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Patek Philippe

Geneva Day 5 – Walk Around and MB&F M.A.D. Gallery Visit

Our final day saw us with stunning blue sky again and free time until our departures.
We set off for a walk around the main part of Geneva with plans to stop at the Patek Philippe boutique and the Vacheron Constantin boutique.

Looking back across the Pont du Mont Blanc.

On the Pont du Mont Blanc
On the Pont du Mont Blanc

Our first stop was the Patek Philippe Boutique. Located on Rue du Rhone and facing the lake, the salon has maintained the heritage feel of the building and the interiors. Gorgeous embossed and gilded wall paper and many antiques fill the space.

Interior Patek Philippe Salon
Interior Patek Philippe Salon

Watches are elegantly displayed and service is impeccable.

Interior Patek Philippe Salon
Interior Patek Philippe Salon

After Patek Philippe we headed to the Vacheron Constantin Salon where Mr. CA4G was wanting to see the vintage pieces they had for sale. It was great to see a high end brand actively buying, servicing and reselling their own historic pieces.

Interior Vacheron Constantin Salon
Interior Vacheron Constantin Salon

While the salon is housed in an old building the interior is thoroughly light and modern with subtle references to the past.

Interior Vacheron Constantin Salon
Interior Vacheron Constantin Salon

Then it was time for a bit of exploring. Walking the cobble stoned streets was an exciting experience and great way to see the town. I would hate to walk these streets in heels. The local ladies were mostly in elegant flats or low heels only some silly foreigners were in mega heels.

We found Christie’s Auction house. Alas no auction preview exhibition while we were there.

Chrisite's Auction House
Chrisite’s Auction House

Perched on the hill above the city is the Cathedral of Saint Pierre. Built in the 12th century, the Cathedral became the local seat of the Protestant church in the 16th century when it also underwent some modifications. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to climb the 157 steps of the north tower for the views over the city and lake.

Cathedral of St Pierre
Cathedral of St Pierre
Cathedral of St Pierre
Cathedral of St Pierre

The Palais de Justice, the courthouse of Geneva and the street out front of it. The cafes were quite busy. I guess lawyers need to fuel up on caffiene like the rest of us.

Palais de Justice
Palais de Justice

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Then it was time to head to M.A.D. Gallery and visit Max Busser.

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The items for sale in M.A.D. Gallery are very eclectic and quite visionary. The Machine Lights by Frank Buchwald are quite amazing and I could see some of these in our house(anyone got the winning Lotto numbers for me?). Prior to making these unique lights Frank Buchwald was a freelance artist and science fiction illustrator. He then moved on to making metal furniture and in 1993, entirely self taught, he started producing the lamps.

Machine Light Type No. 1. I could see this in a movie featuring a mad scientist.

Frank Buchwald Machine Light #3
Frank Buchwald Machine Light Type #1

Machine Lights Type No. 3, this would sit nicely on our mantelpiece.

Frank Buchwald Machine Lights Type No. 3
Frank Buchwald Machine Lights Type No. 3

While the art is important at M.A.D. Gallery, Max Busser also has the fantastic mechanical wrist art that is M.B&F Watches. Mr. CA4G was keen to show me the HM6, also known as Space Pirate, that he saw in Singapore earlier this year. Max was inspired to design this watch by a cartoon he used to watch as child called Capitaine Flam.

Horological Machine #6 Space Pirate
Horological Machine #6 Space Pirate

The front two bubbles tell the hour on the left and the minutes on the right. The central sapphire crystal dome houses a tourbillon which has an articulated titanium cover that can be raised and lowered by the wearer. The rear two bubbles contain the twin spherical turbines that automatically regulate the winding system in case of excessive speed to reduce stress and wear. Very technical and very complicated.

