This year, Patek Philippe celebrates 20 years of its famed advertising campaign that took the world by storm when it was launched in 1996: “You never actually own a Patek Philippe…” So intriguing is the concept that it has lasted the brand a full 20 years – with renewed attention year after year for its on-point statement.
In fact, as recently as March 2015, The Atlantic published an article asking advertising professionals from around the world “What is the Best Advertising Campaign of All Time?” Answers were published from ad executives and specialists and included ads on everything from salt to computers to new patek philippe replica black leather strap watches.
In that article, Tim Calkins, professor of marketing at Kellogg School of Management answered: “How do you sell a $250 watch when people can buy an accurate one for $10? Patek Philippe’s ‘Generations’ ads, featuring fathers and sons and the line, ‘You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.’ A Patek watch which scratch-resistant sapphire crystal isn’t a device for telling time. It’s an heirloom that transfers values across generations.”
This is the ringing truth behind the slogan that has lasted two decades. After all, not everyone is buying a collector’s palette of watches. Some people want just one special piece that will hold its value and become an heirloom. The ad, it seems, has also held its value and become an iconic phrase for luxury watches.
Patek Philippe actually launched the innovative ad campaign at the same time it opened its Manufacture in Plan-les-Quates (outside Geneva), which brought together all of its free-standing ateliers under one state-of-the-art roof. At the same time, the brand inaugurated its own luxury magazine for owners of Patek Philippe original cream diamond dial watches.
The initial reaction to the emotional advertisement, which depicted a father and a son, met with descriptions ranging from “cheesy” to strongly emotional and powerful. Some critics thought the brand was arrogant, while others thought the message was superbly targeted to lure in new Patek Philippe followers.
Five years after its launch, the ad campaign was the subject of a 2011 article entitled “Luxury Branding the Future Leaders of the World” that ran on The Last Psychiatrist. In that article, the author leads by saying:
“Want to go buy a $100 patek philippe ladies rose gold diamond watch? In 2009-14? Hell yeah, let me get my coat.” And later in the article assesses that the ad is not targeted to the top 1 percent, but rather, “The target demo is the Aspirational 14%. They know they are supposed to like quality and goodness and etiquette and discretion, but no one ever taught them what those things look like, so when someone does point it out to them they will go all in.”
In other words, it was the first time an ad actually pointed out: this is a very special watch and brand. Of course, maybe another brand could not have pulled this message off as successfully as Patek Philippe, which was then, as it remains today, a benchmark in haute horology. The ad called to the emotional side of the buying decision, drawing a close relationship between the owners of a Patek Philippe, the quality of what they are wearing and the assurance that the watch and the brand would be there for the long haul …. generations.
The original ads were conceived of by Leagas Delaney, London advertising agency, whose team developed the idea of placing the emphasis of the ad on the owner of a Patek Philippe and what he would get (emotionally speaking) from the purchase, vs. focusing on the watch itself.
The message relied on photographs of fathers and sons or mothers and daughters sharing special, real-life moments. World-renowned photographers including Peggy Sirota, Peter Lindbergh, Glen Luchford and others captured the concepts. Just over 10 years after its launch, in 2007, the campaign won the Prix Suisse de la campagne horlogère de l’année Swiss award for patek philippe ladies’ gondolo serata quartz white gold & diamonds watch advertising of the year.
Over the years, the campaign has been tweaked subtly, evolving to keep current with the times, but never diluting the concept. This year, the brand unveiled four new ads with photographs that showcase three generations together for a powerful impact and story of family ties and heirloom moments.
Today, as the family-owned brand – passed through four generations now — celebrates 20 years of a highly successful ad campaign, it also celebrates 20 years of the highly coveted twice-a-year Patek Philippe Magazine. In fact, the publication is distributed to more than half a million people in 175 countries and is published in eight different languages. My guess is, though, that as coveted, as the magazine may be, consumers are not holding on to the issues for the next generation, just the fake patek philippe quartz movement watches.