The Art of Watches Grand Exhibition NYC

With Patek Philippe being what most horologists and enthusiasts would consider the apex of the watch hierarchy, it’s only to be assumed that the Art of Watches Grand Exhibition held in New York City would be nothing less than an overwhelming tribute to the history and success of this iconic brand. The multi-million dollar, two-story pop-up museum that occupied Cipriani 42nd Street was outfitted with 10 specifically-themed rooms that showcase over 450 timepieces, each as significant as the next and sure to leave even the novice watch enthusiast weak at the knees.

Featuring an accompanying audio tour (you must oblige), the experience starts with a brief screening of a video highlighting the history of the brand – from its happenstance beginnings to its jumpstart relationship with America. A nod to their founder Antoine Norbert de Patek’s, who during his first visit to the States in the 1850’s left with a commitment for watches to be commissioned for Tiffany & Co., links the brands Swiss roots to its long-standing history in the United States and New York. From there it is on to the endless displays of timepiece after timepiece, navigating the history and complexity of Patek Philippe’s sophisticated, industry-shaping artisans and watchmakers.

What truly brought the significance of the brand and spirit of the event together was the Rare Handcrafts room, which revealed the nine exclusive New York 2017 Special Editions watches. These specifically-made watches boast the most elegant and technical components that the brand has to offer, shown off in the Ref. 5531 New York 2017 Special Edition that merges a minute repeater and the famous World Time function – the first time the brand has united these two complications in one watch. In very limited release quantities these watches not only make a heavy nod to the prowess of watchmaking, but also pay tribute to New York and the United States with precise detail. Also on display are impressively hand-enameled dome table clocks and pocket watches – the most intriguing being the “Brooklyn Bridge by Night” table clock and multiple American landscape pocket watches.

Antique Collection Timepieces – Museum Room

Leaving the theater you enter the Current Collection and Napolean rooms – each modeled and decorated to look nearly identical to their living counterparts at the Patek Philippe Salons in Geneva. The Current Collection is an intense warm-up for what is to come, as you wade your way through the impressive display of the brand new Calatrava’s, Nautilus’ and Grand Complication’s for, as they say, both men and ladies. If you manage to make it out of the first two rooms you will be rewarded with an immersion into some of the most historic watches ever to exist. On display in the Museum and U.S. Historic rooms are early modern period watches (one piece dating back to 1530 – not a typo), pocket watches from the Henry Graves and James Ward Packard collections, and several for the New York crowd – Yankee legend Joe DiMaggio’s personal REF 130 and a desk clock on loan from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. Additionally, guests were able to tour the Grand Complication room to feast their eyes on storied accomplishments such as the Grandmaster Chime, the most complicated wristwatch ever assembled.

If all of this was not fascinating enough, further through the exhibition you were greeted by artisans and watchmakers demonstrating their master techniques in enameling, guilloche, hand-engraving and watchmaking. Guests were free to engage in as much friendly conversation or passionate horology discussion as they wanted while trying to contain their excitement. Some patrons sporting their own personal Patek Philippe were even questioned by the resident horologists on their satisfaction with their wristwatch and the brand itself. You could even explore the inner workings of these mechanical timepieces in the virtual reality room by sporting one of four supplied VR headsets that puts you inside the movement.

About the Author

Alex Samuelian is a freelance writer and photographer based in Manhattan.