So it was with great excitement that we entered Cipriani 42nd Street in Manhattan the evening of July 12 for the press preview of Patek Philippe’s landmark exhibition, which was to open to the public the following morning.
Patek Philippe – started in 1839 and today, the last privately, family-owned Geneva watch company – has filled more than 13,000 square feet of exhibition space with watches made for or owned by figures ranging from Queen Victoria to President John F. Kennedy Jr. to Joe DiMaggio.
A two-story structure has been creating within Cipriani to accommodate 10 specific rooms, from the Current Collection Room to the U.S. Historic Room, from the Museum Room to the Rare Handcrafts Gallery, in which artisans demonstrate their detailed work.
Throughout, visitors see more than 400 examples of pocket and wristwatches from several centuries, their stories expanded through text panels, video elements and interactive features.
The preview’s formal program got underway with comments from Larry Pettinelli, president of Patek Philippe U.S., who said, “Our job is to educate and expose people to Swiss watchmaking and, of course, Patek Philippe.”
We would see, he shared, an array of watches, “many of which have never been shown outside of the Patek museum.”
A video presentation would follow. At its conclusion Thierry Stern, president of Patek Philippe (in the Stern family since the 1930s), seemed to materialize in front of our eyes.
Stern immediately charmed the audience with his memories of coming to New York as part of his worldwide travels to learn all aspects of the business, and getting a proper introduction to the city – battling for a cab.
“It was not easy for a little Swiss guy to come here at 20 years old,” he said to much laughter.
He would go on to share details of the watches and their properties, of the company’s core values and also, the economic challenges found in today’s luxury market.
“We are fighting for quality. We are fighting for what we believe,” he said. “We have to be strong. We have to be bold, and, of course, we have to be innovative.”
To coincide with the show, the company has created nine limited-edition special editions of ladies’ and men’s watches. Be sure to check out the World Time Minute Repeater Ref. 5531 “New York Special Edition,” which carries a price tag just over $560,000.
The exhibition, ideal for collectors, history buffs and antiques lovers alike, offers much to see.
As Stern said, there are “so many beautiful pieces from the past, the present. The future is represented by technology.”
The free exhibition continues through July 23, open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily with the last admission at 6. Cipriani 42nd Street is between Lexington and Park avenues.
For more, visit patekphilippe.com.
– Mary Shustack