The United Nations of Patek Philippe

A Gift to the World (Literally) From Patek

Last year, I had the pleasure of meeting a fellow Patek Philippe collector in Geneva and, as to be expected, we started talking about all things horological and quickly found we had a common interest in Patek Philippe master clock systems. He asked me if I ever heard about the massive donation of Patek Philippe clocks to the Palais de Nations, the home of the United Nations in Geneva? This was news to me and he told me about how the Patek Philippe Foundation donated over 350 clocks to the Palais de Nations in recent years, and how all the clocks are controlled by a complex master clock system housed in the basement of the building. I was intrigued to say the least, and he also kindly sent me a short article about this timing system for the UN Special Magazine last May (see below).

UN Special, May 2019, p. 39.

The Palais de Nations was originally built between 1929-1938 and served as the headquarters of the League of Nations. In 1946, it became the Geneva home of the United Nations, one of the most important buildings in the world that normally hosts thousands of inter-governmental meetings annually. As the heart of the global community, the need to tell time perfectly and in-sync throughout hundreds of rooms is paramount.

In this meeting room within the Palais des Nations, you can see examples of the 350 clocks that keep the world ‘on time’ in Geneva.

The elaborate timekeeping system consists of over 350 clocks and features different styles of timepieces. Most commonly, single and double sided Calatrava-style clocks were used (housing an Inducta master/slave system). These clous-de-Paris-style clocks, the quintessential Patek Philippe design, are seen throughout the halls and meeting rooms of the building. In some other rooms, the Patek Philippe World Time-style clocks are used so that time can be seen in various cities around the world at a glance, a type of clock fitting for such an environment.The fact that the Palais des Nations features hundreds of Patek Philippe clocks brings a smile to my face. As a Patek Philippe aficionado, it is quite comforting to know that the heartbeat of the world is being kept by Patek Philippe. Patek not only generously donated each and every clock, but all the repair and maintenance of the timekeeping system free of charge until December 2050. At a time where the world needs to work together, special thanks to Patek Philippe for its small part in keeping us all together in time.


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