One fantastic aspect of living in London is that big events happen here. Museums, auction houses, and boutiques put on amazing displays for locals and visitors. Best of all, most of these shows are free and take place in lovely locations. Roughly three weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Patek Philippe Rare Handcrafts 2024 London Exhibition at the brand’s salon on New Bond Street, and it was a feast for the eyes.

Perhaps I am aging, but I appreciate handcrafted artisanship on watches more than ever. Previously, I understood the effort it took to create the watches, yet I often found them fussy and overwrought. Maybe I was looking at the wrong watches, or the setting wasn’t comfortable. Regardless of the reason, I went into the Patek Philippe Rare Handcrafts 2024 London Exhibition with trepidation, expecting to be bored. Thankfully, just the opposite occurred.

The Patek Philippe Rare Handcrafts 2024 London Exhibition

Patek Philippe operates three salons globally. The locations are in Geneva, Paris, and London. For 2024, the brand opted to bring its Rare Handcrafts exhibition to London from June 7th through the 16th. These pieces are often available in small, limited series or are one-off editions. The prices are, as one can imagine, not for the fainthearted. I saw works of art that deserve to be on display.

The techniques and the exhibition

The Rare Handcrafts exhibition used the upper floor, or salon, in the London boutique. The salon has several rooms, and in this case, there were also specially designed showcases and displays. Entry was free, and many staff members were available to discuss the specific watches. Patek brought an artisan from Geneva and included work-in-process examples of the various processes. Pocket watches, wristwatches, and table clocks were on display throughout the rooms.

Patek focused on five key techniques at this exhibition. The first, marquetry, is a method typically reserved for furniture or cabinetmaking. It uses wood as a decorative medium. Artists create a design and then cut, paste, and glue small pieces to replicate the image. I saw this method in practice on watch cases and dials.

Patek Philippe Rare Handcrafts 2024 London

Gemsetting is more self-explanatory but no less challenging. At the Rare Handcrafts exhibit, I was pleased that this method of working with stones was combined with another technique. The result was often a piece that wasn’t simply a jewel-festooned eyesore.

Guilloché techniques are famous among watch enthusiasts. Traditional methods were on display but were also paired with techniques such as enameling.

There were also examples of multiple enameling techniques. Cloisonné and Longwy were just some of the many styles I saw.

Finally, engraving was a highlight. This is the closest form to freehand drawing, in which an artist uses delicate blades in conjunction with a microscope to create fine designs.

The photos

I’ve pulled together a large gallery, and while there is some glare with some of the pictures, they provide a glimpse of what I witnessed at the Rare Handcrafts exhibition. With all of these watches, note that the dials, cases or cabinets, and even the pocket watch stands were all expertly crafted. I hope you enjoy and, more importantly, visit one of these exhibitions. You won’t be sorry!

For additional information on the Rare Handcrafts collection, visit the official Patek Philippe website.