Patek Philippe’s Grand Exhibition @ London’s Saatchi | 19.6.15


From 27th May until June 7th June 2015, London’s Saatchi Gallery was turned into a temple devoted to the Emperors of the watch world, Patek Philippe. With a clear nod to the Great Exhibitions of the 19th Century, Patek Philippe called their event Watch Art ‘Grand Exhibition‘ – and wow was it worthy of the term. I went along in the final few days with no idea quite how huge the exhibition was…and it was massive. Every room of the exhibition oozed with the history and yes, magnificence, of this amazing brand. Part of the exhibition was devoted to a selection of pieces from the Patek Philippe Museum (if you haven’t been, it’s well worth the visit). I know the museum collection quite well having lived just a couple of hundred metres away from it in my former Geneva based life, so it was rather surreal to see so many pieces from the collection right here in the UK. There were many of the most famous watches from the museum on display, including the unique world time chronograph Ref. 1415-1 HU (image top right) made in 1940 on special order for a doctor – which explains the pulsation scale to its outer edge.


One of the most famous watches on display was that shown in the photo above, in the middle of the top row. That is none other than Patek Philippe’s first split seconds chronograph wristwatch, first sold in 1923 to Attilio Ubertalli, 7th President of the Juventus Turin Soccer club. That watch was later the cover lot of Antiquorum’s landmark “The Art of Patek Philippe” sale in Geneva in 1999 where innumerable records were broken. A seriously important bit of horological kit, this watch was re-sold last year at Sotheby’s in New York for US$2,965,000 (£1.76 million). By the by, the chronograph on the top row to the left is Patek Philippe’s first chronograph (i.e. without split seconds); the black dial watch on the bottom left is a unique Ref.2512, 1950s over-sized split seconds chronograph (sold at Chrisitie’s Geneva in November 2000 for what now seems an absolute bargain price of CHF 1.44 million US$836,000 ). The watch in the middle of the bottom row is an eye wateringly rare 39.9mm diameter Ref. 2571 perpetual calendar with split seconds chronograph.


Patek Philippe are well-known for the watches they have made throughout their history for Royal and Noble families. Some of these pieces were also on display and, appropriately enough, included two watches bought from the 1851 Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in London by Queen Victoria (these two enamel pocket watches are shown above left). And then, one of the biggest surprises, in the same cabinet as Queen Victoria’s watches was a unique pearl and diamond-set bracelet watch belonging to none other than Queen Elizabeth II (image above right).


There were Patek Philippe watchmakers at the event who tirelessly took time to explain the workings of the mechanical watch movement. One of the watchmakers was explaining the intricacies of the perpetual calendar mechanism by way of a hugely scaled up model – he was all smiles and patience despite the fact he must have given the same explanation already dozens of times that day. Two rooms were filled with cabinets showing the different movement calibres – a selection are shown above.


And one of my favourite pieces was a simple enamel plaque (shown above). This was a dial maker’s sample panel showing the different types of minute and hour indications offered for a particular dial decoration – these being gold applied motifs for use on enamel dials, including small circles known as perles or pearling.

patek saatchi catalogue

Above, the exhibition catalogue which was generously given out for free to all who went to the event.