Horological Machine #6 Space Pirate
Horological Machine #6 Space Pirate

Watches like this continue to astound me due the amount of research that goes in to the design and the movement. The sapphire crystal is incredibly hard to do as each dome is shaped from a block of crystal. Out of every 100 crystal domes produced there is around an 80% reject rate. Incredibly time consuming and costly. Makes you appreciate why mechanical timepieces like this cost what they do.

Who doesn’t love robots, especially these Melchior ones, designed by M.B&F and built by L’Epee 1839. These are table clocks that put boring run of the mill table clocks to shame. The dome on the head houses the movement . The body has jumping hours and minute indicators and the eyes are retrograde seconds indicators, the dome on top reveals the regulator which governs the clocks precision . The left forearm detaches to become the winding key. The good thing? With 40 day power reserve you don’t need to wind it too often.

Melchior Robot Table Clock
Melchior Robot Table Clock

And Max’s latest idea was a clock in the shape of a spider. Yep, not my cup of tea. Called Arachnophobia, Max Busser’s over active imagination was inspired by the giant spider sculpture “Maman” by Louise Bourgeois and bought to life by L’Epee 1839. The legs are articulated and it can either sit on a desk or be mounted on a wall.

MB&F/L'Epee Aracnophobia clock
MB&F/L’Epee Aracnophobia clock

Arachnophobia on the wall and Damien Beneteau’s kinetic sculpture ‘Spatial Variation’ in front.

Arachnophobia on the wall and Damien Beneteau's 'Spatial Variation' in Front
Arachnophobia on the wall and Damien Beneteau’s ‘Spatial Variation’ in Front

Some of our favourite pieces were the ‘comma men’ by Chinese artist Xia Hang. These delightful, highly polished stainless steel sculptures are quite whimsical and fun.

Xia Hang Comma Man series
Xia Hang Comma Man series
Xia Hang Comma Man series
Xia Hang Comma Man series

Hanging on one wall was one of the most unique musical instruments we have ever seen. Ulrich Teuffel began making and designing guitars when he was 14. At age 30 he radically changed his approach to guitar making by focusing on conceptual design. His BirdFish design is now ranked among the best guitars in the world and used by people such as Billy Gibbons(ZZTop), David Torn, Kirk Hammett(Metallica) and many more.

Ulrich Teuffel 'BirdFish' Guitar
Ulrich Teuffel ‘BirdFish’ Guitar

Mr. CA4G has a thing for steam engines and has looked at these Bohm Stirling pieces on line. They do not rely on water to generate energy but heat from a small flame that heats up the engine and gets it going.

Bohm Stirling engines
Bohm Stirling engines

There was even one that can be placed over a mug of coffee and is activated by the heat rising off the hot liquid, also acts as a coffee insulator.

Bohm Stirling engines including the coffee heat powered one
Bohm Stirling engines including the coffee heat powered one

Also on exhibit were the works of Damien Beneteau. Originally a photographer, Damien began working with light and creating kinetic ‘light sculptures’. Moving parts within the pieces change the way light plays on them. Quite mesmerizing and somehow hypnotic.

Videos of the pieces can be found at the following link: http://www.mbandf.com/mad-gallery/creators/damien-beneteau/

For more on the artists featured at M.A.D Gallery including ones I haven’t mentioned visit their website http://www.mbandf.com/mad-gallery/

It was great to finally meet Max Busser and visit M.A.D Gallery. As my flight left earlier I had to depart and left Mr. CA4G to enjoy a catch up and lunch with Max.

We had a wonderful 5 days in Geneva and were very glad to have had the chance to go.
We would like to thank James Kennedy and the team from LK Boutique for inviting us on the tour, Patek Philippe for their wonderful hospitality and the opportunity to visit the factories and learn more about their watch making and design processes.

Geneva Day 4

Day 4 saw us waking to sparkly blue skies again.

Morning, Lake Geneva and Alps
Morning, Lake Geneva and Alps

After breakfast it was back on the bus and then to Plan les Ouates for our final visit to the Patek Philippe factory.

