This November, Patek Philippe celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the Patek Philippe Museum, one of the world’s most renowned horological museums.
Inaugurated in November 2001, Philippe Stern — who was the president of Patek Philippe at the time — spent decades acquiring important timepieces, as well as other horological collectibles. There are now 2,500 watches, automata, and other horologically significant pieces that represent five centuries of Genevan, Swiss, and European horological art — including many from Patek Philippe — dating back 1839.
The Patek Philippe Museum is located in a restored industrial building that was built in 1919-1920. Located at number 7 rue des Vieux-Grenadiers, in the Plainpalais district of Geneva, this building had been occupied by watchmakers and artisans throughout its history. Patek Philippe acquired the building in 1975 to house Ateliers Réunis, a production unit making cases, bracelets, and chains. In 1996 these activities moved to the new manufacturing facility nearby in Plan-les-Ouates, leaving the building vacant. Philippe Stern decided that this was where he would present his collection and between 1999 and 2001 the structure was fully restored, adding an additional floor, with strict respect for the original architecture. Mr. Stern’s wife Gerdi oversaw the interior decoration, her aim being to give the rooms the warmth and intimacy of a private residence.
The Patek Philippe Museum is unique in that it offers the chance to discover five centuries of horological heritage, as well as learning about the traditional craftsmanship associated with watchmaking such as enameling, gem-setting, and guilloché work.
Starting with the ground floor, there is a collection of workbenches and antique watchmaking tools and a restoration workshop. On the first floor is the Patek Philippe collection from 1839 to 2000. The second floor houses the antique collection, from the sixteenth to the mid-nineteenth century. And the third floor is Patek Philippe’s historical archives, together with the library — which features more than 8,000 works on horology and related subjects underlines the museum’s educational role — and the collection of portraits and snuffboxes in miniature painting on enamel.
In addition to the permanent collections, the museum holds temporary exhibitions, including: “Timepieces for Royalty” in 2005, “The Mirror of Seduction: Prestigious Pairs of Chinese Watches” in 2010, and “Timepieces Signed Rousseau” in 2012.
“Under the leadership of Philippe Stern and Peter Friess, director and curator of the museum since 2014, new acquisitions have continued to enrich the collections. The layouts of the two main collections have been reorganized, each now comprising twenty themed areas reflecting particular aspects of the watch’s history or the world of Patek Philippe. To complement the wide choice of guided tours, the museum has also introduced an audio guide, accessed via a tablet. This device makes it possible both to provide all the required information on the exhibits and to illustrate the context in which they were created and worn, highlighting the close links between watchmaking and science, fashion, artistic movements, and social change. The audio guide currently offers some twenty hours of accompaniment in English, French, or German. Other languages will be available from 2023. Users may compose their own itinerary or choose a pre-set route, such as the one suggested by Philippe Stern himself. About 10,000 photographs complete this application, enabling the user to zoom in on details or examine features that may not be visible in the display cases. Modern, interactive, and dynamic, this à la carte means of discovery gives visitors the freedom to tailor their visit to their particular interests, according to Patek Philippe.
Over two decades, the Patek Philippe Museum has attracted more than 600,000 visitors, which is no surprise considering the significance and volume of the collection of horological — making it one of the most preeminent horological museums in the world.
Learn more at www.patekmuseum.com.
Patek Philippe Museum
Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers 7