The Grand FEW

Borne of age-old watch­mak­ing skill and pro­fes­sion, Patek Philippe shared over 50 one-of-a-kind time­pieces with the world be­fore they made their way to pri­vate col­lec­tions

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En­gravers, enam­ellers, and crafts­men. In Geneva’s his­toric trade of haute horol­ogy, these ar­ti­sans have built lega­cies and tra­di­tions. For­tu­nately, such hands of time con­tinue to tick. Patek Philippe has au­then­ti­cated gen­er­a­tions worth of work­man­ship with a col­lec­tion of over 50 one-of-a-kind and lim­ited edi­tion hand­crafted time­pieces. Show­cas­ing Grand Feu tech­niques, wood mi­cro-mar­quetry, minia­ture paint­ing, gem­set­ting, and, of course, en­grav­ing, a vis­ually cap­ti­vat­ing as­sem­blage of dome ta­ble clocks, pocket watches, and wrist­watches was launched at Basel­world 2018.

In the age of In­sta­gram and dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion, the 179-year-old Swiss watch man­u­fac­turer re­vis­ited the past and cel­e­brated an­ces­tral time-telling skills with pic­turesque man­i­fes­ta­tions of land­scapes and cul­tural icons from across the globe. In April, Patek Philippe Sa­lons at Rue du Rhone hosted the dis­play of these unique pieces to fur­ther show­case their com­mit­ment to the old­est dec­o­ra­tive art forms as­so­ci­ated with watch­mak­ing. Many of the time­pieces fea­tured the long-stand­ing ar­ti­sanal process of manual en­grav­ing and the highly com­plex tech­nique of minia­ture paint­ing on enamel.

Tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion from clas­sic Patek Philippe mo­tifs such as an­i­mals and flow­ers, as well as ex­otic des­ti­na­tions in the mod­ern world, the dome ta­ble clocks served as per­fect can­vasses for cloi­sonné enam­elling tech­niques. The ex­pert process—which in­volves bend­ing ul­tra thin strips of gold to trace the sil­hou­ettes of

im­ages, cre­at­ing cells of pat­terns that are then filled up with enamel, all by hand—adds depth to the picture. Thrown into “the great fire,” lit­er­ally what Grand Feu trans­lates into, cloi­sonné enam­elling en­tails nu­mer­ous fir­ings for the enam­elled de­sign to reach the in­tended hues. The “Flo­ral Arabesques,” for ex­am­ple, which is ev­i­dently in­flu­enced by the com­bi­na­tion of Per­sian porce­lain and In­dian pal­ettes, fea­tures 50 trans­par­ent, opaque, and opales­cent enamel colours. The enam­eller out­lined a del­i­cate pat­tern and pro­duced a va­ri­ety of sub­tle shades. Just as florid yet dis­tinct, “Flow­ers of the Ori­ent” traces in­ter­lac­ing de­tails across a bright gra­di­ent of Eastern civil­i­sa­tion.

Even in bolder con­trasts—as can be seen in the “Art Deco Fan­tasy”—the com­mis­sioned ar­ti­san ex­hib­ited the high level of tech­ni­cal­ity that goes into cre­at­ing these clocks. Trans­par­ent and opaque enamel were lim­ited to four colours, but some 300 pieces of sil­ver leaf were em­bed­ded be­neath the cloi­sonné enamel to high­light the im­pact of the geo­met­ric de­sign. For “The Plan­ets,” gold and sil­ver leaf were also used to in­ten­sify the play of light in the vi­gnette of the so­lar sys­tem. Guil­loched sil­ver on the hour cir­cle fea­tures 12 hour mark­ers in the shape of stars, each set with 0.61-carat di­a­monds.

In­deed, the col­lec­tion show­cased other lesser­known ar­ti­sanal tech­niques, one such be­ing Fauré enam­el­work. Also referred to as re­lief enam­elling, as in the “Wis­te­ria,” it en­tails thickly ap­plied opales­cent enam­els that are sculpted to cre­ate a raised ef­fect. Work­ing with a pal­ette of 26 trans­par­ent colours to build up clus­ters of flow­ers, branches, leaves, and sky, each enam­elled plate re­quired 18 fir­ings. A to­tal of 180 hours of enam­elling brought this flow­ery vista to life. Pow­ered by the cal­i­bre 17” PEND me­chan­i­cal movement re­wound by an elec­tric mo­tor, these unique dome ta­ble clock pieces bear Patek Philippe’s com­mit­ment to the crafts­man­ship of rare hand­crafts.

While enam­elling was cer­tainly pre­served by this col­lec­tion, the clas­sic art of en­grav­ing —which Patek Philippe has al­ways con­sid­ered the root of its ex­per­tise—finds its way into the mag­nif­i­cent “The Galleon” pocket watch in white gold. The one and only time­piece fea­tures a watch­face enameled in white. The bezel, case back, and bow are en­graved with a pat­tern re­sem­bling cordage—a process that took a to­tal of 230 hours. Keeled over, the back re­veals a low-re­lief hand-en­grav­ing that de­picts a proud galleon: ves­sel, can­nons, sails, waves, and sea in awe-in­spir­ing de­tail.

Yet an­other dis­play of Genevan meth­ods, the “Königssee in Bavaria” pocket watch fea­tures a minia­ture paint­ing in­spired by Aus­trian artist Friedrich Gauer­mann with fin­ish­ing in a trans­par­ent flux. It en­tailed a del­i­cate pro­ce­dure that, at times, used a brush con­sist­ing of a sin­gle hair, and 35 fir­ings at ex­tremely high tem­per­a­tures.

Each year, Patek Philippe pro­duces these grand few 50 or so one-of-a-kind hand­crafts. As an ode to rar­ity, the Swiss watch­maker em­bod­ies time­less­ness and hu­man artistry in the col­lec­tion, which is not avail­able in stores. The watches and clocks are works of art, cel­e­brat­ing skills from long ago, up­hold­ing the prin­ci­ples of the belle époque. Patek Philippe con­tin­ues to safe­guard such tra­di­tion and keeps it alive for gen­er­a­tions to come.

clocks are works of art, cel­e­brat­ing skills from long ago... Patek Philippe con­tin­ues to safe­guard such tra­di­tion and keeps it alive for gen­er­a­tions to come

“The Galleon,” a one-ofa-kind pocket watch in white gold, show­cases the age-old tech­nique of manual en­grav­ing; the “Königssee in Bavaria” pocket watch is a minia­ture paint­ing in enamel that en­tailed a brush com­prised of a sin­gle hair; “Wis­te­ria” took a to­tal of 180 hours of fir­ing

STEL­LAR DOMESCloi­sonné enam­elling such as in “Flow­ers of the Ori­ent” re­quires nu­mer­ous fir­ings for the enamel to reachin­tended hues; “The Plan­ets” and “Flo­ral Arabesques”out­lined del­i­cate pat­terns that werelater filled with enamel; even with a few colours,“artDeco Fan­tasy” dis­plays ar­ti­sanal vir­tu­os­ity in itscom­po­si­tion

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