Following major exhibitions in Dubai, Munich and most recently London in 2015, Patek Philippe will stage another “Art of Watches” grand exhibition this month, this time in New York City. And like past iterations, the Big Apple version will pair historic, locally significant pieces with a new collection of one-off watches created just for the occasion.
Running from July 13 to 23, on show will be some 400 watches set over 10 rooms at Cipriani 42nd Street in midtown. The location is not only home to major television and media companies but also just a watch-strap’s throw from Grand Central Station. The exhibition covers some 13,200 sq ft, and “the impact will be massive,” says Thierry Stern, Patek Philippe’s president and fourth generation of the Stern family to run the watchmaker.
The show also has personal meaning for Mr Stern, who apprenticed in America in his early 20s. “New York was really part of the family process,” he recalls. “We started a tradition with my grandfather, father, then myself. That’s where I really learnt the business.” Today Patek Philippe has 95 points of sale in the US.
The timepieces on show range from a standout 1530 pocket watch to 2013’s Ref 6002 Sky Moon Tourbillion, featuring a two-gong minute repeater, tourbillon, perpetual calendar with retrograde date, moon phase and astronomical functions – all matched with lavish engraving and enamelling. Not to be missed are the 27 watches in the US Historic Room, of which fans should make a beeline for John F Kennedy’s 1963 desk clock. Created on the occasion of the 35th president’s now-famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech, the stylish quartz clock shows the time in Moscow, Washington DC and Berlin, marking direct communication between Russia and America.
John F. Kennedy clock (1963) © Loan from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
Also on show are the rare watches of two of Patek Philippe’s most famous American collectors: Henry Graves Jr and James Ward Packard – respectively a New York banker and art collector, and an automobile magnate from Ohio. The juxtaposition of their pieces highlights how the two titans of industry sought to out-do one other in the complication stakes, in turn leading to some of Patek Philippe’s most exceptional commissions.
Henry Graves, Jr’s Grande Complication Pocket Watch (1919) © Patek Philippe
The 1933, 24-mechanism “Henry Graves Supercomplication” pocket watch, for example, was famously sold at Sotheby’s in 2014 for a record-breaking $23m. Meanwhile Packard’s 1927 astronomical pocket watch features a three-gong minute repeater, perpetual calendar, running equation of time, sunset and sunrise times in Warren, Ohio (Packard’s hometown), while the back shows a rotating celestial sky chart – then a Patek Philippe first – depicting the night sky over Packard’s birthplace.
James Ward Packard’s Astronomical Pocket Watch (1925) © Patek Philippe
Another highlight is the yellow gold P-1412 pocket watch enamelled with the portrait of America’s first president, George Washington, and which was first presented at the 1851 Universal Exhibition in London.
As for the new commemorative watches, Mr Stern was typically tight-lipped. “There will be a range,” was all he revealed. “And enough for a few people.” If 2015’s London show offers any hints, we can expect some themed showstoppers like the wonderful Tudor Rose pocket watch, its English motif fashioned from 19 intricately, handpainted enamel colours and complemented by a red enamel dial. As with London, the New York show will also fly in artisans – enamellers, wood marquetry specialists, gem setters – from the Geneva workshop to give demonstrations.
The Art of Watches Grand Exhibition: Discovering the World of Patek Philippe. July 13-23, 2017. Cipriani 42nd Street, 110 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017