If one object could symbolise all the attributes and characteristics of Switzerland, it would definitely be one of the classic watches created by the famous Patek Phillipe & Co. The world-famous design company of these highly sought-after collectibles was founded in 1839 and is located in the centre of Plainpalais. The museum, and its collection, is well worth a visit, documenting the history of these particular timepieces alongside a collection of musical automata and miniature portraits painted on enamel.
An Introduction to 500 years of Watchmaking
Antoni Patek was a Polish watchmaker who specialised in designing and creating pocket watches. In 1851 he joined with Adrien Phillipe, a French watchmaker and the inventor of the key-less winding machine. Together they formed Patek Phillipe & Co and eventually went on to pioneer the split-seconds hand, minute repeaters, perpetual calendars and chronograph in watches.
Considered by many experts as one of the most prestigious watch makers due to each piece’s complicated mechanisms and exquisite artistry, Patek Phillipe’s timepieces are still sought out by many aficionados and collectors. Queen Victoria, Pope Pius IX and Victor Emanuel III of Italy are just some of the most famous previous owners of these watches.
The Patek Phillipe Museum Collection
The museum itself is housed in a building that was probably designed by the famous architect William Henssler in 1919. The building has been a home to many skilled craftsmen over time, including Heller & Son gem-cutters, Ponti Gennari, and Piaget jewellers. Today, 500 years of watchmaking history is laid out, chronologically, over four floors of the building. Visitors are able to see the evolution of the science and aesthetics involved in the creation of these time-pieces. The antique collection beautifully displays watches dating back as early as the 16th century. The museum also holds an exclusive collection of Patek Phillipe watches showing examples of pieces created during the company’s foundation in 1839 and leading up to the present day.
Visiting the Museum
Many visitors recommend taking advantage of the museum’s public guided tours held every Saturday, in English, at 2.30pm. The additional information offered by the knowledgeable docents truly opens up the world of watchmaking and enamelling and explains the passion people have for the study of horology.
The museum also offers private or educational tours. The private tours are arranged by appointment and cover a more in-depth look at the genius behind the master watchmakers of Patek Phillipe. They also conduct a historical street tour of Geneva that ends at the museum.
The educational tours are also by appointment only, but cover the fascinating topics of enamel painting as a major art form and the world of automata. The museum also offers a special tour for children aged 6y to 8y, introducing them to their collection of magical mechanical birds that were created between 1770 and 1850. Each one is capable of imitating real birds and their songs.
Geneva is a wonderfully accessible city with many hidden gems such as the Patek Phillipe Museum. It is fairly inexpensive and simple to arrange a direct flight from any major London airport to the Geneva airport. Transfers, which can be pre-arranged, will meet you at the airport and swiftly transport you to your hotel with no fuss involved. Once you are settled in, Geneva becomes a fascinating playground full of art, culture and curious finds.
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