SPOTLIGHT - PATEK PHILIPPE - WatchTime

 
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SPOTLIGHT - PATEK PHILIPPE - WatchTime
THE WORLD OF FINE WATCHES

SPOTLIGHT
www.watchtime.com

A HISTORY OF
PATEK PHILIPPE
WATCHES,
FROM THE PAGES
OF WATCHTIME
MAGAZINE

         PATEK PHILIPPE
SPOTLIGHT - PATEK PHILIPPE - WatchTime
history: PAtEK PhiLiPPE

                                                                                                                                                   Patek Philippe’s former
                                                                                                                                                         headquarters on
                                                                                                                                                             Rue du Rhone.
                                                                                                                                                 The shop is on the ground
                                                                                                                                                                      floor.

                                                                                                                                                known, would catch the
                                                                                                                                                horological fever. He start-
                                                                                                                                                ed by buying high-quality
                                                                                                                                                watch movements, which
                                                                                                                                                were mounted in cases un-
                                                                                                                                                der his personal supervi-
                                                                                                                                                sion. But soon this was no
                                                                                                             Geneva in the 19th century         longer enough for the am-
                                                                                                                                                bitious Polish exile. On May
                                                                                                                                                1, 1839, in collaboration
                                                                                                                                                with François Czapek,

  the Birth of a Legend
                                                                                                                                                a Pole of Czech origin
                                                                                                                                                and himself an ambitious
                                                                                                                                                watchmaker, Antoine Nor-
                                                                                                                                                bert de Patek laid the cor-
  in a history spanning more than 160 years, Patek Philippe has not only                                                                        nerstone for his legendary
                                                                                                                                                life’s work, founding his
  won international renown, but time and again has reconfirmed its standing                                                                     own watch manufactory
                                                                                                                                                under the name Patek,
  as one of the world’s most important watchmakers. it has emerged                                                                              Czapek & Co. The manag-
                                                                                                                                                ing pair and about half a
  unscathed from such crises as the quartz watch boom of the 1970s and the                                                                      dozen employees began
  takeover wave of the past few years, and today is healthier than ever.                                                                        producing approximately 200 high-quality    ishing thinness. Even more amazing was      by Philippe’s ingenuity, from 1845 on-
                                                                                                                                                pocket watches per year at their address at that the watch was wound and set using      ward the company used increasing

  A
          t the Congress of Vienna in            life. At 16, Antoni Norbert joined the First   the army from 30,000 troops to 80,000.          29 Quai des Bergues in Geneva. The total    the crown, eliminating the nuisance of a    amounts of production machinery of its
          1815, when the victor-nations          Mounted Rifles of the Polish cavalry, un-      Nicholas I reacted by dispatching Russian       ultimately reached around 1,120 time-       key. Patek was so taken with Philippe and   own design. Philippe also spent time on
          that had vanquished Napoleon           der the ultimate command of the Tsar’s         forces. In the ensuing clashes, Antoni          pieces of exceptional quality, each signed  his pioneering design that he made the      his hobby, writing, and in 1863 his
  once and for all started redrawing the         brother, Grand Duke Constantine. So            Norbert Patek saw combat as a freedom           and bearing its own serial number. Among    Frenchman an offer: In 1845, on the expi-   ground-breaking book on keyless pocket
  map of Europe to their liking, it was the      sure was Tsar Nicholas of “his” Poles that     fighter against Russian domination. By          the clientele were many Polish emigrants,   ration of the contract with Czapek,         watches was published in Geneva and
  once-proud kingdom of Poland that suf-         he made plans to send a portion of this        the end of 1831 the revolt had been put         who at least could bask                                       Philippe would join the   Paris. The daily Journal de Genève pro-
  fered the most. What remained, after           army into Belgium and France, to sup-          down. A period of ruthless Russianization       in the memory of their          Patek noted that              Geneva company as         claimed him an expert writer.
