Patek Philippe’s biennial celebration of its own history and watchmaking in general, the Watch Art Grand Exhibition, found a natural home in 2019 in Singapore, the city state not only famed for its own startling approach to grandeur, but also for its inhabitants’ voracious appetite for haute de gamme watches.
Patek took over the Sands Theatre at Marina Bay Sands (a hotel and shopping centre complex so large shoppers can travel by gondola through its mall) with an exhibition that would have been partly familiar to those who had attended the previous exhibitions in New York, London, Munich and Dubai.
The Grand Exhibition (which closes this weekend, should you be in the area) takes Patek Philippe on tour around the globe, giving everyone from diehard watch collectors to the mildly curious - the invitation of groups of schoolchildren is particularly encouraging for the future - a chance to see how the brand approaches watchmaking and especially its metiers d’art techniques, which it illustrates through live demonstrations of enamelling, engraving and wood marquetry. It’s essentially an opportunity to tour Patek’s historic Rue du Rhone boutique, the Patek Philippe Museum and its Plan-les-Ouates manufacture, all in Geneva, without leaving your home city.
But the exhibition is not static, it is created anew for each new outing, its focus and aesthetic tailored to the host market as a joint endeavour between Patek Philippe HQ and local management.
Perhaps most exciting, certainly for Patek collectors in the host city, is the launch of new watches. Each exhibition is accompanied by its own selection of novelties, all tailored to that market and the only occasion Patek indulges in the creation of limited editions.
Singapore’s national colour, red in case you were in any doubt, was a central theme among the six special references and Patek’s creation of an Aquanaut with red strap and accents (ref. 5167A-012, above) in particular sent collectors into a frenzy.
We were more taken with a brooding red take on Patek’s world time chronograph (ref. 5930G-011, above) but there was only ever one headliner at this festival, the ref. 5303R-010, below, an epic Minute Repeater Tourbillon based on previous open-dialled striking watches from Patek Philippe including the ref. 5304R Minute Repeater Perpetual Calendar from 2014 and the ref. 5104P from 2007.
The 3Hz manually wound calibre R TO 27 PS inside the watch is a heavily modified version of the same calibre found inside the 5304, with hammer and gongs transposed to the dial side along with the tourbillon, making this the first Patek Phillipe wristwatch to show off its tourbillon in this way. In fact, the tourbillon can be viewed from both sides of the watch as the bridges and plates have been redesigned to flow around the cage, framing it.
Gone is the micro-rotor that made the previous two watches self-winding, and the hammers have been redesigned with a new undulating profile to allow the hands to pass overhead without coming into contact with them.
Such significant re-engineering points to a watch that has been in the works for far longer than the two year gap since the last Grand Exhibition, something confirmed by Patek’s development director, Philip Barat, who confirmed to QP that the watch was selected as a new release for Singapore during its development.
The style of the watch is very much in keeping with its grand complication predecessors although in this instance the open-worked, lattice panels set into the caseback, lugs and as a movement ring on the reverse are made of white gold, in stark contrast to the 42mm 18ct rose gold case.
Just 12 of the CHF 590,000 grand complications will be made available to Patek Philippe’s retailers in the Singapore region.
Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.