In describing his brand’s signature aesthetic, Larry Pettinelli, U.S. President of Patek Philippe says simply, “We’re an understated watch. You don’t buy it to be showy or for conspicuous consumption.” However, starting this week, the otherwise discrete brand is presenting itself quite publicly in a new pop-up museum in Manhattan.
“The Art of Watches Grand Exhibition,” to be held at New York’s Cipriani 42nd Street location from July 13-23, is a throwback to the days of World’s Fairs that introduced new advancements in technology and ground-breaking products—except this time, it’s for fans of fine watchmaking. It’s the equivalent of Willy Wonka opening the gates to his illustrious chocolate factory, and it’s free to the public.
The two-story temporary museum aims to help educate the public about mechanical timepieces and watchmaking’s rare handcrafts. How rare? Significant historical pieces from the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva dating back to the 1500s—long before Patek itself was established in 1839—will be on display. Many of these important items have never been shown in the United States before.
With a timeline of both world history and developing technology, the exhibition tells the story of Patek Philippe through its innovations in manufacturing and original business practices, influenced by a century of global politics. The show highlights Patek’s important American history with links to John F. Kennedy, Joe DiMaggio, Duke Ellington, and the legendary collectors James Ward Packard and Henry Graves, Jr.
But the museum isn’t just about history, Larry Pettinelli explains. “The idea is to educate and, we hope, to cast a wide net not just with our collectors, but to get to that next generation of consumers. Maybe it’s the twenty-something-year-old millennial who maybe doesn’t even wear a watch these days. We’ve got to talk to them about why maybe this is a fun, interesting, wearable art concept.”
In addition to illustrating the brand’s history, a new collection of watches and timepieces have been created exclusively for the U.S. market designed to commemorate the 10-day Grand Exhibition. One of these, the Ref.5522A, is a limited edition stainless steel pilot watch inspired by two originals found in the Patek archives, one of which will be on display here in New York.
The Ref.5522A brings a contemporary American sensibility to the traditional pilots’ watch: The original 56mm case has been reduced to a more wrist-friendly 42mm and paired with a rugged brown strap, arabic numerals and baton-style hands also recall the original models, and a new navy blue dial matches the color of fighter planes from the same period.
“This is something that has lasting value, and you can pass on two, three, four generations,” says Pettinelli. And when a steel perpetual calendar chronograph, made by Patek Philippe in 1941, can sell for a world record-breaking $11,112,020 in 2016, it’s advice worth heeding.
SHOP: The 2017 New York Pilot Watch, $21,547, patek.com
VISIT: The Art of Watches Grand Exhibition New York, July 13-23, 2017 at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York, New York