  Russia had taken her fill, was the former      press the revolution there. Somehow,           followed. Thousands of Poles, including         eastern         homeland                                      technical director.           In contrast to the technical enthusiast
  Duchy of Warsaw, now known as                  word of the imperial brothers’ unsavory        large portions of the army, fled the coun-      whenever they glanced
                                                                                                                                                                               “Life in New York                 Jean Adrien Philippe   Philippe, Patek was a gifted businessman
  “Congress Poland.” In this tiny                intentions slipped out. So it was that in      try to escape the Tsar’s brutal reprisals and   at their watches.              is very expensive. agreed. On May 15,                    who concerned himself with marketing
  kingdom, in the little village of Piaski,      1830, shortly before marching orders ar-       the threat of the firing squad. Among               Antoine Norbert de         The cheapest cigar 1845, Patek & Co. was                 the pair’s watches. When sales gradually
  there lived modestly a couple named            rived from the Russian capital, a group of     them was Antoni Norbert Patek.                  Patek was granted               costs four cents.” founded, with head-                  stagnated in the economic depression
  Joachim and Anna Patek de Prawdzic             Polish cadets moved on Warsaw and oc-              He first found political asylum in Paris.   Swiss citizenship in                                          quarters in Geneva.       that followed the European upheavals of
  with their son, Antoni Norbert, who had        cupied the Belvedere Palace. Two Russian       After brief interludes working for a com-       1843. The next year, the                                      Philippe was one of the   1848, Patek began traveling extensively.
  come into the world on June 12, 1812.          generals were killed, and Grand Duke           mittee of refugees in Bamberg and as a          young company showed its products at        partners. As of January 1, 1851, the as-    From December 1854 to May 1855 he
     The era’s turmoil did not spare the         Constantine fled.                              typesetter in France, he chose Geneva as        an exhibition in Paris. Here Patek heard    piring company was renamed Patek            visited the United States of America. On
  Pateks. Most notably, the momentous                On January 18, 1831, the Polish Parlia-    his new home. In this famed watchmaking         for the first time of the gifted watchmak-  Philippe & Co. That same year, Queen        November 23, shortly before taking ship
  political decisions of Tsar Nicholas I would   ment repudiated the Tsar’s rule, and an-       metropolis, it was perhaps inevitable that      er Jean Adrien Philippe, born in 1815,      Victoria of England acquired a pocket       to cross the Atlantic, he wrote from Paris:
  have a lasting impact on the young man’s       ticipating the worst, quickly reinforced       Antoine Norbert de Patek, as he was now         who had built a pocket watch of aston-      watch bearing this signature. Prompted      “The travails of the journey have begun.
SPOTLIGHT - PATEK PHILIPPE - WatchTime
history: PAtEK PhiLiPPE

  When will we be able to pro-                                                                                    Patek Philippe made its first
  duce watches at low cost and                                                                                    wristwatch, for Countess
  then wait for the customers                                                                                     Kocewicz. Patek, by now a
  to come to us, instead of                                                                                       Count (he was ennobled by
  traveling with our products                                                                                     Pope Pius IX for his services
  all over the world, at high ex-                                                                                 to the Catholic Church),                                                                             Bracelet in the form of a belt with built-in watch,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       signed Czapek & Cie, Geneva, ca. 1850
  pense and hazard to our             Antoine Norbert de Patek            Jean Adrien Philippe                    died in Geneva on March 1,
  health?” On December 14,            (1812 – 1877)                       (1815 – 1894)                           1877. His successor in the
  he met Charles Lewis Tiffany                                                                                    company’s management
  for dinner. While the men                                                                                       was the Frenchman Joseph
  dined, Patek’s room at New                                                                                      Antoine Bénassy-Philippe, a
  York’s first-class St. Nicholas                                                                                 son-in-law      of    Adrien
  Hotel was burglarized. Next                                                                                     Philippe. Patek’s son Léon
  day he wrote: “Life in New                                                                                      was content with the role
  York is very expensive. Since                                                                                   of a silent partner.
