GENEVA, Switzerland--If you like watches, and you like history, there may not be a better place to visit than the Patek Philippe Museum here. Those who make the trek to the stately building located a short distance from Lake Geneva will find what has to be one of the most important collections of watches in the world. Six hundred years' of watches, to be precise. And they're not just from Switzerland, although the museum also houses a great collection of Patek Philippe's own masterpieces. And there's even a master watchmaker showcasing his skills for all to see. Altogether, the museum is the famous company's effort to show the tools and techniques used by the craftsmen, the jewelers, engravers, lapidaries and many others who have made the world's greatest personal timepieces since the 16th century.
As part of Road Trip 2011, CNET reporter Daniel Terdiman visited the museum, and over three floors, saw many different themes presented. There are enameled watches, watch cases, snuff-boxes and portrait-miniatures which together illustrate the development of the art of enameling. The museum library includes more than 7,000 books on the study and measurement of time, or horology.
But if you visit the museum, you may also enjoy a small thematic tour, and to have a guide explain the fascinating singing birds, "perfume pistols" and other automata and musical pieces, the enameled pieces, or to tell you more about the history of more than 500 years of humans attempting to capture and understand time in small packages.
This is one of the earliest watches in the museum's collection, which dates back to 1500. It is the "Runde Halsuhr," which was made in southern Germany of gilded brass between 1530 and 1540. Made in the shape of a drum, it has a cover (seen hanging) and what the museum says is a "straight-line foliate" made of iron.