Comeback Collection: Patek Philippe’s Rare Handcrafts Exhibit Returns with its Biggest Collection Yet - Lookbook

After being unable to present last year, the watchmaker presents over 70 pieces at its Geneva Salons.

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At its Geneva Salons, Patek Philippe presents the richest “Rare Handcrafts” collection ever to be on display there

At its historic headquarters on Rue du Rhône, from June 16 to 26, 2021, Patek Philippe is showcasing an extensive selection of over 75 pocket watches, wristwatches, dome clocks, and table clocks from its latest rare handcrafts collection.

These limited-edition pieces pay tribute to challenging manifestations of craftsmanship such as manual engraving, grand feu cloisonné enamel, miniature painting on enamel, guilloching, gemsetting, and wood micromarquetry. On this occasion, Patek Philippe is also presenting six new watches from the current collection that are endowed with especially elaborate decorations.

Since the early days of mechanical watchmaking, artisans have always invested considerable care in decorating their clocks and watches. Timepieces were mainly beautiful, artistically finished treasures before they advanced to become reliable precision instruments.

In Geneva, the individual decorative techniques found fertile ground in the famous fabrique a term used to encompass all craftmanship and profession related to watchmaking. Since its birth in 1839, Patek Philippe has kept this artistic spirit alive by commissioning talented creatives to bring like to their timepieces.

When the demand decoratively enhanced watches slumped in the 1970s, several ancestral techniques were on the brink of extinction. Patek then mobilized its resources to preserve and breathe new life into all of its precious know-how and in particular miniature painting on enamel.

Grand passion

Up until now Patek Philippe is dedicated to safeguarding and handing down all these competencies, but also to further evolving them in close collaboration with the artists who set their sights on new horizons. The watchmaker supports the development of totally new techniques for decorating watches such as wood micromarquetry.

The significance of artisanal professions for Patek Philippe also comes to the fore in the generous amount of space reserved for craftsmanship in the new, impressive production building that was officially inaugurated in Plan-les-Ouates (Geneva) in the spring of 2020.

Every year, as a means to honor fabrique and these techniques, Patek Philippe presents a collection of limited-edition pieces.

In 2020, the collection comprised more than 70 pocket watches (with their matching stands), wristwatches (Calatrava, Golde n Ellipse, minute repeaters for ladies, Ladies’ Nautilus) and dome table clocks with motifs inspired by nature, fine arts, and cultural traditions from around the world.

Because it was not possible to present the 2020 collection last year, Patek publicly launches them now along with its 2021 creations. The exhibit at the Patek Philippe Salons in Geneva offers an opportunity to admire this array of extraordinary works of art before they are dispatched to private collections around the world. While exploring the exhibits, visitors can also observe the artisans at work as they demonstrate their virtuosity on site.

Extensive palette

Manual engraving is the oldest decorative technique used to adorn timepieces. It ranks among the grand Genevan specialties. In the late 18th century, more than 200 engravers worked in Geneva. It also occupies a prominent position in Patek Philippe’s “Rare Handcrafts 2020 – 2021” collection.

This graces the case backs of pocket watches or serves as a frame for motifs executed with other techniques. Additionally, it plays a role in damascening where gold thread inlays in contrasting colors are worked into the surface to be decorated.

Cloisonné enamel has also been an element of horological artistry for a long time. A good example is the “Jazz” dome table clock. Its decor relies on flat gold wire with an impressive length of 18.3 meters. The wire is manually cut into tiny individual pieces and shaped to the contour of the motif, and 48 transparent enamel paints are then applied. Grand feu cloisonné enamel is often enriched with gold powder or tiny spangles (paillons) in gold or silver leaf that shimmer through the enamel (paillonné enamel).

Miniature painting on enamel has been a key Genevan specialty since the 17th century as evidenced by numerous historic pieces on display at the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva. It also has a strong presence in this new exhibition, and is found on the case backs of pocket watches and the dials of wristwatches. The artists use tiny brushes to apply the motifs stroke by stroke.

French flair

Receptive to all unique traditions in craftsmanship, Patek is also showcasing three techniques of French origin in its dome table clocks: Limoges enamel painting (consisting of several transparent enamel coats), fauré enamel (relief enamel) and Longwy enamel on faience (with black edges).

In guilloching , venerable hand-operated machines are used to cut delicate geometric patterns into metal workpieces. The interaction with reliefs and light in the traditional techniqu e of flinqué enamel shimmers through a transparent enamel coating. In mixed-technique work, guilloching also repeatedly occurs with certain motifs in cloisonné enamel.

Wood micromarquetry is a highly elaborate skill that for several years now has been used by Patek Philippe to decorate the dials of wristwatches or the case backs of pocket watches. It attains new pinnacles of virtuosity in small images assembled with hundreds of tiny pieces of wood and intarsias crafted from a wide range of wood species with varying colors and graining.

Diamond gemsetting causes the bezels of wristwatches to sparkle and creates breathtaking decors on haute joaillerie watches.

Patek Philippe also demonstrates its creativity and artisanal competence with numerous so-called mixed-technique pieces that combine different disciplines of craftsmanship. The “Panda” pocket watch is one of the most striking examples. It is a one-of-a-kind piece with a wood micromarquetry back, a dial in grand feu flinqué enamel, and a manual engraving on the case and the bezel.

Rare handcrafts

Patek Philippe also uses rare hand craftmanship techniques to decorate certain timepieces in the current collection. This includes individual grand complications or watch design icons.

For the next exhibition, the watchmaker is presenting six new versions of familiar models that were turned into unique pieces by gifted artists. The double-face Sky Moon Tourbillon wristwatch (12 complications) combines a manually engraved rose-gold case with a decor in brown grand feu champlevé enamel and a guilloched ornament (Ref. 6002 R – 001). The Ref. 5304 self-winding grand complication with a minute repeater and a retrograde perpetual calendar now comes in rose gold decorated with 80 baguette diamonds (Ref. 5304/301R – 001).

The Ref. 5374 grand complication with a minute repeater and a perpetual calendar is joined by a new white-gold version with a blue grand feu enamel dial (Ref. 5374G – 001).

This current Patek Philippe collection welcomes a new minute repeater for ladies with a dial in blue grand feu flinqué enamel and a bezel with a Flamme diamond complement (Ref. 7040/250G – 001), as well as a new Golden Ellipse Haut Artisanat in white gold with champlevé enamel and manual engraving (Ref. 5738/51).

Patek also presents a new version of the Nautilus Haute Joaillerie in white gold with a random diamond pavé setting, also called snow setting (Ref. 7118/1450G – 001).

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