Me at Patek Philippe
Me at Patek Philippe

The morning saw us broken in to two groups again. One group went over to the service department while the other group was taken for a talk about the design and research and development of new watch models.

Our group first went for the design/R&D talk. Very interesting to hear how a watch is designed from sketch to model and then to prototyping. Sketches and 3D printed models are presented to a panel of 6 that includes Heads of design, R&D, Watchmaking,  Mr and Mrs Stern. After deliberation and critiques, go ahead is either given or the piece goes back for refinement or changes. Some pieces may take a year or two of playing around with before the final design is set.

It was very interesting to see and handle the 3D models. Several sizes are presented; a life size one, a large one, and then case and bracelet(if not on a leather strap) separately. Prototypes are made from a base metal after the go ahead is given and mock up movements are installed. These are then presented and critiqued again.

We also saw examples of dial designs and prototypes. We saw samples of some enamel dials and the steps in their making. A sample piece (around 10cm x 10cm) is made first and then sent for approval. A sample strip of the colours used is also made up which is also presented witht he sample piece. Enamelists are true artisans and the work they do on such a small scale is astounding.

After our time learning about the design process it was time to swap with the other group and head to the service department.

In the service department we learnt about the amount of work and quality control that goes in to servicing Patek Philippe watches. We were then taken to see the head of  vintage watch servicing . A team of 3, one master watchmaker and two junior watchmakers handle repairs and restorations of the vintage timepieces.

On display were some of the botch jobs that they are sent from people who just go to a bad watchmaker, rather than send their watch back to Patek Philippe. One watch had a paperclip used in the repair!

The head watchmaker is so skilled at his work that he is able to tell when a part he is machining is not right just by the sound it makes. He is also able to hear it across the desk on work one of the junior watchmakers is doing.

The restoration department has a ‘library’ of information built up by the head watchmaker. While some parts are available, quite often the restoration department needs to manufacture their own parts based on the components in the watch they are restoring. This requires meticulous measuring and skilled hands and eyes. This information is then stored for future reference in the ‘library’.

After our visit to the restoration and service department it was time for lunch. This time we had a three course lunch in the cafeteria.

Entrée was a tasing plate or borscht, foie gras mousse on a crouton, smoked salmon and cream cheese roulade.

Borscht, foie gras, smoked salmon
Borscht, foie gras, smoked salmon

Main was duck breast with plums, roesti and seasonal vegetables.

Roast duck breast, roesti and seasonal vegetables
Roast duck breast, roesti and seasonal vegetables

Dessert was a delicious orange and chocolate ring.

orange and chocolate ring
orange and chocolate ring

After lunch we stretched our legs and had a look at the site where Patek Philippe is constructing a new expansion of the factory. This new building will see Cadrans Fluckiger move from St. Imier to Geneva, the case and jewellery departments will also move to the main site, relocation of the service centre and a watchmaking school.

Patek Philippe construction zone
Patek Philippe construction zone

We then jumped on the bus for the short drive to the case and jewellery departments. We saw first hand the machining and finishing of the cases, from a lump of precious metal or a lump of steel the case comes to shape in a CNC machine. It takes hours for the case be finished in the CNC before it heads off for polishing.

The polishing department was quite fascinating as well. Depending on the type of finishing (shiny, brushed, matt) the polisher will have a different approach and finishing method to the process. Some pieces such as the Nautilus bracelet require both a brushed and shiny finish, this then requires the futher step of ‘blocking’ the polished areas before applying the brushed finish.

The jewellery department is where those pieces that require stones to be set in the dial or case are finished. Cuff links and ladies jewellery pieces are also produced here. We were very lucky to be able to meet the gemologist for Patek Philippe. He travels the world looking for some of the most amazing stones. For example a row of around 20 flawless Zambian emeralds, a suite of 6 perfect ‘pigeons blood’ rubies and many flawless diamonds in all sizes. The special stones don’t always get used straight away, it may take several years before a design comes along to utilize them. We were able to see one of the stone setters working on a pave diamond bracelet for a watch.

