Longtime Patek Philippe retailer in Singapore Cortina Watch marks its 50th anniversary in 2022 with a series of limited edition watches, including the Calatrava ref. 5057G, a remake a 1997 reference created expressly for Cortina by Patek Philippe.
But besides the 100-piece ref. 5057G, Patek Philippe created something even more special for the occasion, the Dome Clock ref. 20145M-001 “Singapore Skyline”. Like most Dome Clocks, the Singapore Skyline is a unique piece decorated entirely in enamel, primarily cloisonné but also gold powder and paillons.
The 50th anniversary clock is not for sale, instead it will join Cortina’s own collection that already includes the Dome Clock ref. 1677M “The Esplanade – Singapore”. Created in 2015 for Singapore’s 50th year of independence, the “Esplanade” Dome Clock served as inspiration for the Singapore Skyline – together the two Dome Clocks form a perfect pair.
Patek Philippe may be most famous today for its sports watches, but its Dome Clocks are just as emblematic of the brand. In terms of large-format timekeepers the Dome Clock is amongst the most recognisable in horology, ranking alongside the Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos and Cartier Mystery Clock as an iconic design. At the same time, Dome Clocks are exceedingly rare, with perhaps a dozen made every year.
Within Patek Philippe’s repertoire of timepieces, Dome Clocks are the most artistic. Each Dome Clock is essentially four panels and one dome of hand-made, artisanal decoration executed on a scale several times the size of a wristwatch dial – it’s essentially outsized canvas for artisanal decoration.
The Singapore Skyline is strikingly vibrant in its colours and motif, making it entirely apt for Cortina’s jubilee. It captures the quintessential Singapore landscape, which in turn reflects Cortina’s roots in the country. All in all, it’s a beautifully executed object portraying a theme perfectly matched to the occasion.
One of the biggest retailers in Asia, Cortina has a network of stores across Southeast Asia, as well as Patek Philippe boutiques in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Founded in 1972 and still run by the founding Lim family, Cortina became a Patek Philippe retailer six years later and is now one of the Geneva brand’s key partners in Asia. The strong ties between the two institutions is reflected in the Calatrava ref. 5057G, one of the rare instances that Patek Philippe created a reference for a retailer.
The “Esplanade” Dome Clock of 2015 was acquired by Cortina founder Anthony Lim at a charity auction that year for 750,000 Singapore dollars, then equivalent to about US$520,000, making it one of the most expensive Dome Clocks ever sold publicly. Depicting the Singapore skyline from the vantage point of within the Esplanade theatre, the 2015 clock serves as the inspiration for the Singapore Skyline.
The four panels of the Singapore Skyline depict the Marina Bay area with all the key landmarks prominently portrayed, including the triple towers of the Marina Bays Sands hotel, the lotus-shaped Art Science Museum, the Singapore Flyer Ferris wheel, and the sci-fi Supertrees of Gardens by the Bay. And it is capped by a domed top showing a night sky of fireworks and stars. Festive in tone and detail, the scene is rendered in a slightly stylised manner and in bright, pastel colours.
As is traditional for Dome Clocks, the Singapore Skyline is predominantly decorated in cloisonné enamel – some 9.2 m, or just over 30 ft, of solid-gold wire (of either 22k or 24k purity) was required. That’s equivalent to 18.45 g, or about 0.65 oz.
Because the cloisonné technique relies on wires to create “cells” that are then filled with enamel, the wire is taller than it is wide, measuring 0.2 mm by 0.6 mm.
The cloisonné process starts with soldering the wire to the base, creating the “cells” that form the desired motif. Coloured enamel is then applied into the cells, one colour at a time – the clock as a whole contains 50 different colours of enamel.
The colours can only be fired singly or a handful at a time, since different colours melt at different temperatures. According to Patek Philippe, the Singapore Skyline needed between 10 to 14 firings to complete.
But the Singapore Skyline is not only decorated in cloisonné enamel. Its dome features two additional techniques of enamelling on the dark blue enamel base.
The 50 stars – representing the half century since Cortina was founded – are each painted in gold powder. And the fireworks are actually fine strips of silver foil, also known as spangles, in a technique also known as paillonnée enamelling (paillons translates as “spangles”). Both the stars and spangles are then covered in clear enamel.
A Dome Clock really is all about the art. In contrast to the ornate, artisanal decoration, the mechanics of a Dome Clock are simple: inside sits the 17”’ PEND movement. It’s a 17”’ manually-wound pocket watch calibre – a movement found in Patek Philippe pocket watches for decades – paired with an electric motor that periodically rewinds the movement.
Dome Clocks are almost always great example of enamelling or other artisanal decoration, while the enormous variety of themes they portray means there’s something for everyone, though only a lucky few will ever own one due to the sheer rarity of the clocks. Contemporary Dome Clocks typically feature a theme relating to a country or culture, or a depiction of nature, so each clock has a specific appeal. Regardless of the theme, Dome Clocks are often impressive works of art well worth admiring.
Beyond its intrinsic qualities in terms of craftsmanship, the Singapore Skyline has special resonance for residents of the city-state, while being a fitting tribute to the lengthy partnership between the brand and its retailer.
Key facts and price
Patek Philippe Dome Clock “Singapore Skyline”
Diameter: 12.8 cm
Height: 21.25 cm
Material: Cloisonné enamel with silver spangles
Movement: 17”’ PEND
Functions: Hours and minutes
Winding: Mechanical movement wound by battery-powered motor
Limited edition: Piece unique
Availability: Not for sale
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