Until July 23rd, 2017 in New York City, you can attend a rare and interesting luxury watch-world event at the Patek Philippe “The Art of Watches” Grand Exhibition. For 10 days (July 13-23, 2017) Patek Philippe invites (without any admission price) timepiece collectors as well as the general public to enter their curated world. I visited it personally, and can easily recommend a trip there to anyone who happens to be in the New York City area.
Geneva-based Patek Philippe encapsulates much of what many people think about when they imagine an “old-world high-end European luxury brand.” Stability and conservatism mark much of what the brand produces, but if you look closely, you’ll see many areas where the brand is at times uncharacteristically playful. Seeing a Patek Philippe watch here and there in person, or visiting a retailer are some ways to familiarize yourself with the important watchmaker, but attending their exhibition allows you to see sides of the company which are often difficult to appreciate.
Lavishly detailed, the Patek Philippe Grand Exhibition is a proud piece of brand propaganda that in many ways is among the smartest use of marketing dollars in the luxury watch industry that I’ve personally experienced in a while. Having been hosted in a few other cities (most recently London), the New York edition of the Patek Philippe Grand Exhibition is the first time the show is being held in America. And a grand show it is…
Between 10 different rooms along with an available companion app or digital audio tour, you can walk through the history, achievements, crafts, and modern products which define the brand. Many of the pieces are borrowed directly from the Patek Philippe museum which is in Geneva (also something I highly recommend visiting). The investment and dedication to detail is obvious and impressive. Patek has long understood the importance of storytelling and branding when it comes to forming desire for a high-end wrist watch.
Patek Philippe not only seems to revel in personal storytelling, but also does admirable work for the entire watch industry by explaining the emotional value of all high-end watches. At the event, I complimented Mr. Thierry Stern and top Patek Philippe management that the entire watch industry should be thanking them for investing in such an exhibition series. While the primary focus of the exhibition is to celebrate Patek Philippe timepieces, many of the brand’s key strengths can be found at competitor brands, and at other levels in the watch industry. The Patek Philippe Grand Exhibition thus doesn’t just make a great sales pitch for a their own products, but also any other watches which share a similar set of design, construction, and decorative values.
What makes the US version of the Grand Exhibition unique is the showcasing of various unique or special limited edition timepieces (wrist watches, pocket watches, and clocks). The most creativity can be found in the hand-decorated “piece unique” creations which are an interesting look into the minds of French and Swiss craftspeople who work with Patek Philippe. The Patek Philippe reference 5089G “Jazz” has a hand-painted enamel dial which celebrates this unique American form of music. The 5089G-070 watch has a dial with a cowboy on a bucking horse. The Patek Philippe 993/101G-001 is a pocket watch with a colorful painted New York City skyline, and a Patek Philippe table clock celebrates baseball in all its hand-painted glory. It is very interesting for me to observe how Swiss luxury companies perceive the unique contributions of the American country to their aesthetic world.
No less than nine limited edition wrist watches were debuted for the exhibition including the time-only pilot watch 5522A-001, and the roughly $550,000 5531R-010 and similar 5531R-011, which combine a hand-painted New York City (day or night) dial, world time indicator, and a minute repeater being a world’s first for the two complications to be included in a single watch.
At the Grand Exhibition, Patek Philippe faithfully advances the idea that it is a great brand with provenance, has a long and detailed history of supplying many great Americans with watches, and that today they continue a great tradition of making high-end decorative time-telling tools for our population’s most elite members. As much as possible, the event organizers also seek to get novices new to watches excited about watchmaking itself. With a team of several watchmakers and craftspeople showing off artistic techniques ranging from wood marquetry to hand-operated guilloche machine engraving, members of the public are given a hands-on demonstration of how beautiful watch artwork is created in the first place.
Patek Philippe clearly invested millions of dollars into designing, organizing, and hosting The Art of Watches Grand Exhibition in New York – as well as other existing and future host cities. This comes during a time when most other watch brands are relatively quiet, and actually significantly cutting back from marketing investments. A prudent study of advertising and marketing often reveals that brands who invest in communication during slow economic times tend to do the best over the long-term. If anything, such investments by Patek Philippe are a sure sign that as a company, they are certainly in it for the long haul. Whether or not you buy into the slogan that, “you never actually own a Patek Philippe, you merely take care of it for the next generation,” you can be sure that the people who run Patek Philippe believe this exact statement (“you never actually own Patek Philippe, you merely hold on to it for the next generation of managers…”) when it comes to their responsibility to the brand and its products.
Be swept away by the romance of high-end traditional luxury watches at The Patek Philippe The Art of Watches Grand Exhibition in New York City at the 42nd Street location of Cipriani. More information here: patek.com/ny2017