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history in the

making As the globally venerated masterpiece-maker that is Patek Philippe celebrates its 175th anniversary, Annabel Harrison takes a closer look at the Watch Art Patek Philippe Grand Exhibition London, taking place from 27 May until 7 June at the Saatchi Gallery

“W

hen I held that watch, I felt its power reverberate through my entire soul… It was like holding a living heart… something organic, something that’s alive.” Ahead of Sotheby’s sale of Patek Philippe’s Henry Graves Jr. Supercomplication pocket watch in Geneva, which took place in November 2014, Daryn Schnipper, chairman of Sotheby’s International Watch Division, recalled her first encounter with this world-renowned watch and its sale at Sotheby’s in 1999. “We valued it at $3-$5 million. As we got closer to the sale, the excitement started to build... [On the day] there were six bidders up to $6 million and all of sudden there were two new bidders.” It went for $11 million. “A ‘Supercomplication’ is more than a horological work; it’s beyond a watch. It is a masterpiece.” It was sold again just 15 years later, for a remarkable price of $24.4 million. Schnipper’s passionate words encapsulate what many watch

Left: Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime Ref. 5175

enthusiasts feel; that their precious timepiece is so much more than an inanimate object exchanged for equally inanimate cash. Purchases are often far more subjective and emotional than horological philistines might imagine. This is what came into play at both the 1999 and 2014 auctions. Smart, informative catalogues showcased the wares on offer, in particular this renowned Supercomplication, and objective price estimates were given. Despite the most careful, calculated planning and thorough, expert research, there is always a chance of an estimate being thoroughly trumped because once emotion comes into it, everything can change. This Patek Philippe timepiece, on the day of the 2014 auction, aroused such emotions. In addition to being able to lay claim to having created the world’s most expensive, and therefore valuable timepiece, the company has one of the most emotive and familiar advertising straplines in the watch industry: “You never actually own a Patek. You merely look after it for the next generation.” In black and white images of happy family units, the people take centre stage, and the watch plays second fiddle. Because it’s certainly not just a watch. It’s a family heirloom, made up of as many memories and feelings as parts and pieces. In purchasing one, you consider generations past, present and future. In fact, I find summing up neatly the worldwide appeal of, and reverence for, Patek Philippe almost as difficult as I would assembling the 900 parts of this Supercomplication from scratch. As Nick Foulkes, author of an authorised biography about the brand’s history says: “Patek is almost a religion for some people and there are as many ideas of what Patek Philippe is really about as there are collectors of its watches”. This, it seems, is exactly what the brand aims to explore in its upcoming exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery which, incidentally, with its bright white walls and starkness will provide a contemporary environment in which to

Profile for Runwild Media Group

Vantage Magazine June 2015  

Welcome to the June edition of The Vantage magazine, celebrating the dynamism of the area and bringing you the latest features, articles and...

Vantage Magazine June 2015  

Welcome to the June edition of The Vantage magazine, celebrating the dynamism of the area and bringing you the latest features, articles and...

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