Patek Philippe is presenting its new “Rare Handcrafts 2022” collection at its Salons in Geneva.
From April 6 to 23, 2022, at its historic headquarters on Rue du Rhône, the manufacture is presenting nearly 60 Rare Handcrafts creations that pay tribute to an eclectic range of artisanal skills. In addition to these one-of-a-kind pieces and limited editions that meld technical prowess with rich inspiration, the public will also be able to observe artisans as they demonstrate their expertise in craftsmanship.
The richly endowed “Antique Collection” of the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva which last year celebrated its 20th anniversary allows visitors to admire the evolution of mechanical timepieces since the early 16th century. They can also pursue the upswing of decorative artistry with which timekeeping instruments have been graced for nearly 500 years. Before watches established themselves as dependable and precise timepieces, they were mainly lavishly adorned works of art. Thus, many different ornamental techniques were embraced in Geneva, especially by the famous “Fabrique” where all of the crafts associated with watchmaking artistry were practiced.
Passion for the ultimate in craftsmanship
As the legatee and guardian of grand Genevan traditions since it was founded in 1839, Patek Philippe always placed great emphasis on craftsmanship. This is impressively documented by the Museum’s “Patek Philippe Collection”. While the demand for artisanally decorated watches all but vanished from 1970 to 1980, the manufacture was passionately committed to safeguarding this precious know-how on the brink of extinction, especially miniature painting on enamel. Today, Patek Philippe is determined to protect these skills, to offer a future for the requisite competencies, and in close collaboration with the artisans to further evolve and expand their virtuosity.
A broad palette of skills
To illustrate the beauty of these artisanal techniques and promote the knowledge of this important facet of watchmaking traditions, Patek Philippe presents an annual collection of one-of-a-kind pieces and limited editions of artistically decorated watches. For the “Rare Handcrafts 2022” collection (a total of 59 creations including 15 dome table clocks, 9 miniature dome table clocks, 10 pocket watches, and 25 wristwatches) it was again necessary to mobilize a suite of artisanal skills that call for virtuosity, many years of experience, and genuine artistic flair.
Manual engraving is the oldest decorative art for adorning timepieces. It embellishes the case backs of pocket watches as well as their bezels, bows, and hands.
Grand feu cloisonné enamel has also long been used in watchmaking to create motifs with luminous and enduring colors. First, the artisan shapes the contours of the motif with a fine flat gold wire and then fills the resulting “cloisons” (cells) with translucent, opaque, semi-opaque, or opalescent enamel paints.
Since the 17th century, miniature painting on enamel has ranked among the grand Genevan specialties; at this exhibition, it has a strong presence. The tiny motifs are created dot by dot with a minuscule brush and with paints mixed from enamel powder and lavender oil.
For the tradition-steeped technique of paillonné enamel, small gold- or silver-leaf paillons (punched spangles) are covered with translucent enamel in which they appear to float.
In hand-guilloching, antique, manually controlled machines are used to cut geometric patterns in a metal surface on which light seems to dance. When this interplay of reflections is coated with translucent enamel, it is referred to as flinqué enamel.
Wood micromarquetry is an extremely elaborate technique introduced by Patek Philippe several years ago to decorate the dials of wristwatches or the case backs of pocket watches. It is used to produce small pictures composed of several hundred tiny mosaic pieces of different wood species, colors, and graining.
Gemsetting with diamonds adorns the bezels of Calatrava wristwatches with irresistible sparkle. The fully handcrafted pocket watch stands in 18K gold are also set with different gems in nuanced colors.
Patek Philippe also showcases its creativity and artisanal expertise on numerous objects with the so-called mixed technique that combines different types of savoir-faire such as grand feu cloisonné enamel and manual guilloching or the refinement of grand feu cloisonné enamel with miniature painting on enamel.
Always receptive to outstanding traditions, the manufacture also works with two original techniques that were developed in France – grisaille enamel with Limoges white (blanc de Limoges) and Longwy enamel on faience with black framed motifs.
To fully experience the fascination of these handcraft techniques, exhibition visitors can observe the live demonstrations of individual specialists at work on their creations.
A broad spectrum of inspirations
Following the role model of previous years, the “Rare Handcrafts 2022” collection is again a veritable fireworks of creativity from which designers and artists took their inspiration and allowed their imagination to roam freely.
