Switzerland - the land of chocolate, cuckoo clocks, and some of the finest watchmakers in the world. Patek Philippe is one of those watchmakers. The last family-owned Genevan luxury watch manufacturer and the first among its kind for quality, craftsmanship, and expertise, Patek Philippe is a name we all know but could all stand to learn a little more about. And where better to do that than at the Patek Philippe Museum? Home to one of the best collections of heritage timepieces in the world, the museum offers a fascinating glimpse at the history of watchmaking through the lens of one of the most respected watchmaking companies in the world. The only catch? You'll have to travel all the way to Geneva to visit. Here's why it's worth the trip.
It spans the full history of Patek Philippe
If you like the Patek Philippe watches of today but have only a vague understanding of the brand's history, the Patek Philippe Museum is where that all changes. The Patek Philippe Collection is one of the museum's two permanent exhibits. Described by the official Patek Philippe website as 'an evocative showcase of watches designed and created by Patek Philippe since its foundation in 1839 up to the present day', the collection offers a superb insight into the creative genius and legendary prowess behind the brand's image.
It's great for kids
If you thought a watch museum would hold as much interest for kids as a weekend without their phones, think again. While the Patek Philippe Museum might seem a little highbrow for little ones, it's actually well-geared to provide plenty of educational fun by way of its three child-friendly tours. The "Enamel or the Arts of Fire" tour offers a fascinating look at the role of enamel painting in watchmaking history; 'The Time That Is" tour highlights the museum's extensive collection of vintage timepieces; while "The World of Automata" lets kids discover the magic of automata through watches.
It's about more than Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe thinks a lot of itself. An awful lot. But then again, why wouldn't it? If we were considered one of (if not the) best watchmakers in the world, we'd probably spend a lot of time bragging too. But at the Patek Philippe Museum, you get to see more than the face it makes when it's blowing its own trumpet. Although the Patek Philippe Collection is masterful, the Antiques Collection offers a no less fascinating look at the history of watchmaking through its fabulous presentation of hundreds of Genevese, Swiss and European watches and enamels that span the years between the 16th and19th century. As a way of learning more about the history of horology, it's without equal.
It offers a personal service
If you don't mind paying a little extra for the personal touch, the museum offers 2 separate private tours for your delectation. "A Legacy of Genius" lasts 2 hours and is designed to give you a crash course in the historical significance of the art of watchmaking and enameling. Along the way, you'll see an extraordinary number of timepieces that date all the way back to the 16th century. If you're visiting between May and October and have three hours to spare, the "Geneva at the Heart of Time" tour comes highly recommended. As well as giving you a delightful peek into the fascinating collections at the museum itself, you'll also be treated to a whistle-stop tour of the historic streets of Geneva in the era of cabinetries.
You'll get twice as much as you bargained for on a Saturday
Visit midweek and you'll need to pay if you want a tour. But visit on a Saturday and the museum will very kindly throw a complimentary 2-hour tour into the cost of admission. Just make sure to turn up before the strike of 2.30 pm if you don't want them to start without you.
Tours are available in multiple languages
We're guessing that if you're reading this, you speak English. Or at least understand it. But if you know someone who doesn't and who's about to fly off to Geneva, suggest they stop by the Patek Philippe Museum. Unlike many attractions that cater to English speakers only, the museum offers tours in enough languages (including French, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and Russian) for no one to feel left out.
It's easy to get to
If you're not familiar with a city, finding the attractions can be a headache. Not so the Patek Philippe Museum. Set just a few blocks away from the city center near the University of Geneva campus, it's a piece of cake to find: simply take the directions of travel.usnews.com and hop on the No. 12, 14, 15, or 18 tram to find yourself on its doorstep. Those who prefer to travel by car should find plenty of parking spaces available in the surrounding streets.
Entry is affordable
As anyone who's been there will tell you, Switzerland isn't cheap. Beautiful, yes. But cheap? Not in a million years. And Geneva is no exception. Putting it bluntly, if you want to have a good time here, you'd better bring plenty of credit cards. But for every rule, there's an exception. In this case, the exception is the Patek Philippe Museum. Now granted, the entrance fee might not seem that much of a great deal on first reading. But try finding anywhere else that packs in as much for 10 Swiss francs ($10.50) and you'll soon realize what a bargain it is. In even better news, kids under 17 or visitors with a Geneva Pass don't have to pay a cent.
You don't have to like watches to love it
Watches can be divisive. Some people understand the need for them on a practical level but don't understand why collectors go weak at the knees at the sight of certain pieces. Others have turned watch collecting from a hobby into a lifestyle. But whether you see watches as nothing more than a convenience or as something much, much more, the Patek Philippe museum is going to appeal to you either way. Don't believe me? Then check out some of the reviews on the likes of Trip Advisor and Trip.com. Some of the reviewers are clearly watch-fanciers; others obviously couldn't tell the difference between a Patek Philippe and a Senko. But the one thing they all have in common is their appreciation for the Patek Philippe Museum. Check out some of them for yourself to see what I mean: "If you can only do two things in Geneva, this has to be one of them. The collection of masterpieces is incredibly comprehensive and spans different eras. The majority of these individual pieces are valued at $1million+, and collectively there are thousands. Visiting the museum with a guided tour is highly recommended. It’s a small fee (5CHF) to pay for an informative and entertaining tour that’ll help you appreciate why watches are truly ‘timeless," says Josephhsiao from Germany, while GLS***95 says: "My husband dragged me here and while at first, I was reluctant I am so glad he insisted. We saw stunning Patek Phillipe pieces and I was able to appreciate both the history and craftsmanship that goes into creating a watch."
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker