When luxury Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe held an exhibition in Dubai in January 2012, watch lovers of the region were not only able to see some of their classic timepieces but witnessed demonstrations of the complex processes that go into making them. Gulf Connoisseur also got to meet Thierry Stern, the dynamic President of the brand
It is rare for anyone to get an opportunity to visit a watchmaking facility, especially one of such exclusivity as Patek Philippe; but January 2012 provided such a possibility for watch-lovers of this region, when Patek Philippe declared “Open House” at an event that took visitors on a voyage through the re-creation of their historic Geneva headquarters, their ateliers and their famous Museum, all simulated at the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai.
The exhibition demonstrated the 172-year old traditions of innovation and independence; art and craftsmanship; aesthetics and passion – all values that have defined Patek Philippe since the founding of the company in 1839. Thierry Stern, President of the luxury watchmaker, says “We have literally brought our entire Geneva store here to educate people about the brand and philosophy of Patek Philippe.”
Over 60 watches – some more than a hundred years old or rare one-off pieces – from the Patek Philippe Museum were on display in Dubai.
The rigorous standards applied to every step of the development process and in the long months of crafting and finishing make each Patek Philippe timepiece a precious, unique creation, coveted by connoisseurs. Thierry Stern explains, “Earlier, people preferred jewellery watches. Today, they’re passionate about the movement – though it is the most important thing in a watch, it cannot always be seen.”
Working for Patek Philippe are around 2000 passionately dedicated people, making 45,000 watches annually, many in limited editions. He says, “We do not want to increase production, compromising on quality. I am not focused on increasing sales, but following the family’s passion for watches.”
He agrees that the brand owes its flexibility to being a family-owned concern. “My father, Philippe Stern, and I own the company and any decision can be taken quickly. To take decisions you should know the market thoroughly, which is why I spend a lot of time travelling, listening to retailers and meeting clients.”
What does he feel about the business situation: “Despite Europe’s financial problems, 2011 has been a record year for us, with Europe contributing 45 percent of our sales and the Middle East 10 percent. Our watches are seen as long-term investments and people here prefer the more expensive complicated watches.”
He ends the conversation on a lighter note: “The only people unhappy with the exhibition are our insurers – there are a lot of valuable museum pieces, some worth over a million US Dollars apiece, all being exposed to the general public!”