Patek Philippe

Patek Philippe grabs the Big Apple


October 2017

Patek Philippe grabs the Big Apple

It’s been 163 years since Patek Philippe co-founder Antoine Norbert de Patek made a harrowing trip to the U.S., where he faced a blizzard, attempted theft, fire, a riverboat marooning, skyhigh hotel bills and petulant customers.


ut for all his travails, Patek won the day: the New York retailer Tiffany soon placed a huge order with Patek Philippe. It was the birth of the watch firm’s very fruitful bond with the U.S.

In July, Patek Phillipe staged a lavish, 10-day exhibition in New York to celebrate that bond. It was called “The Art of Watches Grand Exhibition New York 2017,” and took place in the Cipriani event hall in Manhattan. Along with a plethora of displays and live demonstrations focused on the brand’s history, watchmaking prowess and artisanship, the show also included the largest gathering of Patek Philippe timepieces ever displayed outside of the company’s hometown of Geneva. The entire current collection was on display, along with important historical Patek Philippe timepieces and, perhaps most notably, a new group of special-edition watches created specifically for the exhibition. More than 27,000 people attended the exhibition (attendance would have been even higher but fire codes limited the number of people allowed into the venue, Patek Philippe said).

Patek Philippe grabs the Big Apple
Detail verso 993.101G

“The Art of Watches” kicked off with a gala press event on July 12. Patek Philippe CEO Thierry Stern took the podium to talk about his family’s long history with the brand. (His great grandfather Charles Stern, along with Charles’s brother Jean, bought Patek Philippe in 1932; the Stern family still owns it.) Meeting with the press earlier that day, he stressed the importance of the U.S. market to Patek Philippe. He noted that his grandfather, his father and he had all lived and worked in the U.S. early in their careers with the company. “It’s part of our family tradition to come to the States to learn the business,” he said.

Patek Philippe constructed a two-story, 13,218-square-foot space specifically for exhibition. There were 10 rooms, including those for the current collection, historical pieces from the Patek Philippe Museum, grand complications and handcraft demonstrations. Among the Patek Philippe notables from Geneva on hand for the event were design director Sandrine Stern (who is also Thierry Stern’s wife) and well-known enameller Anita Porchet. They led a delegation of Patek Philippe craftsmen and women who gave live demonstrations of their expertise in engraving, marquetry and enamelling.

One room was dedicated to vintage and antique Pateks owned by prominent Americans: Duke Ellington, John F. Kennedy, George Patton, Joe DiMaggio, Jack Daniels and others. Eleven timepieces commissioned by banker Henry Graves Jr. and automobile magnate James Ward Packard were also displayed in this room. Both men were prominent collectors of ultra-complicated timepieces.

Other historical pieces on view included the yellow-gold version of the grapefruit- sized Calibre 89, which, when it was completed in 1989, was the most complicated watch ever made. (Patek Philippe also made pink-gold, whitegold and platinum versions of the watch.) A blue enamel pendant watch that Queen Victoria bought in 1851 was shown next to a portrait of the queen. Exhibition attendees couldn’t take any of these treasures home, but they will be able to buy one of the exhibition’s nine special-edition pieces decorated with American motifs and manufactured in limited series.

Patek Philippe grabs the Big Apple
Calibre R 27 HU

The most important of these is Reference 5531 New York 2017, which is the first of the company’s watches to combine a minute repeater and a world time function. Patek Philippe points out that the watch is unique in that the time sounded by the repeater is not home time, as on other repeater/worldtime watches, but local time, i.e., the time shown on the dial and represented by the city in the 12 o’clock position on the world-time ring. To make that possible, Patek Philippe developed a new movement, the self-winding Calibre R 27 HU, which has 462 components. Patek Philippe has applied for a patent for the movement’s design. The watch has a cloisonné enamel dial, a signature of Patek Philippe world time watches. The dial depicts the New York skyline at night or during the day (five pieces will be made of each version). The watch comes with interchangeable casebacks in sapphire or solid gold. Both bear the inscription “Patek Philippe New York 2017.” The price: $561,341.

Patek Philippe grabs the Big Apple
Ref. 5230G

Patek Philippe also used the New York skyline motif for special-edition world timers (without repeaters) for men (Ref. 5230G New York 2017, $47,000) and women (Ref. 7130G New York 2017, $56,702).

Patek Philippe grabs the Big Apple
Ref. 7130R

There are also special editions of Calatrava models for men and women and a women’s diamond-studded minute repeater which, at $447,939, is the second most expensive of the new references. Three pieces will be made. Lastly, the special-edition pieces include one-of-a-kind pocketwatches decorated with themes including man’s first steps on the moon, bald eagles and Napa Valley, and table clocks with enamelled scenes of the Brooklyn Bridge by night, a baseball game (incorporating portraits of actual players of yore), and 19th-century gold prospectors.