Eleven Regal Timepieces From Patek Philippe’s Grand Exhibition At London’s Saatchi Gallery
by Simon Cudd
Patek Philippe took over the majority of the exhibition space at Chelsea’s trendy Saatchi Gallery in London. Watch enthusiasts are likely familiar with this particular London gallery and will instantly associate it with SalonQP as it has played host that show for the past three years. And in a fortuitous coincidence, “Saatchi” is Arabic for “watchmaker”!
The Geneva-based brand spent nine days preparing for the twelve-day exhibition, which ran from May 27 to June 7, 2015. On display were 400 timepieces from Patek Philippe’s extensive collection as well as five percent of the timepieces from the Patek Philippe Museum. Judging from the various languages I heard being spoken, visitors traveled from all over the world to see this spectacle.
The exhibition was meticulously organized to be followed in an ordered sequence and featured the brand’s modern core ranges along with a host of vintage watches. The latter, for example, included the ultra-rare Reference 1655 aviator wristwatch “Large Size” from the museum collection. I love this as I generally like watches with a military look and feel, utilitarian and no fuss. They can be worn loud and proud.
What also struck me as exquisite were the table clocks, in particular Reference 20016M called “English Roses,” which boasts exquisitely enameled yellow and pink roses.
I also very much enjoyed seeing pocket watches from royalty around the world.
One of the first rooms visitors entered contained collections related to the brand’s royal connections, in particular those from England.
Queen Victoria owned a Patek Philippe pendant watch, which was sold to her on November 30, 1851 at the London Universal Exhibition. It was exhibited right alongside Queen Elizabeth II’s more modern watch outfitted with pearls in place of a strap, which had been loaned to Patek Philippe specifically for this show.
The Duke of Regla’s minute repeating pocket watch with petite sonnerie and Westminster chime on five gongs was displayed in a way that even the curator had not seen before: so that both the movement and dial were visible at the same time. This magnificent 65.9 mm masterpiece housed in a yellow gold hunter case allows the observer to gaze adoringly at the silver dial adorned with applied, gold, stylized numerals and blued steel Louis XV hands as well as the duke’s enameled coat of arms. The movement’s twin rhodium-plated spring barrels and gear trains counterpoised against a straight-line lever escapement are joined by a Breguet balance spring that is protected by another hinged cover bearing an enameled coat of arms and motto painted by François Mauris. This pocket watch from 1909-1910 has been lovingly restored by Patek Philippe.
2015 special editions for London
This exhibition also presented a fantastic opportunity to lay one’s eyes on the London collection, a celebration of the Patek Philippe universe in the U.K. and part of the celebration of the 175th anniversary. It consists of a Reference 5159 automatic perpetual calendar with retrograde date hand housed in a 38 mm white gold case. Its sapphire crystal case back is protected by a hinged dust cover engraved with “PATEK PHILIPPE LONDON 2015.” It is part of an 80-piece limited edition.
The London collection also includes a white gold 38 mm Reference 5153 with elegant white dial and black indices powered by Caliber 324 S C and the same engraved dustcover as Reference 5159, as well as a very understated Reference 7200 pink gold time-only piece measuring just over 34 mm with that same engraved case back.
The London Monuments Reference 5089G-040 really captivated me with its beautiful mix of Old London architecture featuring Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament to the more modern London Eye, Tower Bridge, and Gherkin that have graced the Thames skyline in recent years. All of these monuments are depicted in splendid in grisaille enamel, a process that sees the artist building up layers of white enamel upon the black enamel to create unusually deep shading. This limited edition is housed in a white gold 36 mm white gold case powered by ultra-thin automatic Caliber 240.
The first Patek Philippe wristwatch
This ladies’ wristwatch from 1868 could be considered one of the very first modern wristwatches in history. It did not start life as a pocket watch fitted to a bracelet, but was designed to be a rectangular yellow gold “secret” hunter-style wristwatch from the beginning. Wound by key, its white enamel dial features upright, painted Breguet numerals protected in a “secret” manner by a case decorated with black enamel and rose-cut diamonds. For more on this particular watch, please read The First Wristwatches From Breguet, Hermès, And Patek Philippe Were Made . . . For Women.
Another piece that caught my gaze from the museum section was Reference S0554. This is an experimental watch with a movement signed “Madelainy/A Paris” on the back plate of this spherical 51 mm gold-plated brass piece mounted on a three-axis gimbal ensuring that the movement stays in one place, permitting the use of a pendulum. I love the traditional white enamel dial with classical indications from 1860.
Some of my personal particular favorites also included a Reference P0068 pocket watch owned by Ferdinand I, Prince of Bulgaria. The watch was sold to him on June 8, 1891 and bears his portrait on the case. I especially liked the damaged front that proved the watch was obviously used and enjoyed during its life, making it more real rather than just an object of art. This timepiece is now 114 years old.
Naturally I also immensely enjoyed seeing the Reference 130 wrist chronograph with pulsometer that twinned with one that recently sold for 4 million Swiss francs at The Geneva Watch Auction: One by Phillips in Geneva. For more on that please read Phillips’ Inaugural One Auction: So How Did Watches By Patek Philippe, Blancpain, Rolex, And Longines Do?
I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of the royal exhibition as much as I did. As someone who is a bit less knowledgeable about the world of Patek Philippe and who sometimes doesn’t understand what the fuss it all about, seeing a fantastic exhibition like this allows me to enter that world and become immersed in its interesting and at times unusual history. The show was beautifully orchestrated, allowing the visitor to just flow through.