Patek Philippe has officially opened its own museum—housing more than 1,600 historic timepieces and a library devoted exclusively to horology—in Geneva, Switzerland. The idea of a museum was born in 1989, on the company’s 150th anniversary. The project has been active since 1997, but some of the collections were assembled up to 30 years ago.
The Patek Philippe Museum, opened Nov. 8, contains not only the world’s largest collection of the Swiss watchmaker’s timepieces but also hundreds of rare and historic watches made in Geneva, in tribute to the city’s long watchmaking heritage.
According to Alain Vaissade, cultural affairs councilman of the city of Geneva, “The new museum underscores the significance of Geneva as the world capital of horology.” As the only Geneva manufacturer continually in operation for more than 160 years, Patek Philippe is “the only company able to provide such a complete and comprehensive overview … of horology in Geneva,” said company spokesperson Jasmina Stelle. Queen Victoria, Richard Wagner, Leo Tolstoy, Marie Curie, Rudyard Kipling, and Albert Einstein are among the notables whose timepieces can be seen at the museum.
Located in Geneva’s Plainpalais district near the city center, the museum building is a former watchmaking facility built in 1920. It was later used for gem cutting and jewelry making. Its four floors were extensively remodeled and refurbished under the supervision of Gerdi Stern, wife of Patek Philippe president Philippe Stern. Her objective, she said, was to create “a public venue with an ambiance that radiates the warmth and intimacy of a private residence.”
The museum’s elegantly showcased collections are divided into two sections: The first houses more than 600 exceptional European and Genevan timepieces (including automata, miniature portraits on enamel, and rare exhibits) that trace 500 years of European horology. The other section showcases more than 1,000 Patek Philippe watches and provides an overview of the watchmaker’s history.
Acclaimed horological expert Alan Banbury was a personal consultant to Philippe Stern during the assemblage of the collection. Arnaud Tellier, an authority in timekeeping instruments formerly with the Antiquorum horological auction house, is museum director.
The Patek Philippe Museum also has a library devoted exclusively to timekeeping. Hundreds of works, some extremely rare, are being cataloged. An exhibition on the ground floor features 200 old machines and tools used in precision mechanical engineering. Visitors also can observe a watchmaker skilled in restoring old timepieces as he demonstrates his craft in a glass-enclosed workshop.