The Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva, which celebrated its 20th-anniversary last month, holds an unparalleled collection of rare, antique and exquisite horological artefacts.
Although the revered horological house of Patek Philippe now occupies a vast and gleaming new headquarters on the southwestern edge of Geneva, an older edifice close to the Swiss city’s vieille ville might be said to contain a considerable portion of the watch manufacture’s soul. For it’s there, in a 100-year-old former industrial building at 7 Rue des Vieux Grenadiers, that Patek Philippe’s then-president (and now honorary president) Philippe Stern decided in November 2001 to establish a museum – one that would house not only a collection of many of the most important timepieces made by the company in a history dating back to 1839, but also an astonishing array of watches and clocks that have helped define the development of horology since the 16th century. Alongside these, the museum also gathered many extraordinary examples of the watchmakers’ art, such as the Genevan speciality of enamelling: taken together, the collection constitutes one of the world’s most comprehensive repositories of the history of timekeeping.
The building itself, which formerly housed the Genevan manufacture’s case-, bracelet- and chain-making operations, was painstakingly restored in 1999-2001, with much of the decorations overseen by Stern’s wife, Gerdi. By the time the Patek Philippe Museum celebrated its 20th-anniversary last month, its collection comprised some 2,500 exhibits, displayed over two levels: the first floor is dedicated to more than 170 years of significant Patek Philippe creations, while the second level focuses on the history and development of the portable mechanical timepiece, not only in Switzerland but also around Europe; each floor is further sub-divided into themed areas. A library of more than 8,000 volumes and works occupies the third floor, underlying the museum’s educational and research roles, and space has been set aside for a rotating programme of temporary exhibitions.
Now among the pre-eminent attractions of this historic city, the museum has welcomed more than 600,000 visitors since its opening, with bookable regular public guided tours in French and English held each Saturday, and advance-bookable in seven languages, including Chinese. Themed tours, such as enamelling, are also available.
Once travel has resumed, the Philippe Museum is open at 2-6pm, Tuesday to Friday, and 10am-6pm Saturday, public holidays excepted. Next year, two new catalogues – one devoted to the collection’s Patek Philippe watches and the other to the antiques – will be published.
Learn more about the Patek Philippe museum here.