of a vintage repeating pocket watch, to the signature Patek Philippe annual calendar.

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Explaining a vintage pocket watch with chronograph and repeater

Past the watchmakers is a photobooth for visitors who want an Instagrammable souvenir of the event, and then it’s back to the entrance hall, which also includes the final section of the exhibition. Lined up beside the hanging paper flower sculpture, the Singapore Room is dedicated to the host city but also Southeast Asia.

The timepieces on show here are diverse, vintage and modern, but all tied in one way or another to the region. So the exhibit includes Chinese market pocket watches, like the a remarkable pair of peach-shaped enamel watches made by Ilbery, as well as a pendant watch whose original owner was Chulalongkorn, otherwise known as King Rama V of Thailand. The contemporary watches on show are all on loan from collectors, and they include a handful of Rare Handcrafts wristwatches, as well as the trio of Dome Clocks made for Singapore’s Golden Jubilee in 2015 that were later sold for charity.

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The Singapore Room

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King Rama V’s pendant watch

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The pair of Chinese market peach watches


Exhibition information

Complimentary tickets to the Watch Art Grand Exhibition are available direct from Patek.com.

Watch Art Grand Exhibition
September 28 to October 13
Open daily 10am to 7pm
Admission is free

Sands Theatre, Marina Bay Sands
10 Bayfront Avenue
Singapore


Update September 30, 2019: Additional photos included.

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