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Patek Philippe - Watch Art Appreciation

Patek Philippe Watch Art Appreciation

Watch the art at Patek Philippe’s Watch Art.

Patek Philippe’s Watch Art Grand Exhibition in Singapore is not just about the art of watchmaking; it is also about the art in watchmaking. Hence the “watch art” exhibition name. The strong focus on art goes beyond the commercial business as it also serves to preserve the heritage and culture of handcrafted objects with artisans becoming masters in their own right only after years of training and experience.

“Enamel painting for example, would not be practised today if not for Patek Philippe as they [kept the art alive by having] employed the last enamel painters more than 50 years ago,” notes Peter Friess, director and curator, Patek Philippe Museum.

Watch Art Appreciation

Peter Friess © Patek Philippe

Among the six Patek Philippe Singapore 2019 Special Editions launched at Watch Art Grand Exhibition, five showcase the brand’s art of watchmaking while only one, the Ref. 5531 World Time Minute Repeater, features a fine display of truly handcrafted art created with the cloisonné enamelling technique. Interestingly, the main highlight, the Ref. 5303 Minute Repeater Tourbillon is limited to 12 pieces but there are only five pieces of the Ref. 5531 World Time Minute Repeater with the cloisonné enamel dial detailing a map of Singapore, probably because of the challenges in crafting such a handmade dial using traditional techniques.

While these six special editions are for sale, the Patek Philippe watch Manufacture certainly isn’t. “Patek Philippe remains a family company. It is certainly not for sale,” Thierry Stern affirmed during the Watch Art Grand Exhibition.

Watch Art Appreciation

Thierry Stern © Patek Philippe

Speaking of which, there are actually even rarer pieces offered at the Watch Art Grand Exhibition, most, if not all, of which are one-of-a-kind pieces. Such fine examples are found in the rare handcrafts section and include the Ref. 20094M “Bay of Singapore” dome clock, Ref. 992/145J and Ref. 992/146G “Gold Birds” pocket watches with hand-engraved and champlevé enamelled decorations, Ref. 992/144G “Orchids and Hummingbirds” with miniature enamelled painting, Ref. 992/153G “White Tiger” pocket watch and the Ref. 5089G-083 “Dragon” wristwatch with wood marquetry on the dial. All the examples mentioned are unique pieces.

What’s more, some of Patek Philippe’s artisans from Europe, each specialising in their dedicated craft, be it guillochage, hand-engraving, enamelling and wood marquetry, were on hand to demonstrate how such techniques were performed. “This is a live exhibition showcasing rare handcrafts and master artisans practising age-old crafts,” highlights Deepa Chatrath, general manager, Patek Philippe SEA.

Watch Art Appreciation

Deepa Chatrath © Patek Philippe

Even the more than a century old guillochage machine and the huge apparatus for cutting fine wood used in marquetry, both manually powered and operated, were shipped into Singapore just for this exhibition. “The artists are here simply because they are good. We want to share the passion and knowledge,” says Sandrine Stern, head of creations at Patek Philippe.

Watch Art Appreciation

Sandrine Stern © Patek Philippe

Anita Porchet, an independent master enameller who has collaborated with Patek Philippe for around 25 years, was present at the exhibition to explain her craft and her commissioned works that include the Ref. 992/144G “Orchids and Hummingbirds”, the table clocks, each bearing maps of Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Manila, Hanoi and Bangkok using the cloisonné and flinqué enamel technique, the cloisonné enamel dial on the Ref. 5531 World Time Minute Repeater Singapore 2019 Special Edition and the Ref. 7000/50R “Titmice in the reed”.

Porchet has chalked up more than 45 years of enamelling experience having started the learning of her craft when she was just a young teenager. The miniature enamel painting on the Ref. 992/144G “Orchids and Hummingbirds” was based on American painter Martin Johnson Meade’s (1819 to 1902) work. His orchid of choice is the pink Cattleya labiate depicted in the foreground with hummingbirds in the background.

“The main difficulty is in obtaining the strong red colour because it is one of the most difficult to attain, together with pink. The two colours can be placed very close but they cannot touch each other. I had to create volume and this is seen in the detailing, especially in the different colours of green vegetation,” says Porchet.

Watch Art Appreciation

Anita Porchet © Patek Philippe

As for the Ref. 7000/50R “Titmice in the reed” ladies minute repeater with a cloisonné enamel dial, Porchet found it a technical challenge. To sculpt the birds and leaves, a flat gold wire of between 60cm and 70cm was cut into tiny pieces and used to form the shapes. “What was difficult was putting together all the gold compartments. As the gold thread is so thin, it moves very easily when placed on the dial,” Porchet explains “I used all the different enamel colours I had. I could play from transparent to opaque and was able to create shadows without using the cloisonné. In the end, I truly enjoyed working on this unique piece.”

As for the Ref. 5531 World Time Minute Repeater Singapore 2019 Special Edition, Porchet surmises that it is the smallest cloisonné enamel dial she has worked on. With that, one can just imagine the technical difficulties she faced to create each of the five maps on the cloisonné enamel dials.

A sense of balance is required when employing the various handcrafted techniques. “When we begin on a new design, we have to find the right challenges for each artist and how to realise the quality we are looking for. You can use a mix of the techniques but it isn’t good to do it every time. Sometimes for certain pocket watches or clocks, it is best to use only one technique. The right proportions have to be used to balance the techniques. For example, we use enamel for depth and colour and engraving for the details behind the enamel or on the enamel. The main concern is quality. We will never compromise on quality,” says Sandrine Stern.


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