Hanging from a golden hook and rotating serenely behind a glass window, Patek Philippe’s Calibre 89 is the subject of some serious attention. At least a dozen pairs of eyeballs are focusing in on it, jockeying for position to get a good look at the most complicated watch the mighty Geneva brand has ever made.
This, as those eyeballs know, isn’t just one of the rarest and most valuable watches Patek has ever made (only four were produced for the company’s 150th anniversary), it is one of, if not themost important watch made at any point during the last 30 years. Many credit it with sparking the revival in fine watchmaking that followed in the years after its unveiling.
Calibre 89 is one of the stars and one of more than 100 pieces taken from the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva to be put on display at the Patek Philippe Watch Art Grand Exhibition, which is in Singapore this year, making it the first time the biennial event has been hosted in the Far East. Those pieces, some of them dating back to the early 1500s, are joined by a further nine rooms’ worth of Patek watches and experiences, detailing rare handcrafts and movement creation, as well as the current collection.
The event, which opened on Saturday and runs through October 13 at Singapore’s spectacular Marina Bay Sands resort, is expected to attract more than 60,000 visitors from all over the world. Some will check in just for that rare glimpse of pieces such as Calibre 89, while others will come expecting to spend: Patek has created a rich catalogue of new watches for the exhibition, six special editions and a glorious Rare Handcrafts collection: in total, more than 1,500 pieces .
The headliner is the new Ref. 5303R-010 Minute Repeater Tourbillon Singapore 2019 Special Edition hammers and gongs on the dial side of the watch, rather than below it, where they would normally appear.
For this, Patek’s engineers had to devise a new movement, which, as per the minute repeating world timer that first appeared in a limited edition piece at the New York edition of the exhibition, will filter down into Patek’s Grand Complications collection in years to come. The dial is surrounded by a red hour circle with stars for hour markers, a palette and motif lifted from the Singapore flag. Patek will make just 12 of these.
Beyond that, there’s the Ref. 5930G-011 World Time Chronograph Singapore 2019 Special Edition in white gold that’s limited to 300 pieces (with Singapore replacing Beijing on the cities disk); the Ref. 5531R-010 World Time Minute Repeater Singapore 2019 Special Edition, which is powered by the same complex movement as the New York piece mentioned earlier and has a cloisonné enamel dial depicting a map of Singapore’s downtown bay area; and the steel Ref. 7234A-001 Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Singapore 2019 Special Edition with a blue-grey dial and a blue strap that’s limited to 400 pieces (making it the first of Patek’s pilot’s watch line not in rose gold).
There’s also a pair of Aquanauts, the Ref. 5167A-012 Aquanaut Singapore 2019 Special Edition and the Ref. 5067A-027 Aquanaut Luce Singapore 2019 Special Edition. Both are in steel with red detailing on the dial, come on punchy red rubber straps, and are limited to 500 and 300 pieces respectively. Early signs are that collectors are already in a frenzy over the first (and larger) of this pairing in particular.
And then there are a further 32 short-run or piece-unique models produced under the Rare Handcrafts umbrella, Patek’s specialist division where its engravers, enamellers, and guillochage and marquetry experts get to express their exquisite talents.
Highlights among those include the Dome Table Clock Ref. 20091M ‘Batik on Blue’ in grand feu cloisonné enamel inspired by Indonesian batik printed fabrics; the Ref. 5089G-083 Calatrava ‘Dragon’ with a wooden marquetry dial depicting a dragon; and a series of table clocks decorated with maps of key cities in south east Asia, including Kuala Lumpur, Manila and Bangkok.
It’s a wonderfully compelling exhibition and will be a place of pilgrimage for mechanical watch enthusiasts over the next two weeks. Admission is free, Patek saying it wants to encourage and enthuse a new generation of watch lovers and, who knows, even trigger an interest in future watchmakers. The staggering city-state of Singapore, complete with its gleaming glass towers and many distractions, creates a stunning backdrop to the event. Not booked your ticket yet? What are you waiting for?