A TOUR OF THE PATEK PHILIPPE MUSEUM
IN GENEVA SWITZERLAND
By: John B. Holbrook, II
May 5th, 2009
Copyright 2009 – All Rights Reserved
During the Spring of 2009, I had business in Europe which gave provided the opportunity for me to spend a day in Geneva. Having not been to Geneva prior to this visit, I had always hoped I would have the opportunity, so that I might visit the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva. Many thanks to Milos "Watchfan1" for putting me in touch with the right people at Patek USA to assist in not only setting up a private tour of the museum, but also getting permission to take photographs while in the museum as photos are not normally allowed to be taken when inside the museum. As far as I know, this is the first time Patek has allowed a photo tour of the museum to be posted in the online community - a WATCH TALK FORUMS exclusive!
Unfortunately most museum lighting is woefully inadequte for the task of high quality photo taking, and the Patek Philippe Museum is no exception. It took an inordinate amount of post photo editing to bring you, the reader these photos. In some cases, there simply wasn't enough light to provide adequate depth of field for hand held shooting with my DSLR - I did the very best I could.
Here's the outside of the museum and the entrance - the building was remodeled in 1999 and the museum opened in 2001:
The first floor of the museum is primarily taken up with the reception area, a fully functioning restoration workshop where all the museum timepieces are maintained, an auditorium for symposiums, and antique workbenches used in watchmaking which I believe were used by watchmakers in the original manufacturing facility in Geneva:
Portraits of Antoine Norbert de Patek (1812-1877) and Jean Adrien Philippe (1815-1894)
Some of the prestigious awards and medals Patek Philippe has won in years past:
My tour guide then took me to the top (4th) floor of the building, which houses the Patek Philippe archive and library, as well as Henri Stern's office. It is Henri Stern who is primarily responsible for creating the Patek Philippe Museum and assembling the priceless collection it contains. Henri Stern's wife Gerdi also made a significant contribution to the Museum as well, as she was responsible for decorating the Museum. She hand picked out the exotic woods used in the displays - a different wood is used on each floor of the Museum.
The library and archive was most impressive - it houses more than 4000 literary works (antique and recent) on horological subject matter. I even spotted a book about Rolex in the Library. I could have spent hours just wandering around the books, but we quickly moved on:
We then went back down to the third floor of the Museum, which houses the Antiques Collection - pieces dating from the 16th century to the 19th century. We then continued down to the 2nd floor, which houses the collection from 1839 to present.
The Museum contains some of the earliest known timekeeping devices created by man:
Royalty often commissioned specialized artists to reproduce well known works of art onto pendants and other jewelry:
It was this same type of skill which would later be used to paint the exterior of pocket watches:
This later evolved into enameling and sculpturing which went into pocket watch dials, and later wrist watch dials - skills which first evolved in Geneva.
Modern and vintage Patek wristwatches:
I hope you enjoyed this pictorial of just a few of the wonderful treasures which await you when you visit the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva - the photos here really just scratch the surface of what awaits you when you visit in person. According to the sign out front, the hours of operation are as follows:
For more information on the Patek Philippe Museum (including information on admission), click here to visit the Patek Museum website. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you call ahead to set up a guided tour of the museum. Certainly it was a thrill for me just to visit the museum, but the wonderful tour guide with me really brought the collection alive for me. Keep in mind I don't (yet) own a Patek Philippe, but Patek is so synonymous with high horology that touring this museum really is an education not only in Patek history, but of all things relating to horology. So any fan of mechanical watchmaking will enjoy a trip to the Patek Philippe museum - I know I did!
**Photos & Text Copyright 2009 WATCH TALK FORUMS. No part of this report can be reproduced outside of WATCH TALK FORUMS without the expressed permission of John B. Holbrook, II.