  for security reasons I stop                                                                                        In 1890, the senior
  only at first-class hotels, I                                                                                   Philippe received the Cross
  cannot make do with less                                                                                        of the Legion of Honor for
  than 24 to 25 Swiss francs                                                                                      his services to France. In
  per day. Accommodations                                                                                         January of the next year he
  and meals cost 25 dollars per                                                                                   retired, turning over his
  day, a small bottle of wine                                                                                     place to his youngest son,
  costs a dollar, and the cheap-                                                                                  Joseph Emile Philippe. On
  est cigar costs four cents. Mr.                                                                                 January 5, 1894, Jean
  Reed and Mr. Tiffany were                                                                                       Adrien Philippe died. Until
  very surprised to see me. Be-                                                                                   early 1901, the heirs con-
  cause of the general state of                                                                                   tinued the company as a
  crisis they cannot promise me                                                                                   family firm. Effective Febru-
  to buy anything.” Patek’s                                                                                       ary 1, 1901, they trans-
                                                                                                                                                   The House of Patek Philippe on the former Geneva harbor, 1839      This golden cigar box with enamel paintings, signed Czapek & Cie
  worries were unfounded.             Three generations: President Philippe Stern (right) with father             formed it into a stock cor-                                                                         Geneva 1851, once adorned the collection of Egypt’s King Farouk.
  Tiffany did buy, and in time        Henri and son Thierry                                                       poration, named “Anci-
  became the company’s                                                                                            enne Manufacture d’Hor-
  largest American customer.                                                                                      logerie Patek Philippe & Co.
  In 1876, Tiffany appointed                                                                                      S.A.” The company was           the famed dial maker Fabrique de Cad-        In 1931, contemplating the takeover of        would make its own movement blanks,
  Patek Philippe the company’s principal         Patek Philippe was already introducing the      worth 1.6 million Swiss francs and five of       rans Stern Frères, they had long enjoyed     Patek, Charles and Jean Stern were not        rather than buying them from LeCoultre.
  supplier of pocket watches for the next        first timepiece of this type – the chrono-      the seven shareholders were on the               close business relations with Patek          just following their nose for a good busi-         Charles Stern’s son Henri, born May
  several years. But to accommodate their        graph hand was reset with a key. In 1861,       board. In 1915, Albert Einstein ordered a        Philippe. They came to the firm’s rescue.    ness opportunity; they were going where       25, 1911, recalled: “In 1932 my dear fa-
  clientele’s tastes, the Americans exerted a    Adrien Philippe’s stem-winding works            gold pocket watch from Patek Philippe,           They were well aware of the risks and the    their hearts led them. Both wanted to pre-    ther fell very ill, and asked me to go into
  significant influence on the design of the     took its final form. Two years later, he in-    with an elaborately engraved case. And           rewards involved in acquiring Patek          serve and expand a centerpiece of the         the dial factory for that reason. I worked
  Genevan watches.                               vented the slipping mainspring which pre-       in 1923, American car manufacturer               Philippe and decided to make the most of     Swiss watchmaking tradition. To this end,     there until 1935, every weekday from 7
      On January 26, 1855, Patek wrote           vents the mainspring from breaking when         James Warren Packard expanded his col-           the opportunity.                             in 1933 they recruited Jean Pfister, head     till noon and from 2 to 6 in the afternoon,
  from Charleston: “The Americans want           fully wound, a crucial step in the evolution    lection of Patek Philippes with a lectern-          The Stern Brothers came from Gürze-       of the Geneva branch of the Tavannes          including Saturday mornings. Part of the
  pocket watches that are not too expen-         of the self-winding watch.                      shaped table clock with a perpetual cal-         len, a small town near Bern. Their parents   Watch Co. and a man with a technical and      time I was my father’s assistant, part of
  sive, with which they can time the speed           The company showed its pocket               endar in a silver case.                          had been enamel painters by profession.      commercial mastery of all aspects of          the time I was an engraver. At last I man-
  of their horses to a quarter of a second.”     watches at the first Universal Exposition           In 1932, the worldwide repercussions         When the boys were still quite small, the    watchmaking. In concert with the new          aged to convince my father and my uncle
  What he meant was chronographs,                in 1855 in Paris and was promptly award-        of the Great Depression forced the com-          family moved to Geneva, where the            owners, he quickly arrived at a decision      to let me work at Patek Philippe. There I
  which in the next few years quickly            ed a gold medal. In 1867, at another Paris      pany to seek a solvent buyer for a majori-       Sterns’ superb handiwork was much in         that would have far-reaching conse-           had the great good fortune to get to
  gained importance within the broad-            Exposition, it offered models with a wide       ty interest. It was a historic hour for broth-   demand. The family established a dial fac-   quences for the company’s international       know Jean Pfister. He was cut from the
  based Patek Philippe collection. By 1856,      variety of complications. And in 1868           ers Charles and Jean Stern. As owners of         tory and made a resounding success of it.    reputation: From then on, Patek Philippe      same cloth as my father.”
