The President of Geneva’s preeminent patek philippe calatrava replica mens watch maker speaks candidly and broadly about the industry, the brand and the next generation.
Having become President of Patek Philippe in 2009, assuming the mantle once donned by his father and grandfather before him, Thierry Stern is no mere watch industry boss, he is the steward of a multi-billion Swiss franc enterprise that is arguably the world’s most prestigious watchmaker.
What’s the Patek Philippe “DNA”?
It’s what I have seen since I was a child. I was always in the middle of watches, with my grandfather, with my father, and all the books. Imagine when you are living in the middle of watchmakers, even if you are not going to look at them, you will see them. That’s how you have to learn the DNA. There’s no book that will teach you that, except today we have the museum book so you can have a look at all the pieces.
A good example: I asked my dad many years ago, how do I recognise good enamel pieces? Early on I had difficulty distinguishing between a normal and a very fine example, but that was easy for my father. He told me there is only one solution, when you have a hundred of them in your hands, you will know.
A trio of enamel Patek Philippe pocket watches that sold at Phillips’ Hong Kong watch auction in November 2016
Name the stand-out watch introduced during your time as President.
The pilot copy patek philippe calatrava automatic opaline dial watch. The Calatrava Pilot Travel Time was something that was not needed and was not expected. But I thought it was fun to do it.
Most of the time, people who really like Patek know what are we going to launch the next year. You look at the collection and see this reference in white gold, so you can imagine we will launch it in yellow gold or rose gold.
That’s something that bothers me sometimes, because I think it’s great to surprise people. It’s like having your gift for Christmas but you already know what you’re going to receive. You’ll be happy but on the other hand you’re losing the effect or the pleasure. That’s why sometimes it’s fun to prepare something that nobody expects. The pilot watch was one of them.
Today it’s a very successful piece. People accept it. I could sell much more but I am limit the production.
And if you look at the details, people didn’t realise how far we went. All the small details on the dial, on the case, the pushers. That’s Patek Philippe.
People said it’s not your design, but it is. You see it in our museum where you have the two original examples. In fact, I have another vintage patek philippe nautilus black dial brushed stainless steel case black leather strap that can prove to everybody that it’s not a copy of Zenith or IWC. Mine was earlier. I have never showed the picture, I kept it in case the criticism went too far.
Is Patek Philippe on the acquisition trail?
We did buy, for example, dial makers, but today not that much anymore, because we have everything. The only thing I should buy, but I’m not willing to do it, is a farm for all the crocodiles.
Patek Philippe was already fabricating everything inside our own factories. Many years ago I asked my dad, why should we do everything in-house? We have good people outside the firm, in Switzerland there are a lot of good companies. He told me he tried; they are good and they can reach Patek Philippe quality, but the quality goes up and down. So if you want to maintain the right quality, it has to be internal – that’s the only way.
But we do not invest in watch companies. We have investments, for example, in research. It can be together with some other brands, because it’s too expensive to do it alone.
Or we invest in some suppliers who are in difficulty. For example we need the rubies for movements and there’s only one company making all the small rubies. I don’t want to buy this company because I don’t need that quantity, because I am using maybe 1% of their output.
But I need those rubies so we are investing in the supplier, alongside many other brands… we have to invest inside to protect that.
How significant to your business are the record auction prices for fake patek philippe watch?
Strong auction results give confidence to the customer. He appreciates the fact that yesterday we created those beautiful pieces and then today we are still making beautiful watches.
For sure it’s beautiful when you see that in the 1940s when we created the 1518 in stainless steel, the price was SFr2500. And today, SFr11m. Wow.
As I say it does give confidence. Most important, people realise that the watch is still working and we can fix it. This is also beautiful, that the watch of my great-grandfather can be restored and it’s going to work again. And maybe also the value will also be there and increase.
The ref. 1518 in stainless steel that sold in November 2016 for SFr11m.
It’s really a boost, but we should not also take too much advantage of it, because I do not want that customers to believe that when they buy a Patek Philippe, in ten years they will sell it for ten times the price.
I prefer to see customers wearing the patek philippe complicated watches annual calendar 5147g-001. It should not remain in the safe. I am not working so hard to design the watches so that clients can just leave them in the safe. The watch has to be a pleasure, it’s something that you should enjoy.