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World time Min Rep 2

Patek Philippe’s Grand Exhibition of art and watches

The latest edition of Patek Philippe’s Watch Art Grand Exhibition in Tokyo was the largest show ever put on by the brand. Tracey Llewellyn was there to see the finest examples of horology from past and present.

The latest edition of Patek Philippe’s Watch Art Grand Exhibition was the largest show ever put on by the brand. Tracey Llewellyn was there to see the finest examples of horology from past and present.

Something that sets Patek Philippe apart from so many other Swiss watch brands is its refusal to head down the road of paid ambassadors.

The links to royal families, music industry icons and the world’s most stylish men and women are all organic and rarely exploited by the house itself.

In fact, contemporary Patek has built one of the world’s most successful marketing campaigns on the idea of rejecting the path most followed.

Under the umbrella motto of “Begin your own tradition”, the series of Generations ads that announce: “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely take care of it for the next generation.”, have continued to inspire and motivate watch buyers for 27 years.

The message is clear: a Patek Philippe watch is not just to show the time, it is a precious heirloom to be passed from father to son or daughter, and on through successive generations.

Emotion and longevity are key. This is more than a watch for you and for now, it is one that is timeless and, therefore, transcends current monetary value.

And it is within these company values that the true reason for the Patek Philippe Watch Art Grand Exhibitions can be found.

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Having recently celebrated the sixth edition of this travelling horological extravaganza, people could be forgiven for questioning the need to put on these lavish spectaculars.

Over the past 11 years, shows have been held in Dubai, Munich, London, New York and Singapore.

For 2023, the expo moved to Tokyo – one of Patek’s top five markets – where a space of 2,500-square-metres was home to the largest show that Patek has ever curated, showcasing more than 400 timepieces and 100 objects.

While there are waiting lists for nearly all Patek Phillipe models, some feel justified to ask if there is a need for the brand to advertise or promote itself with an exhibition, which mainly due to the museum pieces presented, is both a logistical nightmare and a financial black hole to coordinate.

With a strong belief that maintaining quality is more important than increasing quantity, brand president Thierry Stern is clear on the importance of sustaining both a demand for products and an awareness of the brand.

“If we stopped promoting the products today it wouldn’t be a big deal. But to promote the brand itself and the whole new collection, that is important,” he told the Telegraph in Tokyo.

“Not communicating at all would be dangerous because you don’t buy a Patek Philippe to own for a few weeks… and you need to have confidence that we will always be there to service it. We have made and maintained our watches since 1839, that’s what we do. It’s very common for us to have watches in our service centre that are more than 100 years old – even if we have to borrow tools from our museum to remake the parts.

“As a CEO, you need to come out from behind your desk and talk to clients and retailers and be a part of it,” he explained.

“You can’t just create something and send a team out to put on a nice event. That is the difference between Patek Philippe and some other companies. The credibility I have today is through being a part of the making of every product and in personally sharing the happiness through events like the Grand Exhibitions.”

And, as visible as Mr Stern was at the exhibition itself, he was also heavily involved in deciding the exhibits for the Watch Art Grand Exhibition.

The Current Collection room was relatively easy to put together – with Japanese retailers and clients coming together to provide the complete range, as well as some rarely seen modern pieces.

Where more imagination was needed was in selecting items for the Patek Philippe Museum Room.

Here, there were 190 pieces, the most ever taken on tour, encompassing some of the oldest known timepieces in the world.

“The key [with the Watch Art Grand Exhibitions] is to show the whole evolution of the industry from the beginning till today,” Mr Stern told the Telegraph.

“The beauty with the museum is that we have watches from way before Patek Philippe was founded. It gives us a strong credibility as master watchmakers that care about timekeeping beyond our own brand. It’s about passion, and particularly the passion of one man: Philippe Stern [Thierry’s father and honorary president of Patek Philippe], who has put together a watch collection from the very beginning of timekeeping. You don’t really think about Patek Philippe when you visit the museum, you think about the beauty and the history of watchmaking.”

Among the 15 dedicated spaces at the exhibition were a Historical Owners Room with 14 watches, including pieces owned by Queen Victoria and Duke Ellington; a Research and Development Area; a Supercomplications Room; a Master of Sound Room; and a Rare Handcrafts Room which showcased demonstrations from top artisans specialising in various forms of enamelling, miniature painting, engraving and marquetry.

In addition, there was a 40-piece Rare Handcrafts collection with each unique or limited-edition watch and clock showcasing scenes connected to Japan depicted in hand engraving and guilloché, wood marquetry, gem-setting and enamelling including Grand Feu cloisonné, paillonné, flinqué and grisaille.

As with other editions of the Grand Exhibition, Tokyo also saw the launch of several limited editions – six in all – available only to the Japanese market:

Quadruple Complication (ref. 5308P-010)

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Quad COmp 2

Combining a minute repeater, a split-seconds chronograph and an instantaneous perpetual calendar, the watch is powered by the 799-component, all-new Calibre R CHR 27 PS QI with platinum micro-rotor.

The 42mm platinum case has two interchangeable casebacks – a sapphire crystal version that gives a full view of the stunning movement within and bears the legend “Patek Philippe Tokyo”, and a platinum variant, engraved with the same wording.

World Time (ref. 5330G-010)

Patek philippe world time 2 12952135 scaledA limited edition of 300, this new reference contains a world first complication, namely a date display synchronised with local time (the zone selected at the 12 o’clock position and the time displayed by the centre hands).

A brand-new Calibre 240 HU C, with a 70-component differential system, powers the piece.

A stunning damson guilloché dial has 24 city names printed around a middle disc, while the date is displayed on a bevelled flange and indicated by a glass central hand with a red tip.

The case is 40mm in white gold and its sapphire-crystal back is printed with the words “Patek Philippe Tokyo”.

World Time Minute Repeater (ref. 5531R-014)

Patek philippe world time min rep 1 12952148 scaledA 40.2mm rose-gold case houses a dial displaying a Grand Feu cloisonné enamel representation of the historic Chuo district in the centre of Tokyo.

The watch comes with two interchangeable case backs, one in sapphire crystal, the other in rose gold. Both bear the words “Patek Philippe Tokyo”.

Moon Phase (ref. 7121/200G-010)

Patek philippe moonphase 1 12952151 scaledA beautiful new interpretation of Patek’s ladies’ moonphase, the watch features a sunburst anthracite dial and has a 33mm white-gold case set with 132 diamonds.

Within is the Calibre 215 PS LU, a hand-wound movement with moonphase indicator and small seconds. It is a limited edition of 200 pieces.

Calatrava (ref. 6127G-010 and ref. 7127G-010)

Two new ‘his and hers’ Calatravas with sky blue and lilac dials complete the Tokyo line-up. In 36mm and 31mm cases, the colourful, pastel lacquer dials have a bold, contemporary feel.

As with the other pieces, the casebacks are inscribed with “Patek Philippe Tokyo”. There are 400 pieces of each model – 300 in paired sets and 100 being sold individually.

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