On Tuesday, the Patek Philippe Henry James Jr. Supercomplication comes to auction in Geneva for the first time in 15 years. Created in 1933 it last sold for $11,002,500 and estimates are in the region of $15 million. It is tipped to bring four days of international watch sales by the leading auction houses to a magnificent finale.
Sotheby’s asked us to design the exhibition showcasing this ‘holy grail’ of watches back in August. Our challenge from a design point of view was to take a small, detailed single object and create an environment that demonstrates its desirability and imbues a hotel salon with an appropriate air of importance, prestige and opportunity.
Our design was inspired by the quality and variety of the watch’s numerous dials. It consists of a series of interconnecting circles; a round room, intersected with a circular doorway and lifting into a conical tented roof. The watch itself nestles in a curved support and rotates on a felted disc.
Our visual focus was a stunning amplification of the watch’s celestial chart, a tiny 7mm sub-dial which shows the night-sky visible from Henry Graves’ own home in New York. Made by dripping liquid gold over a blue enamel base the facia has been magnified to 3m and then each star back lit, creating a sparkling firmament.
We also expanded images of the two main dials from 57mm to 1.6m so that the viewer can be awed by the technical detail and artistry.
Of course, there were other design challenges.
The newly created space where the technically minded horologist feels comfortable must not jar with the fabric-draped and opulent environment of the Beau Rivage Hotel where the sale is held.
The watch itself needed to look accessible and uncompromised but be safe and secure. It had to be easy to pick up with one white gloved hand, while the other cradles beneath and the base of the display must be padded, both in case of an unprecedented slip.
The two levels of security are paramount and evident in the case itself, the room and a further viewing room, with distinct areas of staff space and client space.
And with the world’s most technically minded and detail obsessed collectors pouring over our display every single thing needs to be absolutely perfect from the moment they arrive.
After all, time is money.