Complementing the numerous topics of this year, there is a showcase that exhibits several objects directly related to Geneva, the domicile of Patek Philippe. One of them is the dome table clock 20118M “Bol d’Or” in cloisonné and paillonné enamel as a reminder of the seven trophies that the manufacture’s honorary president Philippe Stern won at this famous regatta on the Lake of Geneva. In the same showcase, the pocket watch 995/130G-001 ”Swan“ shows the bird in wood micromarquetry on the case back. A perfect mixed-technique example is the dome table clock 20116M “View of Geneva in the style of Ananbô” (one-of-a-kind piece). The lush vegetation scenery was rendered in cloisonné enamel. It was fashioned with 41.2 meters of flat gold wire and 41 mostly translucent enamel paints and is combined with a miniature painting on enamel inspired by an old image of the fresco of Geneva.
A further showcase brings to life the magic of a tropical rainforest, especially with the very vivid depiction of chameleons in cloisonné enamel (5177G-026 and 5177G-027 Calatrava wristwatches). In the limited 6-watch edition of the 5089G-109 Calatrava wristwatch, the gold dial is first guilloched by hand with various motifs tracing the veins of the leaves, then decorated with cloisonné enamel that allows the relief patterns to shine through. One leaf shows the hand-engraved shadow of a gecko as if backlit.
Wild creatures that live in faraway lands play an important role in the collection, for example on case backs in wood micromarquetry or cloisonné enamel as well as on the dials of Calatrava or Golden Ellipse wristwatches in cloisonné enamel with depictions of several savanna animals (greater kudu, oryx antelopes, zebras, lions, rhinoceroses, buffaloes, white Namibian elephants and leopards). For the 995/128J-001 “Cheetah” pocket watch (a one-of-a-kind piece), the artist crafted 610 incredibly tiny parts and 50 inlays from 16 different wood species to show the cat sprinting at full speed.
Inspired by the naturalistic illustrations of the early 19th century, four limited editions, each consisting of six Golden Ellipse wristwatches that all feature depictions of some of the most extraordinary monkey species on our planet. Their habitat is cloisonné enamel dials complemented with miniature paintings on enamel – one example is the 5738/50G-019 Golden Ellipse and its mischievous American callithrix.
Other wonders of nature, also in the realm of plants, are sources for motifs in luminous colors such as on the 20142M “Dog Rose” dome table clock in cloisonné enamel or on the 20104M “Convolvulus” dome table clock in Longwy enamel on faience.
The path of humanity is depicted on a dome table clock and three Calatrava wristwatches with cloisonné enamel commemorating the first crossing of the English Channel, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean. The 5089G-089 Calatrava has a dial in cloisonné enamel enriched with a miniature painting on enamel showing Louis Blériot aboard his Blériot XI monoplane overflying a coastal landscape and a beach with delicately drawn beach huts.
The cultures of our world also inspired other very different objects, including a small dome table clock, the 10003M-001 “Dragon Kites” in cloisonné enamel with its traditional Chinese kites. Another one is the 995/121J-001 “Azulejos” pocket watch and its delicate trompe-l’oeil miniature painting on enamel in a hand-engraved frame.
An ensemble consisting of dome table clocks, pocket watches, and Calatrava wristwatches in cloisonné enamel succumbs to the charms of Cuba – like the 992/162G-001 pocket watch in cloisonné enamel on a hand-guilloched background with manual engravings on the periphery of the case back, the bezel, and the bow.
They are joined by further amazing creations such as the dome table clock 20114M “Circus” in cloisonné enamel enhanced with silver leaf and miniature painting on enamel; the dome is adorned with a tip that resembles a finial.
A unique opportunity
The “Rare Handcrafts 2022” exhibition is open to the public from April 6 to 23, 2022. It is open daily from 11 am to 6 pm. Closed on Sundays. It is located in the Patek Philippe Salons in Geneva on Rue du Rhône 41. Visitors are requested to pre-register on our website at patek.com.
For the first time, the “Rare Handcrafts 2022” exhibition will also take place in Paris: From May 14 to 22, 2022, in a gallery on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré 85, that will be totally remodeled for this event.
The two exhibitions in Geneva and Paris offer the only opportunity to admire all of these extraordinary creations before they are forwarded to private collectors around the world.The Patek Philippe Rare Handcrafts 2022 Exhibition will be physically held in Geneva, Switzerland from April 6 to 23, 2022, and Paris from May 14 to 22, 2022. Register an appointment here.