On the brand’s 175th an­niver­sary, its strat­egy to stay on top and the risks of the Chi­nese mar­ket.

Esquire Malaysia Watch Guide - - Special Feature - CEO of Patek Philippe

ESQUIRE: What is your mes­sage for 175 years of Patek Philippe?

THIERRY STERN: To be hon­est, this year is im­por­tant but last year was equally im­por­tant and next year will be too. Of course, we should be proud of th­ese 175 years of work, but I’m more in­ter­ested that we are ready for our 200th an­niver­sary. This Oc­to­ber will present a sur­prise, which I can’t re­ally talk about. How­ever, it is im­por­tant that the qual­ity of our prod­ucts is al­ways the same.

ESQ: Which of the watches pre­sented at Baselworld are you most ex­cited about?

TS: There are two pieces that have caught a lot of at­ten­tion. The first is the Nau­tilus Chrono­graph Time Travel [ref­er­ence 5990/1a-001], a very use­ful model for trav­ellers. The sec­ond is the chrono­graph with an­nual cal­en­dar which we made with a steel case and bracelet [ref­er­ence 5960/1a-001]. The dial de­sign is very ag­gres­sive and I re­ally like it.

It is an im­por­tant com­mit­ment to the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket be­cause I found some re­sis­tance, but I told them we had to do it. This is not the first time it’s hap­pened. It hap­pened with the twenty-4: many peo­ple told me I was crazy to make a wrist­watch case in steel and di­a­monds, and warned me that it could never work. To­day, 13 years later, the twenty-4 is still a very strong prod­uct for us. It also hap­pened to Aqua­naut, a watch with steel case and rub­ber strap that many ques­tioned and is still ex­tremely suc­cess­ful. Some­times you have to lead. More­over, we have around 180 mod­els. It does not mean a change in strat­egy or any­thing like that. Some­time we must watch and have fun cre­at­ing.

ESQ: Is steel con­sid­ered a sub­or­di­nate ma­te­rial for watches?

TS: In the field of high-end watches steel is not liked for good rea­son: it’s very easy to go from gold to steel, but it is very dif­fi­cult to re­turn from steel to gold. So brands like Patek Philippe, Chopard and Rolex, among oth­ers, are very care­ful. There must be a limit. In our case, the steel watches must not ex­ceed 20 per­cent of to­tal pro­duc­tion. It is our rule and that works very well.

ESQ: Do you have a fa­vorite ma­te­rial for watches?

TS: I still like the yel­low gold be­cause it seems to me that if a watch looks good in this ma­te­rial, it will look good in any other ma­te­rial. It is sim­i­lar to what hap­pens in the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try, where pro­to­types are made in gray be­cause it is the best colour to ap­pre­ci­ate the de­sign and struc­ture. How­ever, I’m not so crazy that I would make the ref­er­ence 5960 in yel­low.

ESQ: Is it true that you lis­ten to and eval­u­ate all Patek Philippe watches with minute re­peaters?

TS: Yes, it’s true. The minute re­peater watches are very im­por­tant be­cause we do not pro­duce many and each costs be­tween RM 1.04mil and RM3.5mil, as in the case of the sky moon tour­bil­lon. So I do it out of re­spect for cus­tomers. It is also im­por­tant in terms of qual­ity con­trol. True, we have mi­cro­phones and sound ma­chines that record each minute re­peater, and even graphs that in­di­cate its op­er­a­tion, but noth­ing can re­place the hu­man ear. It is not the hard­est part of my job; in fact, I quite en­joy it and I al­ways have the watch­maker with me. This is crit­i­cal be­cause some­times I can re­ject a part in just one or two min­utes. And when a watch­maker has been work­ing on the sound for up to 200 hours, it would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate to tell some­one else that watch has been re­jected. So it is up to me, to lis­ten to the watch and ex­plain what I like and what not, and what he might do to im­prove it. It is a way to show the re­spect I feel for the watch­mak­ers. They are al­ways proud to show their work and love the pieces they pro­duce. We grade the minute re­peaters with A, B or C: A is per­fect; B is good, C is re­jected. I look at three as­pects: sound, har­mony and vi­bra­tion. To a watch­maker that is in­ter­est­ing be­cause they learn how to im­prove their work and even learn to dis­tin­guish the type of sound I like.

ESQ: When do­ing the as­sess­ment, how does the watch­maker de­velop his abil­ity ?

TS: This is a skill not every­body can do; it rather de­pends on how many watches minute re­peater you’ve heard. It’s

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