Inspired by old postcards of Lake Geneva with its traditional barques, the decoration of these limited edition wristwatches feature the rare and precious techniques of wood marquetry.
To create each of these dials, the marquetry master used up to 166 pieces of wood and 45 incrustations of 15 to 30 different species of wood, each of which he cut to shape, and assembled meticulously on a plate of solid gold.
The classic round Calatrava-style case houses the ultra-thin self-winding caliber 240, visible through the sapphire-crystal back and protected by a hinged dust cover engraved with "Patek Philippe Geneve 175e Anniversaire 1839-2014".
A limited edition specially produced to celebrate the 175th anniversary of Patek Philippe. The 5089G-020 is available at George Pragnell.
The History of Marquetry
Marquetry has its origins in Ancient Greece, where wooden objects were inlaid with different materials. The practice fell out of favor at the time of the Roman Empire and then re-emerged in Italy during the Middle Ages. It blossomed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, particularly in France in the work of André-Charles Boulle. This celebrated cabinetmaker developed a technique that is still in use today, although it came close to extinction in the twentieth century. It consists of stacking sheets of veneer into blocks, which are then cut with a fretsaw or a marquetry-cutter's chevalet - a sawbuck incorporating a saw with a very fine blade. The assembled pieces are stuck down with hot glue and pressed. To achieve additional shading and a sense of depth, along with the right thickness and a perfectly even surface, several veneers may be superimposed. Finally, the composition is carefully sanded down. The technique is identical regardless of the scale and nature of the object: furniture, pictures, clock cases, or, more recently, tiny pieces such as pocket watches and wristwatches.
A miniaturist marquetry-maker is particularly deft, methodical, painstaking, and precise; he reads in the grain of the wood exactly what he will do with each tiny shape cut from that original leaf-thin veneer. Marquetry is a decorative technique used traditionally on furniture, smaller wooden objects and pictorial panels, and is a relatively recent arrival in the watchmaking world. To adorn an object or create a work of art on a panel, the marquetry-maker uses a choice of different woods in a wide variety of colors, which he cuts, assembles and applies according to his inspiration and the motifs chosen or imposed. When the decoration is geometric, the correct term is "parquetry"; but in either case it may be abstract or figurative, and its creator will have access to a vast palette of shades, which he combines according to his taste. He may work with up to 130 wood types, selecting from up to 60 or 70 natural tints, not counting the woods that he has stained in advance. The principle is always to cut the veneers according to a drawing and glue them to a base.
Patek Philippe's first marquetry-maker
Patek Philippe pioneered this new type of marquetry for watch dials somewhat by chance. The company had commissioned a presentation box for a customer from an exceptionally gifted marquetry-marker. Enchanted with the result, it suggested he try his hand on a miniature scale. The craftsman rose to the challenge - the first instance of a watch being decorated with marquetry - with the Black Crowned Cranes of Kenya pocket watch, Ref. 982/115 in 2008, followed by the Royal Tiger wristwatch, Ref. 5077P two years later. A new craft was born, and has continued to delight watch-lovers ever since. Its future looks equally bright, provided that other artisans receive training, as only a handful of marquetry-makers work in watchmaking today. We refer here only to wood marquetry, since what matters most to Patek Philippe is that the creation should withstand the test of time.