SPOTLIGHT - PATEK PHILIPPE - WatchTime
history: PAtEK PhiLiPPE

                                                                                                                                           an alternative to mechanical movements.
                                                                                                                                           Henri Stern was a particular fan of this
                                                                                                                                           type of timepiece. Asked whether he was
                                                                                                                                           impressed with watch production, the fa-
                                                                                                                                           ther of today’s president, Philippe Stern,
                                                                                                                                           answered: “Yes. But making electronic in-
                                                                                                                                           struments fascinated me even more.
                                                                                                                                           They’re significantly more precise. We’re
                                                                                                                                           no longer talking about tenths or hun-
                                                                                                                                           dredths of a second, but thousandths.”
                                                                                                                                           Henri Stern took over as president of
                                                                                                                                           Patek Philippe in 1958. In 1960 he proud-
                                                                                                                                           ly presented the world’s smallest quartz
                                                                                                                                           clock to date, a box that measured just 5
                                                                                                                                           by 4 by 2.3 inches and caused a sensation.
                                                                                                                                               Around this time the first wristwatch-
                                                                                                                                           es with independently adjustable hour
                                                                                                                                           hands also reached the market. They
                                                                                                                                           were conceived for discriminating jet-set-
                                                                                                                                           ters who wanted to reset their watches
                                                                                                                                           conveniently to the local time. Two differ-
                                                                                                                                           ent configurations were available, with
   Above: Golden bracelet with built-in                                                                                                    one hour hand or two. The latter version
   watch; the dial is concealed under a                                                                                                    showed not only the local time but the
   large diamond. Patek Philippe,                                                                                                          time at home.
   1868-73                                                                                                                                     It went without saying that Patek
                                                                                                                                           Philippe would have a share in the Centre
   Top right: View in 1862 across the
   new Pont du Mont Blanc to the old                                                                                                       Electronique Horloger S.A. (CEH), found-
   city; Patek Philippe headquarters is lo-                                                                                                ed in 1962. The company pursued re-
   cated on the left in the photo, on the                                                                                                  search in electronic timekeeping, and ul-
   far side of the lake.                                                                                                                   timately developed a competitive quartz
                                                                                                                                           caliber for wristwatches. The product was
   Right: Golden Iorgnette
                                                                                                                                           ready for serial production in 1969. Thus
                                                                                                                                           Patek Philippe was among the proud pre-       Above: Back dial of Caliber 89 with the sky above Geneva; the dial indicates solar
                                                                                                                                           senters when Switzerland’s first quartz       time, equation of time, sunrise and sunset, date of Easter, and signs of the zodiac.
                                                                                                                                                                                         Bottom left: Caliber 89 in its presentation case. Below: The workbench of master
                                                                                                                                                                                         watchmaker Paul Buclin, who worked on Caliber 89 for many years.
