Patek & Quartz & Horology in a Museum

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

I have been in the wonderful Patek-museum in Geneva, lately. And yes, I am always curious whether they fill the gap and finally show a true early quartz-watch, a Beta21, a Patek ref3587.

So far they only had the two watches on the right -- and although they described the left (now middle) one of the formerly shown as Beta21 before it is and always was a two or three years later appearing and techhnologically already completely outdated and irrelevant ref3597 Beta22. The good news: now the museum staff changed the description of the now middle one to Beta22 (1974), ref3597 as it is correct. However, their latest addition (the now left one) is in my opinion also not a Beta21 although it now has a sign saying that.

Even worse, the case and dial is obviously a ref3597 Beta22 and thus a successor of the limited edition Beta21 (1970 - 1972). It was to my knowledge made from the very end of 1972 onwards until early 1980s (!sic) and always loaded with a Omega-made Beta22-movement. Now, if it comes now with a Beta21-movement as mentioned in the description then it means the watch is what one might call a Frankenstein: a strange and irregular combination of case, dial and movement that never appeared like that in production but is the result of some later re-combination of the ingredients. This at least is something weird when the watch shown is or claims to be the first electronic Patek carrying the horological very important first Swiss quartz-movement Beta21 (1970-April).

But we learn something from all that: if they really date the watch to the year 1970 it says something about their archives, because this is to my knowledge impossible and would not only surprise me. And not getting things straight in the Beta21-box says also something about their attitude towards quartz and one of the most important Pateks in the last six decades. Yes, but maybe it just says something about the museum-curator, Mr Peter Friess and his valuation of one of the most revolutionary and outstanding watch-movements in Pateks history. And maybe it says nothing at all and we shouldnt take everything so serious. Or as I used to say: its just watches and not paramedic -- experiments dont hurt, even in a museum.

Addendum 2024-03-27: I am a bad reader with a slow mind and even worse eyes. It took me a while to see and understand the small joke that the museum-staff prepared for us when they described the case as a "Nautilus avec calibre Beta22" (middle and right one). Chapeau!