“Geneva at the Heart of Time – The Origin of Swiss Patek Philippe replica watchmaking Culture” opened in Beijing at end April. With 350 exhibits on loan from the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire in Geneva and Vacheron Constantin, it is already one of the major events of the watchmaking year in Asia.
Following a double heist carried out in the early 2000s, and the subsequent closing of the museum where they were once on show, Geneva’s horological collections have been locked away for safekeeping, meaning opportunities to admire them are few and far between. One such opportunity now presents itself… provided, that is, distance is no object. Since end April, many of these items have been on display in Beijing as part of Geneva at the Heart of Time – The Origin of Swiss Watchmaking Culture, an exhibition that runs until mid-August at the city’s Capital Museum. It has been some considerable time since an initiative on this scale saw daylight. That it should now be the case is down to the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire in Geneva with, from the very beginning, the support of Manufacture Vacheron Constantin. The exhibition is part of celebrations for the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Switzerland and China.
A legitimate representative
As Vacheron Constantin chief executive Juan-Carlos Torres explained on the opening day, “The idea for a heritage collection originated with the many requests Vacheron Constantin received to represent Genevese and Swiss watchmaking expertise at world fairs as well as at Swiss and international exhibitions that were taking place as of the mid-1800s. Ultimately, the decision to create a heritage collection in the full sense was taken after the 1906 Milan international fair. This collection now assembles more than 3,000 items, including 1,300 watches and 700 period machines, in addition to workshop furnishings and paintings. Among the 350 timepieces here in Beijing, visitors can discover a selection of almost one hundred from the Vacheron Constantin heritage collection covering three centuries of history.” With such an abundance of antique Omega replica watches and machinery, Geneva at the Heart of Time is quite simply the biggest exhibition of its kind ever seen in Asia.
“Switzerland, and Geneva in particular, have developed and preserved the technical skills and artistic crafts that account for watchmaking’s success in such a small territory,” continued Juan-Carlos Torres. “With more than 500 years of history, Geneva remains a landmark for watchmaking within an international context. And Vacheron Constantin, which in 2015 is celebrating 260 years of uninterrupted activity, is its legitimate representative. This clearly drew the attention of China’s Capital Museum.” As a longstanding admirer of Swiss watches, Guo Xiaoling, the museum’s deputy director, could only agree. “My first watch was an Omega which my father bought in the 1940s,” he recalled in his introduction to the opening. “He wore it for 33 years. When it came into my possession, the case was showing its age, the fluting around the crown had practically worn smooth, and the crystal was crazed. But the movement continued to run without the slightest hitch for a good ten years more. This first experience, shared by many other watch fans around me, shows why for 500 years the quality of Swiss watchmaking has been so greatly admired. It’s why my family and I only buy Swiss watches.”
From every angle
This positive frame of mind is confirmed by a tour of the exhibition, whose curators use the diversity of objects on show to address the theme from various complementary angles. The first part concentrates on the history of time measurement, from the early table clocks of the sixteenth century to contemporary replica Omega watches sale; the highlight of this section is a life-size reconstruction of a workshop as it would have been at the time of the cabinotiers, the craftsmen employed in watchmaking in eighteenth-century Geneva. A second part examines the watch’s functions and complications over the centuries, classified as families from the chronometer to striking watches and grandes complications. The third and final section is given over to examples of the artistic crafts – engraving, engine-turning, gem-setting and enamelling – in antique timepieces. This section also benefits from the presence of specialists in these fields, all from Vacheron Constantin.
So as to underscore the importance of craftsmanship both in Switzerland and China, Vacheron Constantin and the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire took advantage of the opening event to unveil The Power of Hands. This specially commissioned sculpture was designed by Claudio Colucci, who has close ties with Vacheron Constantin, and cast in bronze by Zhu Bingren, who incidentally is the creator of a monumental sculpture that is an integral part of the Capital Museum’s architecture. All of which made the evening celebration something of a family affair!