     Patek Philippe rapidly regained ground   more about the country than the average      ther expected.” In 1942 Henri Stern
  under its new management, recovering fi-    American. I was on the road five or six      opened his own sales firm in New York.
  nancially and acquiring new customers.      months a year as a salesman, visiting cus-   Two years later he was mourning the loss
  An excellent start for the company’s fu-    tomers or making friends, exploring new      of his father. From 1946 on, the Henri
  ture was ensured by an American, Henry      cities.” When World War II broke out in      Stern Watch Agency, of New York, was
  Graves, Jr. In 1933, he bought the then     Europe in 1939, Henri                                            responsible for sales
  most complicated Patek Philippe pocket      Stern returned to                When Philippe                   and    distribution of
  watch, a technical masterpiece equipped,    Switzerland for a few                                            Patek Philippe watches
  among other features, with grande and       months to serve his
                                                                          Stern took over the throughout the U.S.
  petite sonneries, a Westminster chime, a    stint in a cavalry unit of     company, quartz                   Pfister resigned in
  minute repeater, a perpetual calendar,      the Swiss Army.               ruled. Mechanical                  1946, and Henri Stern
  equation of time, an astronomical chart,        In 1940 he flew            watches were an                   began spending a lot of
  and a chronograph rattrapante. The price:   from Lisbon back to                                              time in airplanes. “I
                                                                          endangered species.
  $60,000. In 1999, the opulent pocket        New York in an old Yan-                                          couldn’t live in Geneva
  watch sold at auction for $11 million.      kee Clipper. That same                                           all year round. The in-
     Charles Stern served as Chairman of      year he showed up in South America, vis-     ternational business more or less forced
  the Board of Directors from 1935 on-        iting the Patek Philippe agents there in ex- me to commute between Geneva and
  ward, assisted by his son Henri. By 1937,   tremely trying times. “It was more and       New York.”
  Henri was named head of Patek Philippe      more difficult to travel during the war         In 1948 Patek Philippe established its
  Incorporated of America, and soon be-       years. More than once I had to sleep in an   own electronics department, which pre-
  came familiar with every corner of the      armchair in a hotel lobby because there      sented its first clock in 1950. Later it took
  American market. “I traveled the States     were no more rooms. The work was hard,       on the task of developing its own quartz
  for months,” he said. “I think I knew       but it had to be done – it was what my fa-   movements with analog time displays, as
SPOTLIGHT - PATEK PHILIPPE - WatchTime
history: PAtEK PhiLiPPE

                                                                                    wristwatches, containing the legendary         ple paid at the auction for the 150th an-
                                                                                    Beta 21 caliber, were introduced at the        niversary of Patek Philippe in 1989 were
                                                                                    Basel Fair on April 10, 1970.                  unnaturally high. That is why they’ve lev-
                                                                                       Henri Stern successfully guided the         eled back off again.” Stern backed up his
                                                                                    family firm until 1977, when he yielded        words with action. He consistently limited
                                                                                    the helm to his son Philippe. Born in          the development and production of par-
                                                                                    1938, thoughtful and dynamic in equal          ticularly speculative wristwatches with
                                                                                    measures, Philippe Stern has taken Patek       complex additional functions like a
                                                                                    Philippe to new heights over the last two      chronograph, a perpetual calendar, a
                                                                                    decades.                                       tourbillon or a minute repeater. “At Patek
                                                                                       However, when Philippe Stern took           Philippe we are looking for stability in the
                                                                                    over the manufactory, times were not so        market. We have no desire to make com-
                                                                                    easy. King Quartz reigned supreme, and         plications simply for complication’s sake.
                                                                                    only the most old-fashioned executive still    For example, we have no intention of pro-
                                                                                    gave any thought to mechanical watch-          ducing a self-winding chronograph with a
                                                                                    es. Philippe Stern had little choice but to    flyback seconds hand, perpetual calendar
                                                                                    attempt to straddle the awkward gap be-        and minute repeater. We could easily do
                                                                                    tween tradition and modernity – in other       it, but we regard such massive watches as                                                  Patek Philippe’s first quartz watch,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Ref. 3603/1, with caliber Beta 21,
                                                                                    words, to maintain parity between elec-        more for show.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1970
                                                                                    tronic and mechanical wristwatches. For            Stern pared back production of highly
                                                                                    instance, 70% of Patek’s women’s wrist-        complicated models, systematically
                                                                                    watches were powered by quartz move-           thinned out the dealer network, and im-
                                                                                    ments.                                         posed iron discipline on distribution part-
                                                                                       Yet in the next few years the picture       ners. Complicated pieces could no longer
                                                                                    slowly but surely changed. Around 1984,        be ordered for stock; today, orders must
                                                                                    collecting vintage wristwatches came           be accompanied by a down payment and
                                                                                    into vogue and sparked a tumultuous re-        the buyer’s name. Success has proved
                                                                                    naissance in mechanical watches. One of        Philippe Stern right. Patek Philippe’s new
                                                                                    the greatest beneficiaries by far was          watches are more coveted than ever, as is    ny’s more than 160 years of history to its    their dividends than in any such building.
