Patek Philippe Thierry Stern interview
Brice Lechevalier met with Thierry Stern, CEO of Patek Philippe.
What are the main repercussions of the Patek Philippe 175th anniversary celebrations?
This anniversary represented seven years of work. It is never easy to create complicated models even when you have more than 175 years of experience behind you ! A year after these celebrations, we are immensely proud of the success of this event and of the launch of a fine collection. Market response has been exceptional with regards to the watches, the event and the company. As a family-owned House, it is important to promote watchmaking as a whole as well as our company and its long-term strategy. The event enabled us to show the quality and the team spirit driving Patek Philippe, representing long-term values that have further reinforced the universal trust we consistently enjoy.
Why invest such a colossal sum in the construction of a new building for the Manufacture ?
The primary goal of this investment relates to our long-term vision of an independent Manufacture by regrouping our skills and expertise on a main site in Geneva and by ensuring they are passed on. We are confident in the future of our Manufacture and by means of this construction we are confirming our determination to develop in our birthplace : Geneva, home to Patek Philippe for more than 175 years. This project also corresponds to the need to reunite the full range of our Geneva-based production activities on one site. By way of reminder, we relocated to Plan-les-Ouates in 1996 specifically in order to bring our activities under one roof, but soon found that we needed additional space. Our new building will serve to create that space required for our development in Geneva, by accommodating the new activities and training requirements and so as to provide our Manufacture with reserve areas in Geneva for the next 20 to 30 years. The goal is not linked to an increase in production volumes, since our annual growth rate for production remains at around 3%.
You introduced the Patek Philippe Seal in 2009 ; are customers really sensitive to this certification, have they understood it and are its effects measurable ?
It was a logical evolution, since our quality criteria for watches were never confined to those of the Poinçon de Genève and our own standards have considerable evolved and become far more stringent. We needed to communicate on this evolution and above all to explain that our criteria and our tests apply to the watch in its entirety and not only to the movement components, as was at the time the case for the Poinçon de Genève. Our clients appreciated the information conveying the quality of our watches in a detailed manner, and the impact of the Patek Philippe Seal has now been fully grasped and taken onboard in the appreciation of the brand.
With hindsight, which do you see as the most important innovations introduced by Patek over the past decade ?
A decade is a rather short time-frame for us… In 2016 we are celebrating an important innovation in our contemporary history : the 20th anniversary of the 1996 launch of the Annual Calendar, patented that same year. It has enjoyed continuous success, both in men’s models and in the ladies’ models launched in 2005. It is a useful, reliable and user-friendly complication, and those are precisely the prerequisites that must be met by current and future innovations incorporated within what we might call mechanical “smartwatches.” The past ten years have above all been marked by new technologies, with the 2005 creation of the “Patek Philippe Advanced Research” department which introduced several avant-garde components in Silinvar®, a derivative of silicon. In 2005, we introduced a first escape-wheel in Silinvar® requiring no lubricant, and in 2006 we presented the Spiromax®, a flat concentric-development balance-spring – an innovation now found in the calibers of our standard collections. With more than 100 patents earned in the course of our history to date, the list is pretty long, but to round off with the latest innovation to have made its mark on our history, I think the Grandmaster Chime, the centerpiece of our 175th anniversary collection, naturally has a place among the most important innovations of the past decade.
Which 2016 new release(s) give you the greatest satisfaction ?
Along with my wife, who is in charge of watch creation, I take part in each stage involved in creating our new models. All of them correspond to our expectations and our tastes. My wife will naturally have closer affinities for the ladies’ watches than I do, but we are proud of any product that we launch and if a proposed new model does not fully meet our aesthetic, quality or technical criteria, we either don’t launch it or will do so later when it will be ready, even if that were to take years. Making a choice of new models that procure me the greatest pleasure, I might for example think of those that the market is not expecting, those that spring surprises, such as the new Calatrava Pilot Travel Time introduced at Baselworld 2015 and which caused quite a stir.
Which will be the highlight event(s) for you this year ?
The 20th anniversary of the Annual Calendar ; the Nautilus will also turn 40 this year ; while our Generations campaign will be 20 years young this autumn. For us, the most important aspect will be the work done on the markets, on a local level for local customers, during a year that will probably be a bit tougher to navigate than usual and which will require everyone’s best endeavors.
Patek Philippe enjoys outstanding renown and rare prestige, due to the constancy with which the Manufacture has applied its philosophy of excellence ever since it was founded.Find out more >
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