The current collection of Patek Philippe at the Saatchi Gallery: LIVE PHOTOS
Just over a week ago I was lucky enough to get to walk around the "Patek Philippe presents Watch Art Grand Exhibition" hosted at London's Saatchi Gallery. Nearly 25,000 people peered through the glass at over four hundred exhibits across eighteen themed rooms. There was a staggering amount of variety on display, with the entire current collection of Patek (including the 175th Anniversary Collection & a Grandmaster Chime), over fifteen royal timepieces, what seemed to be the entire museum collection from Geneva and a host of watchmakers, artisans and technicians displaying their craft. The entry price for this once in a lifetime exhibit? Completely free. As I was without my trusty film camera I gorged myself on taking a ludicrous amount of photos on a borrowed DSLR so this photo report will be posted in three parts: the current collection, the museum collection and the watch art handcrafts.
What I found so encouraging at the exhibit was the sheer variety of people who attended. I had very wisely managed to get into London early on the Saturday and even at 9.30 there were people young and old, couples and families all looking around at these watches. The hosting by the Saatchi Gallery was brilliant with all the staff being open and friendly, a free audio guide (always take the audio guide) and helpful experts dotted around the exhibit to answer any questions. What could have come across as a niche exclusive event for the 1% was instead open to all, which is something I'd love to see more of across the watch industry. I wonder how many times a watch has caught a person's eye whilst walking down the street and they've had to stop themselves from asking to look at it because they thought, "Oh I'll get funny looks if I ask just to try it on". Some of my favourite experiences whilst working in retail were approaching these people and inviting them inside. Seeing the smile creep over a young boy's face as he holds a watch that James Bond wore makes it all worth it. If I had looked at my reflection in the glass cases of this exhibit, I probably would have had a similar expression on my face as well.
I didn't take any photos of the interior of the exhibit, but if you had told me that we were in Geneva and this was a permanent installation, I wouldn't have batted an eye. Perhaps the twenty foot screen displaying video of the fountains at Lake Geneva as viewed from the Patek Philippe headquarters played a part in that? Each window full of watches (in very close proximity to various thick-necked shaved-headed security guards) was fitted with the same deep royal purple velvet, every room had a selection of chaise to lounge upon whilst browsing a variety of Patek magazines and there might have even been classical music softly wafting through the air, though my memory might have just added that for effect. There was a gentleman just behind me who was obviously of significant interest to Patek Philippe as he had his own private tour guide and at certain points I'm fairly confident I saw her writing down pieces he was interested in purchasing. He obviously wasn't short on cash as on his wrist was a Jaeger LeCoultre Duometre Unique World Travel Time (possibly the Spherotourbillon but I can't be certain).
Probably the most important thing I took away from the exhibit (not a free watch unfortunately) was just how beautiful Patek's pieces are in steel. Whenever I've glanced at their website I've always found their pictures quite flat and lifeless however when they are inches away, you're able to see the time and passionate skill that has been applied to every single one. Take the Ref 5960 in stainless steel, a watch that in the catalogue comes across as rather uninspiring to me but in real life the depth of the date windows and the contrast between the black batons and silver dial is truly striking. Even the Grandmaster Chime (wasn't able to get a picture worth uploading thanks to the odd lighting), which looked like an exorbitant opulent daydream straight out of the mind of Louis XIV in press photos, managed to impress me. I still think it is a ridiculous piece but having seen the intricate detailing of the engraving and the glossy white hand-finished dial, I can appreciate it for the craftsmanship alone. Next time I'll be sharing my photos of Patek's Museum Collection.