                                                                                    Patek Philippe. Prices for timepieces from     evidenced by the continually growing de-     position today: “Our history is extremely     As a family operation with a deep tradi-
                                                                                    past decades soared. By 1989, when             mand. Potential customers may wait sev-      important to our all-around success. Patek    tion, we can always take the time to think
                                                                                    Patek Philippe celebrated the 150th an-        eral months for certain models. They un-     Philippe has been an uninterrupted pres-      out carefully what we want to do, and
                                                                                    niversary of its founding, “Patek fever”       derstand why, and are willing to wait, un-   ence on the market since 1839, and has        what we don’t. Such as holding on to old
  The Patek Philippe showroom, located on Rue du Rhone at Patek Philippe’s former   had infected watch connoisseurs and            complainingly, for their watches.            regularly made news with outstanding          strategies, or planning new ones. Or de-
  headquarters (below)
                                                                                    was reaching new heights. A book on the            Maintaining its “high-mech” heritage     products. That represents a very material     veloping a new movement, which takes
                                                                                    firm’s wristwatches stimulated the mar-        is of fundamental importance for Patek       contribution to a brand’s reputation. The     three to four years. But it makes no dif-
                                                                                    ket still further. A Patek Philippe anniver-   Philippe. “Most of the men’s watches we      crucial factor for us is that down through    ference. What counts for us in the end is
                                                                                    sary auction generated sensational             make today incorporate mechanical            the years, we’ve always made watches.         the result. And the result has to meet our
                                                                                    prices. Limited-edition models sold out        movements,” says Stern. “Our quartz          That, in turn, has brought us a great deal    high expectations.”
                                                                                    entirely in advance. A chronograph with a      watches are primarily for women. Many        of indispensable know-how, from which             In this family firm, the owner guides
                                                                                    flyback seconds hand (ref. no. 1436) that      women prefer quartz technology for its       naturally we can profit today.”               events personally. Stern’s designated suc-
                                                                                    had sold for about $1,000 at a watch           convenience. With quartz, you don’t             That know-how has taken Patek              cessor is his son, Thierry. Says Stern: “I
                                                                                    shop in 1961, was auctioned for more           have to wind and set the watch.” Re-         Philippe to the very top of the luxury        hope Thierry will stick with the strategy of
                                                                                    than $175,000 not even 30 years later.         gardless of which type                                          watch trade – and al-      keeping Patek Philippe an independent
                                                                                    Patek’s limited-edition officer’s watch of     they are, almost all                                            most without rivals.       family firm.” Thierry, for his part, feels
                                                                                    1989 fetched more than twice its original      movements used today            The family firm’s               What other maker can       thoroughly at home in his role as Crown
                                                                                    price.                                         come from the compa-              independence                  offer such a broad         Prince, though he admits that “it’s not al-
                                                                                       One rather skeptical witness to this        ny’s own manufactory.            seems assured.                 range of complications     ways easy. But it’s wonderful being able
                                                                                    feeding frenzy was Philippe Stern. “Of         Patek Philippe buys only      Thierry Stern calls               or such a degree of sus-   to work with my father, and learn from
                                                                                    course we like to see our timepieces main-     the movement blanks                                             tained continuity? “This   him. Of course it would be my goal too to
                                                                                    taining their value,” he commented in          for its hand-wound
                                                                                                                                                                  it his top priority. is where a family firm                 remain independent and not be swal-
                                                                                    1993, “but when one so often hears that        chronograph from out-                                           has real advantages,”      lowed up in a corporate group. I realize
                                                                                    you can buy a new Patek Philippe today         side suppliers. But that                                        Stern explains. “We can    Patek Philippe embodies a style all its
                                                                                    and resell it at a big profit tomorrow – I     too probably will change soon. “We’re        plan and invest long-range, because we        own, and I hope I have a real sense for
