istorically and culturally, Japan represents a key market for Patek Philippe: a market of connoisseurs who treasure rare handcrafts and are able to appreciate the technical excellence and painstaking workmanship contained in a timepiece. Because they are born into a culture that combines respect for tradition with an avant-garde spirit, Japanese customers are perfectly placed to understand the mechanical and aesthetic “tradition of innovation” that has guided Patek Philippe since 1839.
Accordingly, the “Watch Art” exhibition in Tokyo had to be commensurate with these expectations. The largest exhibition ever organised by the manufacture, it extended across more than 2,500 square metres inside the Sankaku Hiroba event space. Opened in 2020, this vast hall measures almost 3,200 square metres and is bathed with natural light through an immense glass roof, made as a single piece, that rises to 25 metres at its highest point without internal supporting columns. Inside this spectacular venue, minutes from Shinjuku Station (3.5 million passengers a day), Patek Philippe recreated the brand’s most renowned Geneva sites with such extraordinary realism that visitors were transported from downtown Tokyo to the shores of Lake Geneva.
This “Watch Art” Tokyo 2023 grand exhibition was divided into several themed areas which took visitors behind the scenes of Patek Philippe, its world, its creations, its manufacture and its Museum, captured in more than 500 timepieces and objects illustrating different forms of expertise.
- Tokyo as the Crow Flies, table clock, Tokyo 2023. A stylised map of downtown Tokyo in grand feu cloisonné enamel extends over the dial and onto the convex sides of this silver table clock. This one-of-a-kind piece is inspired by a model from the 1950s.
In addition to the entire current collection, covering every segment of watchmaking from icons of design to the most complex mechanisms, visitors were able to discover a magnificent array of 40 one-of-a-kind pieces, created for the occasion, together with limited editions inspired by Japanese culture and showcasing the rare handcrafts that are meticulously preserved by Patek Philippe (including miniature painting on enamel, cloisonné enamel, hand engraving, micro wood marquetry, hand-executed guilloché work and gem-setting).
An adjacent space hosted a selection of 190 objects belonging to the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva (which rarely leave the Museum’s care). Pieces from the “Antique” collection (sixteenth to the early nineteenth centuries) included some of the oldest watches in the world, while masterworks from the Patek Philippe collection illustrated the manufacture’s rich heritage. The exhibition continued with a vast collection of movements designed and built entirely by Patek Philippe. A large area was set aside for complication watches and, for the first time at a grand exhibition, a section was reserved for supercomplications, with Calibre 89, Star Calibre 2000 and the Grandmaster Chime.
- This “Portrait of a Samurai” pocket watch (995/131G-001) is among the exceptional watches created for this grand exhibition. It stands out as one of the most complex decorations in wood marquetry ever created by Patek Philippe. The marquetry artisan cut and assembled an incredible 800 veneers and 200 tiny inlays spanning a palette of 53 species of wood in a multitude of colours, textures and veining.
A new area, which illustrated each of the steps involved in component production, opened into a space dedicated to Research and Development, a source of major innovations.
Next to this, the “Master of Sound” area was a showcase for chiming watches including the most complex of all, the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime with 20 complications, and the Sky Moon Tourbillon. Master watchmakers at their benches provided visitors with explanations and gave demonstrations of movements.
A superb array of limited editions
As at previous grand exhibitions, in addition to the Rare Handcrafts collection, the Tokyo 2023 event introduced six limited editions, reserved exclusively for the Japanese market and representing each of the segments in which Patek Philippe excels.
- World Time reference 5530G-010 Limited Edition Tokyo 2023 (300 pieces), ultra-thin, self-winding, date display synchronised with local time (patented world first), governed by an innovative and patented differential system (70 components).
Outstanding among them were two world premieres: a self-winding Quadruple Complication (reference 5308P-010) and the first World Time watch whose date is synchronised with local time (reference 5330G-010).
The next grand exhibition will take place in two years.