After our tour of the case and jewellery departments it was back to the main factory for the final part of our afternoon and tour. An hour of inspecting the current novelties and standard production  pieces.

Patek Philippe timepieces
Patek Philippe timepieces
Patek philippe timepieces
Patek philippe timepieces

Trays of watches were passed down each side of the table, with plenty of time for looking, handling and asking questions. There were lots of exciting pieces to contemplate. I had two favourites, both from the ladies Gondolo range with a real art deco feel.

Patek Philippe, WG Gondolo (only 480 diamonds there)
Patek Philippe, WG Gondolo (only 480 diamonds there)
Patek Philippe WG Gondolo, just a little over 240 diamonds here
Patek Philippe WG Gondolo, just a little over 240 diamonds here

Of course Mr. CA4G is a watch fanatic so he ended up with a dream wish list of around 8 favourite pieces.

After a mesmerising hour and a half of watches, we wrapped up the official part of the tour and headed back to the hotel for a short respite before dinner.

Stay watching for our final dinner at Auberge D’Onex.

Geneva Day 2: Visit To Patek Philippe Factory And Museum

For history buffs: the Beau Rivage Geneva started operations in 1865 and since then they have had many famous guests. Empress Sissi of Austria spent her final days here before being assassinated while boarding a boat to Montreux. She was returned to the hotel and died shortly after. In 1918 documents were signed in the Masaryk Salon creating Czechoslovakia. Other famous guests have included Sarah Bernhardt, Charles de Gaulle, composer Richard Wagner, boxer Sugar Ray Robinson(who enjoyed sardines with strawberry jam for breakfast at the Beau Rivage), drummer/singer Phil Collins, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Jean Cocteau, King Farouk of Egypt and many more.

Since 1987 it has also been the Geneva location for Sotheby’s jewel and watch auctions, of which the most spectacular must be the auction of the Duchess of Windsor’s collection of jewels. It was also the first hotel in Switzerland to have an electric elevator (third in the world) and the first in Switzerland to offer wireless LAN connections to guests.

Back to the tour!

Waking up early we headed down for breakfast. An elegant enclosed terrace overlooks the lake and provides a perfect backdrop for enjoying a relaxing breakfast.

View from the terrace
View from the terrace

Checking our weather app we found we were in for another beautiful, sunny day.

Sun rising over the Alps
Sun rising over the Alps

Like the Beau Rivage in Neuchatel, the buffet isn’t large but offers a great selection of local produce. Freshly baked breads were delicious and there were several types each day.

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After breakfast it was back up to the room to get ready for our first full day of the trip. As you can see from how I am dressed the first day was quite formal.

Ready for first full tour day
Ready for first full tour day

A quick bus trip found us at Plan Les Ouates, an industrial area on the southern side of Geneva. I know what you are thinking, luxury watches in an industrial area? Plan Les Ouates is no ordinary industrial area. Locals give it the nickname Plan Les Watches as it is home to many Swiss watch brands (Rolex, Vacheron Constantin, Patek Philippe, Piaget, amongst others). It is also home to several Swiss beauty/cosmetic brands like Clarins.

Plan Les Ouates
Plan Les Ouates
Piaget factory
Piaget factory

The fence with construction work behind is part of The Patek Philippe Factory. This new extension will house the dial factory, jewel and case manufacturing a watchmaking school and more. Patek Philippe is bringing everything in to one location rather than having departments spread out.

Rolex factory
Rolex factory

Upon arriving we had a quick coffee, met our guides and then headed in to the lecture room/ auditorium for a presentation about the Patek Philippe brand.

Patek Philippe front entry
Patek Philippe front entry
Me out front of the Patek Philippe main entrance
Me out front of the Patek Philippe main entrance
Sculpture inside front entrance
Sculpture in foyer
Unique clock in foyer
Unique clock in foyer

After the presentation we were broken in to two smaller groups to begin our tour of the factory. Sadly we were not able to take photos inside the factory areas, but it was fascinating to see how the parts are manufactured and machined. The size of some of the watch parts is mind blowing and then you think how hard it is to do polishing and finishing on a piece that is less than 1mm in size.

