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Patek Philippe - Time, Exposed

Patek Philippe Time, Exposed

Two of the limited editions presented at the Patek Philippe Watch Art Grand Exhibition in Singapore show a lesser-seen side of the world’s leading horological maison.

Pop quiz! Top five strengths of Patek Philippe — go! Ask any watch aficionado who knows his (or her) stuff, and odds are you’ll hear answers ranging from full-throated rhapsodies of design elegance, Homeric paeans to high complication, encomia on the themes of legacy and prestige, and doxologies of haut de gamme finishing and hand-polished internal angles. 

Rather less frequently, you’ll hear someone launch into forty stanzas of free verse about the applied decorative arts and aesthetic exuberance of Patek Philippe. Look that person in the eye and offer your heartfelt congratulations, because you’ve found a true connoisseur.

In recent years, Patek Philippe have turned their gaze back towards the domain of métiers d’art — not that they had ever abandoned it at any point, but there were a few decades where attention was focused more strongly elsewhere. Those who have been to the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva, however, will immediately grasp how central to the identity and history of Patek Philippe is the use of decorative techniques such as engraving, guillochage, enamelling, gem-setting, skeletonising and inlay-work.

The recent opening of the Patek Philippe Watch Art Grand Exhibition in Singapore was accompanied by the launch of six limited editions, two of which exceptionally stand out as examples of Patek Philippe’s mastery of the decorative arts.


Ref. 5303R-010 Minute Repeater Tourbillon © Patek Philippe

Leading the charge is the ref. 5303R-010 Minute Repeater Tourbillon, the first of its kind and unprecedented at Patek Philippe in one highly significant way. The cal. R TO 27 PS of the ref. 5303 is based on the existing R 27 that inhabits the majority of Patek Philippe minute repeaters. The standard configuration of the cal. R 27 is to have the hammers and gongs visible through the caseback, while the minute repeater works are on the other side of the movement, under the dial. The cal. R TO 27 PS transposes the hammer and gongs to the dial side of the movement. Furthermore, the dial is completely open, making it possible for the first time in a modern Patek Philippe wristwatch to see the entire action of the minute repeater when it is actuated — from the intricate interplay of cams and levers to the final dance of the hammers and gongs. 

The ref. 5303R-010 is built on the same aesthetic code of high-complication ref. 5304 from 2014 and its predecessor the ref. 5104 from 2006. They share the same open dial that reveals the cadrature of the movement, the same skeletonised hands for the hours and minutes, and the same decorative appliqués on the case middle (“intarsias” in Patek Philippe nomenclature). 

Also for the first time in the ref. 5303-010, a Patek Philippe tourbillon is visible through the dial. In terms of construction, the tourbillon of the ref. 5303R-010 still has its traditional Patek Philippe orientation — which is to say, rotating counter-clockwise with its upper cage and bridge uppermost when viewed through the caseback. Because of the open dial, however, the tourbillon is clearly revealed in a completely novel way for a modern Patek Philippe wristwatch. 

The Watch Art Grand Exhibition in Singapore is the perfect occasion at which to launch the ref. 5303R-010 Minute Repeater Tourbillon, limited to 12 pieces — nowhere else in the world except in Singapore are the horological arts appreciated at the highest level and in such concentration. 


Réf. 5531R-013 World Time Minute Repeater © Patek Philippe

Aside from the gold appliqués and openworking featured in the ref. 5303R-010, the celebrated art of enamelling is showcased in the ref. 5531R-013 World Time Minute Repeater. The world time watches of Patek Philippe have long been distinguished for their use of design, from cloisonné enamel dials and hand-turned guilloche dial inserts to unique hour hands that set them apart from the rest of the collection. 

The cloisonné-dial world-time watches of Patek Philippe — such as the current ref. 5231 and the earlier ref. 5131 — are some of the most hotly sought-after pieces from the maison, with international collectors jockeying for a space at the top of the waiting list. The cloisonné enamel dial of the ref. 5531-013 features a section of the map of Singapore, specifically the mouth of the Singapore River which played a seminal role in the rise of the island-city as a major trading port in the 19th century. The GMT+0800 position on the city ring, normally taken by Hong Kong (and more recently Beijing) is occupied by Singapore in this instance.

There are only five pieces of the ref. 5531-013 World Time Minute Repeater, each dial painstaking assembled with thin gold wires and coloured enamels, signed by master enameller Anita Porchet. As anyone who has ever pleaded his way to one of these masterpieces of handcraft, or clawed out a winning auction bid for one of the maison’s equally desirable and hard-to-get enamelled dome clocks can attest, the draw of Patek Philippe in general may be irresistible for most, but a Patek Philippe métiers d’art timepiece is a rare obsession from which few recover.


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