For travellers flying into New York, going through immigration at JFK Airport could prove to be an intimidating experience.

The stern-faced officer who processed my passport clearance, however, immediately brightened up when he heard my reason for visiting the Big Apple.

“Patek Philippe? Oh, I love their watches!” he enthused, adding that he has four in his collection, inherited from his grandparents.

Such is the American fondness for the luxury timepiece brand that over the course of 10 days, The Art Of Watches Grand Exhibition New York 2017 drew long lines of visitors on a daily basis.

The exhibition – held from July 13 to 23 – showcased Patek Philippe’s tradition of high-precision watch manufacturing.

Visitors had access to exceptional pocket and wrist watches dating all the way back to 1530! The most impressive timepieces, including the super complications commissioned by American tycoons James Ward Packard and Henry Graves (during the country’s “Gilded Age” in the 1920s-30s) and high-profile pieces owned by baseball player Joe Di Maggio, were on show.

Watchmaker and artisan demonstrations were among the interactive activities to educate visitors on the inner workings of fine watch-making.

The exhibition also provided an insight into the company’s 178-year history as well as its heritage in the domain of haute horlogerie. Visitors had the opportunity to discover the world of the last privately family-owned Geneva watch company from the inside.

Watchmaker demonstrations were among the interactive activities at The Art of Watches exhibition.

For the first time, a two-storey structure was created within Cipriani 42nd Street to accommodate the space (1,228sq m) required for an exhibition of this scale.

“From its earliest days, when our founder Antoine Norbert de Patek made his first journey to America in the 1850s until today, the importance of the country to Patek Philippe can be seen through our history seen in this exhibition,” enthused Thierry Stern, Patek Philippe president.

Larry Pettinelli, president of Patek Philippe US, added: “We are proud to have been allowed this rare opportunity to educate the public not only about Patek Philippe, but also the historical significance of timekeeping through the ages.”

According to Jasmina Steele, the international communication and public relations director of Patek Philippe, the exhibition’s aim was to recreate elements of the company to provide a unique experience for each visitor.

“By offering visitors an immersion inside the world of Patek Philippe, we really want to share our passion for watch-making and hope visitors leave with a greater knowledge and appreciation of the art of watches,” said Steele, who guided the Asian media on a tour of the exhibition.

(Apart from The Art Of Watches, media members were treated to the ultimate New York experience: from attending Tony-winning Broadway play Oslo to a private tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and dining at the finest Michelin-starred restaurants.)

For The Art Of Watches, 10 distinctive rooms were created. Among the highlights:

> The Napoleon room, which transport visitors to the Patek Philippe Salon on the Rue du Rhone in Geneva, Switzerland. It also captivated with a “live view” of Lake Geneva, and showcased limited edition pieces created for the American market.

Distinctive rooms were created within the exhibition to give visitors an immersive experience.

> The Museum room. Divided into two sections: Antique Collection (1600s-1900s) which presented historical timepieces spanning the last five centuries, including the earliest watches ever made. The second section highlighted Patek Philippe timepieces dating back to its inception in 1839.

> The US Historic room, a special room created for the exhibition in New York. It showcased significant timepieces from historic American collectors. These included a quartz-powered desk clock, which was presented to President John F. Kennedy by the mayor of West Berlin in June 1963 during Kennedy’s trip.

Highlights in the US Historic room included this desk clock, which was presented to President John F. Kennedy by the mayor of West Berlin in June 1963 during Kennedy’s trip.

> The Rare Handcrafts Gallery. Live artisans demonstrated techniques used to decorate enamel timepieces and dome clocks while showcasing their skills. In this gallery, visitors learnt about the company’s commitment to rare handcrafts (past, present and future).

> The Watchmakers’ room. In this room, Patek Philippe master watchmakers took visitors on an exploration of the inner workings of mechanical timepieces.

> The Grand Complication room. A rare glimpse at Patek Philippe’s most complicated and innovative timepieces.

> The Movement room, dedicated to many different types of Patek Philippe movements ranging from its more basic Calibers to those created for the most complicated timepieces in the world.

Dedicated to New York

AS a highlight to The Art Of Watches Grand Exhibition New York 2017, Patek Philippe created nine limited special editions of men’s and women’s watches. They are decorated with motifs dedicated to the city of New York and the United States.

Making its debut at The Art Of Watches, World Time Minute Repeater Ref. 5531 is the first Patek Philippe watch that unites two complications: a minute repeater and the World Time function. It consists of two five-watch versions – five with the “New York by Day” dial and five with the “New York by Night” dial.

Ref. 5531 is the first Patek Philippe watch that unites two complications: a minute repeater and the World Time function.

Patek Philippe’s famous World Time function also takes centre stage in Men’s World Time Ref. 5230. It has a white gold case with a smooth, chamfered bezel and a dial with an opaline blue centre; its embossed motif depicts the same Manhattan skyline that adorns Ref. 5531.

For women, an ideal travel companion is Ladies’ World Time Ref. 7130. It is available in two 75-timepiece editions, one in white gold, the other in rose gold.

Cased in steel, Men’s Calatrava Pilot wristwatch Ref. 5522 features a dial reminiscent of vintage Patek Philippe aviator timepieces. Its blue colour recalls the livery of American fighter planes in the 1930s while the brown calfskin strap with contrast stitching was inspired by harnesses paired with classic flight suits.

Other special editions include Ladies’ Calatrava Ref. 7200/50 and Ladies’ Minute Repeater Ref. 7000/250.

Patek Philippe also created a collection of 17 rare handcraft pieces – dome table clocks, pocket watches and wristwatches – that pay tribute to the Big Apple and the United States.

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