After the tour it was time for lunch which was in the private dining salon. Mr. Thierry Stern was our host for lunch. What a lunch it was! A three course lunch prepared by a chef poached from a Michelin star restaurant, we were informed that he also prepared the menus for the 2 staff cafeterias. These are not your ordinary run of the mill staff cafeterias either.

Private dining salon
Private dining salon
Private dining salon
Private dining salon

Lasagne style Zita pasta # 18, eggplant confit, poultry and Pata Negra ham.

Lasagne style Zita pasta # 18, eggplant confit,poultry and Pata Negra ham
Lasagne style Zita pasta # 18, eggplant confit,poultry and Pata Negra ham

Brittany lobster, cauliflower and curry foam.

Brittany lobster, cauliflower and curry foam
Brittany lobster, cauliflower and curry foam

Lemon cheese cake, thin vanilla crepes.

Lemon cheese cake, thin vanilla crepes.
Lemon cheese cake, thin vanilla crepes.

Coffee and chocolates ended our meal.

Coffee and Swiss chocolate
Coffee and Swiss chocolate

After our fabulous lunch we got on the bus for the short journey back to central Geneva for our tour of the Patek Philippe Watch Museum. WOW what a museum! The Patek Philippe Watch museum houses thousands of watches and pocket watches, and has examples of  clock and watch making from the 1500’s right up to the year 2000. In the collection are pieces owned by many historical figures, Kings, Queens, aristocrats, Popes, Presidents, industrialists(think Getty’s, Astors, Graves, Chrysler), artists, actors etc.

Patek Philippe Watch Museum
Patek Philippe Watch Museum

Mr. Philippe Stern has built up a fabulous collection and continues to add to it, waiting for fine examples at auction or being offered for sale by other private collectors. The museum is broken in to two sections, Antique watches 1500’s to 1800’s and the Patek Philippe collection 1839 to present. There is so much to see that we will definitely be going back for another visit, you could spend a whole day looking at these masterpieces of horlogerie. My favourites were any of the enamelled antique pieces and the beautiful jewelled pieces from the Art Deco period.

Photography was not permitted in the museum but we managed to get the one below.

Interior, Patek Philippe Watch Museum
Interior, Patek Philippe Watch Museum

After a wonderful 2 hours in this fascinating museum it was back to the Beau Rivage for a quick freshen up and then to dinner at L’Observatoire Restaurant. We knew it was short walk from our hotel but didn’t realise it was in the hotel next to ours, Hotel D’Angleterre. The hotel is very old school British in style, very elegant and sophisticated. They even have a proper cigar lounge with wood panelling and buttoned leather chairs and sofas.

Offering views over Lake Geneva and the Alps, L’Observatoire is the private dining salon within Windows Restaurant at Hotel D’Angleterre.

Menu
Menu

I love a unique butter presentation!

Butter
Butter

Mille-feuille of crispy potatoes, vegetable puree flavoured with truffles and crispy chips.

Mille-feuille of crispy potatoes, vegetable puree flavoured with truffles and crispy chips
Mille-feuille of crispy potatoes, vegetable puree flavoured with truffles and crispy chips

Veal medallion Gamay jus, stuffed vegetables and mushroom filled potatoes.

Veal medallion Gamay jus, stuffed vegetables and mushroom filled potatoes.
Veal medallion Gamay jus, stuffed vegetables and mushroom filled potatoes.

Caramel pear, pink praline custard and orchid ice cream.

Caramel pear, pink praline custard and orchid ice cream.
Caramel pear, pink praline custard and orchid ice cream.

After our second three course meal of the day we were very glad it wasn’t too far back to our hotel and another good night of sleep.

 

 

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