Throughout the 20th century, the advent of industrialisation in watchmaking slowly rendered redundant an army of craftsmen who did one thing but that one thing superbly, whether it’s enamelling or engine-turning beautiful designs on dials, or engraving intricate patterns on cases.
Then in the ’70s and ’80s the introduction of quartz watches pretty much decimated the mechanical watch market, and with that, the handful of artisans still left in the industry. Early on, Patek Phillippe recognised the importance of saving the techniques of these hand-finishing experts – whose skills take years to master and whose knowledge have to be handed down from generation to generation otherwise they will be lost – without which the horological world would be left much poorer.
For years it has provided work to these artists with commissions that it knows it can’t sell (many are now in its priceless collection at its museum), simply to save watchmaking from such an ignominious future. And thanks to that foresight we can today still enjoy the magnificent creations such as the three pieces below.
Patek Philippe Ref. 6002
There’s no better illustration than this, the Sky Moon Tourbillon. It is one of Patek’s – and the world’s – most complicated timepieces ever, with incredibly lavish decorations to match. The 33 complications including a minute repeater with two cathedral gongs, sidereal time and tourbillon are one thing. But just take a gander at the phenomenal floral-pattern relief engraving that covers every square millimetre of its 18-karat white gold case. Or the luscious blue enamel in the champlevé and cloisonné techniques coating the solid white-gold dial. Patek calls the 6002 a sculpture and I think it’s impossible not to agree.
Patek Philippe Ref. 5160
Another eloquent example of the Patek style of decoration is this perpetual calendar piece. Sporting an officer’s-style case with a hinged cover, it features free-hand engraving in a motif inspired by vintage firearm decors, on its case bezel, lugs, screwed strap bars, crown, gold dial centre, gold hinged dustcover and even on its fold-over clasp. The artisan first makes a drawing using the help of a compass. Then, the pattern is engraved by hand using a dry point tool. Finally, for a more pronounced 3D effect the surface of the gold components is polished.
Patek Philippe Ref. 5951
This perpetual calendar split-seconds chronograph receives its hand-engraved treatment as a model change at this year’s Baselworld. The platinum cushion-shaped case is again beautifully executed through the hands of the engraver; what makes this piece extra special are the hands that hover above the black dial: they are engraved as well.
For more information, please speak with our Sales Consultant here or visit us at any one of our boutiques.
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