J.R.R. Tolkien famously wrote, ‘All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us’, and while Gandalf is not my go-to philosopher, it’s a powerful reminder to make the best of it. The quote plays in my head as I explore Patek Philippe’s ‘Le Voyage’ exhibition devoted to the Maison’s travel watches.
The Bangkok exposition, perfectly timed with the reopening of international borders to global travel, was celebration of the Thai love for travel while referencing the Siamese history of travel. A range of set-ups, exhibits and multimedia tools enhanced the voyage of discovery. Over 500 guests gathered in small groups over four days days at the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok to explore the entirety of Patek Philippe’s watches with World Time and Travel Time functions – the World Time displays 24 time zones simultaneously using two rotating disks. The Travel Time system indicates a second-time zone using an additional pusher-adjustable central hour hand.
A quick check-in later, you are pulled deep into the world of time zones and complications; an old Siam map at the entrance marks your spot on the adventure. Between ‘Railway platforms’, ‘train cars’, a ‘post office’ and Augmented Reality (AR) Instagram filters inspired by vintage travel postcards and stamps, the journey highlights the Maison’s penchant for keeping time with history, its watches synced to the development of various modes of travel.
Four historical timepieces from the Patek Philippe Museum are the reference point for the exhibition:Ref. 1415 HU World Time Wristwatch (1948), Ref. 2523/1 HU World Time Wristwatch (1966), Ref. 2597 Two Time Zone Wristwatch (1961-1962) and Ref. 605 HU World Time Dress Watch, – a pre-production model (1936-1937).
Understanding Haute Horlogerie
In the Movement suite, videos illustrated six movements: World Time (Caliber 240 HU and Caliber CH 28 520 HU), and Travel Time (Caliber 324 S C FUS, Caliber CH 28-520 C FUS, Caliber AL 30-660 S C FUS and Caliber E23-250 S FUS 24H) on totem displays. Your chance to closely inspect the movements.
The Digital Animated Movement suite presented the functions and components of the World Time Movement Caliber 240HU and Time Travel Movement Caliber 324 S C FUS through interactive multimedia screens – you could zoom into, enlarge and engage closely.
While the Creativity suites highlighted Patek Philippe travel watches, from case design to hand shapes and dial decoration including the illustrious World Time models with cloisonné enamel atlas and hand-guilloché centres – fine craftsmanship the Manufacture strives to preserve.
In the Advanced Research display, an interactive video revealed the technical marvels of the Advanced Research and Ref. 5650G-001 Aquanaut Travel Time (2017).he meandering journey finally brings you to the ‘Current Collection suite’ showcasing World Time and Travel Time functions for both men and women. This included the Ref. 5520P Alarm Travel Time and new Ref. 5930P World Time Chronograph and Ref. 5269/200R Aquanaut Luce Travel Time.
I mark the end of my time travel with a postcard – I write a brief message on the importance of time and mail it (a day later, the postcard, duly stamped, reaches the recipient, my son). As I wrote the postwar, the ‘post office’ screened a film of largely unpublished archival images, illustrating travels undertaken by the Stern family from the 1930s to the present (The Stern family are owners of the Manufacture).
The voyage culminates in the ‘Beyond Siamese Horizons Dining Salon’ fashioned into a dining hall of a luxurious cruise ship with views of the Chao Phraya River and cutouts of Royal barges suspended from the ceiling. Here, over a four-course meal, an imaginary cruise from Thailand to Europe begins ending in the discovery of Patek Philippe collections: Twenty~4 Collection, Calatrava Collection, Chronograph Collection, Annual Calendar Collection and the Perpetual Calendar Collection.
As you leave, a baggage carousel at the exit delivers your souvenir in a smart tote:Travel Watch Bookon the history of Haute Horlogerie travel watches.
What was this entire exercise about? To remind the watch collector and the enthusiast about the beauty of time and that voyages await, adventures await – time to take that step.
(All images: Patek Philippe)