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Revive the memory of the timepieces

Revive the memory of the timepieces

As famous as the jade and porcelain treasures and the precious furniture on display to visitors in the vast rooms of the Forbidden City in Beijing, the Palace Museum’s watch collection is made of virtuoso and often grand timepieces which were given as gifts by Jesuit brothers or by ambassadors from the west attempting to win over Chinese Emperors. Initially produced in Europe, the Palace clocks were later crafted in China, specifically at the Canton Imperial manufacture.

Over two years ago, a delegation of the Palace Museum visited the Manufacture and the newly opened Maison des Métiers d’Art. This visit followed previous trips and discussions, as well as the signing of a collaborative agreement in preparation for the restoration of the imperial collections’ timepieces. A delegation of the Manufacture’s craftsmen had by then already discovered the Palace Museum’s restoration workshops and collections and met with inspiring Chinese master craftsmen. Together they selected six watch movements from the Palace Museum collection in order to restore them in Switzerland, following very specific protocol and in keeping with the pieces’ authenticity and antiquity, with both groups greenlighting the projects on a day-to-day basis. Four months were needed by the Palace Museum and the Manufacture’s joint team to complete this delicate restoration. To meet the deadline and avoid keeping the Palace Museum watchmakers away from their families for too long, it was a race against time. The restored movements came back to China in June 2017 to be put back together with their cases, which had themselves been restored by the remaining Palace Museum team.

This human, technical and cultural adventure was filmed by Mrs. Li Shaohong, both a famous documentary maker and President of the China Film Director’s Guild. She is also celebrated for her successful TV series and regarded as the most influential female director of her generation.

The 11-minute-long film, first released in China in January 2018, and on the occasion of the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva, will be broadly broadcasted on Chinese social networks. This is the result of a unique and exemplary collaboration between Eastern and Western master watchmakers, and born of the trust between Maison Cartier and the Palace Museum administration. This exceptional clockmaking collaboration opens the door to new cultural exchange projects between China and its European partners from the arts and culture community.

© The Palace Museum / Richemont Commercial Company Limited