Growing up, I never understood the fascination with elegant watches and quality timepieces. I was so often lost in conversations with watch enthusiasts and collectors — some of them deemed as veterans of horology — that I can only afford a meek smile and pretend that I understand the various terminologies.
I have heard of the big names in the watch industry such as Rolex and Cartier, and as impressive as the aesthetic functions of these watches are, I am not able to grasp the understanding of why many will fork out that extravagant amount of cash to purchase them.
There must be more than meets the eye when it comes to the making of these watches, and as someone who is clueless about these posh watches, I decided to take the opportunity and attend The Patek Philippe Watch Art Grand Exhibition in Singapore to find out more.
Patek Philippe, if you are not familiar with this brand, is a renowned Swiss luxury watch and clock manufacturer. The Watch Art Grand Exhibition held in Singapore showcases ten specially-themed rooms where over 400 current, historic and unique timepieces are featured. I was already in awe when I stepped in and saw glass cases containing these top-end watches.
Having no prior knowledge of the mechanics behind a watch or the components of it, the audio guide available at the entrance was a perfect way to introduce me into the world of timepieces. This audio kit provides information regarding the specific exhibits that I would like to know more about, and it gives extensive detail of the history and design of the watches on display.
The Current Collection Room awaits me as the first collection of the entire exhibit. Here, it showcases the present collection and limited-edition watches specially created for the event. This is where I started to see the gulf in standards between the lower tier watches and that of Patek Philippe’s. Boasting an array of collections themed after several historical facts, some of these watches are encrusted with the most exquisite jewellery such as diamonds and gold. The intricate designs on the watches are accentuated with these gems, and the details show the top-tier craft that is put into making each watch.
My belief that all watches are the same started to wane at this point as I began to learn more about why these watches are so highly sought after and why they are priced so extravagantly. The inspiration behind each collection was enough to blow my mind away, and I soon found myself completely engrossed by the history and story of each collection as I listened to the audio guide with intent, moving from one display to another.
The limited-edition Singapore collection contains a series of watches with “Patek Philippe Singapore 2019” engraved on the case back, and pays homage to the culture of Singapore with the vibrant reds detailed in the design of the watches. Infusing elements from their other models and incorporating it to the final product, it leaves me in awe at how a watch can have such a rich story to tell.
The Museum Room awaits where I can discover more about the heritage of Patek Philippe. The exhibits here summarises more than 500 years of portable watchmaking history, and it is breathtaking to observe a legacy that stretches back to the yesteryears. This includes the fob watch presented to Queen Elizabeth in 1851 and even timepieces made for the Chinese market back in the 19th century.
It was indeed a sight to behold as this exhibit shows the evolution of timepieces over time — details in place of these watches are nothing short of extraordinary. They are pieces that will live in remembrance as visitors will be able to admire the artistry put into place in the respective periods from the past.
Patek Philippe was always known for its craftsmanship where artisan crafts such as enamelling and wood marquetry form the fundamentals for all their designs. In the Rare Handicrafts room, I was able to look at wood marquetry and guilloche specialists demonstrating the craft and giving an insight into the makings of a Patek Philippe watch. It was incredible looking at these fine craftsmen showing off their work, and it is no wonder the details are so perfect what with their level of dexterity shown in performing the tasks.
Talking about such fine details, the Movements Room gives rise to the highly sophisticated movements of the watches in depth. Watchmakers from the factory in Geneva will explain the finer details of the calibres, and it is indeed fascinating to watch how these small details affect the final product.
All these in-depth details about the timepieces will then transcend into the Great Complications Room where all of the brand’s most complex wristwatches are shown. This is where I truly felt that these elegant watches carry so much weight in them; from its inspiration to the way it is made. Perhaps, it was then I realised why these watches are so extravagantly priced— one gets to enjoy these timepieces made with years of experience from artisans, with every single component perfectly fitted.
Leaving this exhibition gave me a completely different perspective as compared to the moment where I decided to step in. The sheer quality and rich backstory behind each watch are perhaps where watch collectors and enthusiasts derive their excitement from, and I share their sentiments that it holds much more value than just looking good. As much as it is a symbol of prestige, there is more than meets the eye. As mentioned by Patek Philippe, “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.” It finally struck me, watches do not just tell the time, it tells history.
Date: 28 September – 13 October 2019
10 A.M. to 7 P.M. on Mondays to Thursdays, and Sundays
10 A.M. to 10 P.M. on Fridays to Saturdays
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