Patek Philippe – Watch Art Appreciation – Personalities and interviews
Patek Philippe’s Watch Art Grand Exhibition in Singapore is not just about the art of watchmaking; it is also the art of watchmaking. Hence the name of the exhibition “watch art”. The emphasis on art goes beyond commercial activity as it also serves to preserve the heritage and culture of handicrafts, with artisans only becoming full masters after years of training and development. ‘experience.
“Painting on enamel, for example, would not be practiced today without Patek Philippe because they [kept the art alive by having] employed the last enamel painters over 50 years ago, ”notes Peter Friess, director and curator of the Patek Philippe Museum.
Peter Friess © Patek Philippe
Among the six Patek Philippe Singapore 2019 special editions launched during the Watch Art Grand Exhibition, five present the brand’s watchmaking art while only one, the Ref. 5531 World Time Minute Repeater, presents a beautiful display of truly handcrafted art created with the cloisonne enamelling technique. Interestingly, the main highlight, the Ref. 5303 Minute Repeater Tourbillon is limited to 12 pieces but there are only five pieces of the Ref. 5531 World time minute repeater with the cloisonne enamel dial detailing a map of Singapore, possibly due to the challenges of making such a handmade dial using traditional techniques.
If these six special editions are for sale, the watch manufacturer Patek Philippe is certainly not. “Patek Philippe remains a family business. It is certainly not for sale, ”said Thierry Stern at the Watch Art Grand Exhibition.
Thierry stern © Patek Philippe
Speaking of which, there are actually even rarer pieces on offer at the Watch Art Grand Exhibition, most, if not all, of which are unique pieces. These beautiful examples can be found in the Rare Handicrafts section and include Ref. 20094M Singapore Bay dome clock, Ref. 992 / 145J and Ref. 992 / 146G “Gold Birds” pocket watches with hand-engraved designs and champlevé enamel, Ref. 992 / 144G “Orchids and hummingbirds” with miniature enamel paint, Ref. 992 / 153G “White Tiger” pocket watch and Ref. 5089G-083 “Dragon” wristwatch with wood marquetry on the dial. All the examples cited are unique pieces.
In addition, some European artisans from Patek Philippe, each specialized in their craft, be it guilloche, hand engraving, enamelling and wood marquetry, were on hand to show how these techniques were performed. “This is a live exhibition presenting rare handcrafted objects and master craftsmen practicing centuries-old crafts,” said Deepa Chatrath, CEO of Patek Philippe SEA.
Deepa chatrath © Patek Philippe
Even the more than a century old guilloche machine and the enormous apparatus for cutting precious wood used in marquetry, both motorized and manually operated, were shipped to Singapore just for this exhibition. “The artists are here just because they’re good. We want to share passion and knowledge, ”explains Sandrine Stern, head of creations at Patek Philippe.
Sandrine Stern © Patek Philippe
Anita Porchet, a freelance master enameller who has collaborated with Patek Philippe for around 25 years, was present at the exhibition to explain her craft and her commissioned works which include Ref. 992 / 144G “Orchids and Hummingbirds”, table clocks, each bearing maps of Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Manila, Hanoi and Bangkok using the cloisonné and flinqué enamel technique, the cloisonné enamel dial of the Ref . 5531 World Time Minute Repeater Singapore 2019 Special Edition and Ref. 7000 / 50R “Chickadees in the reed”.
Porchet has accumulated over 45 years of experience in enamelling after beginning to learn her trade as a young teenager. The miniature painting on enamel on Ref. 992 / 144G “Orchids and Hummingbirds” is based on the work of the American painter Martin Johnson Meade (1819-1902). Her favorite orchid is the pink lipped Cattleya shown in the foreground with hummingbirds in the background.
“The main difficulty is to obtain the intense red color because it is one of the most difficult to achieve, along with pink. The two colors can be placed very close but they cannot touch each other. I had to create volume and it shows in the details, especially in the different colors of green vegetation, ”explains Porchet.
Anita Porchet © Patek Philippe
As for Ref. 7000 / 50R “Reed Tit” Ladies minute repeater with cloisonné enamel dial, Porchet found this to be a technical challenge. To carve the birds and leaves, a 60cm to 70cm flat gold wire was cut into small pieces and used to form the shapes. “What was difficult was getting all the gold compartments together. As the gold thread is so thin, it moves very easily when placed on the dial ”, explains Porchet“ I used all the different colors of enamel I had. I was able to play from transparent to opaque and I was able to create shadows without using the cloisonne. In the end, I really enjoyed working on this unique piece.
As for Ref. 5531 World Time Minute Repeater Singapore 2019 Special Edition, Porchet assumes this is the smallest cloisonne enamel dial she has worked on. With that, one can imagine the technical difficulties she encountered in creating each of the five cards on the cloisonné enamel dials.
A sense of balance is necessary when using the various craft techniques. “When we start a new design, we have to find the right challenges for each artist and how to achieve the quality that we are looking for. You can use a mix of techniques, but it’s not good to do it every time. Sometimes for some pocket watches or clocks it is better to use only one technique. The right proportions should be used to balance techniques. For example, we use enamel for depth and color and engraving for the details behind the enamel or on the enamel. The main concern is quality. We will never compromise on quality, ”says Sandrine Stern.