                                                                                    think that’s simply dishonest. If someone      working on a movement of that kind,”         know exactly who we’re doing it for. Our      that style. It would be extremely impor-
                                                                                    buys a Patek, first and foremost he should     reports Stern. But he’s keeping mum as to    new factory would certainly never have        tant to me to preserve our customers’
                                                                                    enjoy it. Then there will be no disappoint-    when it will reach the market.               been built if Patek Philippe were under       confidence in our taste.” Thierry is well
                                                                                    ments if prices don’t develop as expected.         By contrast, Stern is anything but taci- the umbrella of a corporate group. The        aware of the difficulties in having to tread
                                                                                    And another thing: I think the prices peo-     turn about the significance of the compa-    shareholders would be more interested in      in the footsteps of such a successful fa-
SPOTLIGHT - PATEK PHILIPPE - WatchTime
history: PAtEK PhiLiPPE

                                         ther. “But I’d rather be in this situation
                                         than any other,” he says. “I’m very proud
                                         of what he’s achieved, and I hope I can
                                         accomplish something similar, possibly
                                         even better. Why not? But there’s a lot to
                                         learn, first.”
                                             He has no lack of role models. History is
                                         always a presence at Patek Philippe.
                                         Philippe Stern, a graduate in business ad-
                                         ministration and a seasoned manager, is at
                                         Thierry’s side to help. He sent Thierry to
                                         Germany to gather retail experience at
                                         Wempe and Huber. And in New York,
                                         where his grandfather Henri once did such
                                         important developmental work, Thierry
                                         Stern learned to handle distribution for an
                                         entire country. He also completed a course
                                         in watchmaking. Now he’s back at the
                                         head office in Geneva, working his way
                                         through all departments. As president-
                                         designate, he has to know all the different
                                                        things that go on in the
                                                        company. The competition
                                                        never sleeps, and avid in-
                                                        vestors are just waiting for a
                                                        chance to add this priceless
   Movement of a Patek Philippe                         pearl to their portfolio.
   pocket watch with a screw com-                       Which is one major reason             Exclusive limited-edition watches: To celebrate the opening of the new watchmaking workshops in 1997, the Pagoda (top left)
                                                                                              was produced in an edition of 2,000 men’s models (Ref. 5500) and 750 ladies’ models (Ref. 4900). The self-winding minute repeater
   pensation balance, typical index                     why Thierry Stern repeated-
   cam for the regulator adjuster, and                                                        (Ref. 5029), commemorating the same event, was produced in a strictly limited edition of only 30 watches (top right). On the
                                                        ly emphasizes that preserv-           occasion of its 150th anniversary in 1989, Patek Philippe launched several new models, among them the Ref. 3969, a men’s watch
   the Geneva Seal (bottom left)                        ing independence is his top           with a jumping digital hour indicator (edition of 500, bottom left) and the officer’s watch (Ref. 3960, edition of 2,200,bottom
                                                        goal. “My father laid the             right), modeled after an original dating from 1916.
   Right: Cover of the first edition
   of “Keyless Watches” by Adrien                       groundwork. Our manufac-
   Philippe, Paris 1863                                 tory couldn’t be better, the
                                                        collection is just right. I’ll fol-
   View of the old city with the lake                   low him, of course, in keep-
   and the fountain, 1886                               ing complicated watches
                                                        and developing new cal-
                                                        ibers. And for the rest, I
                                                        have to give a great deal of
                                                        attention to sales and the
                                                        creative side. Both are very
                                                        important for keeping
                                         Patek Philippe at the top.”
                                             A small portion of all that Patek
                                         Philippe has achieved in technology and
                                         watchmaking over more than 160 years
                                         is gathered in a prestigious collection that
                                         now comprises more than 2,000 pocket
                                         watches and wristwatches. A representa-
                                         tive sample of these will be on display at
                                         the company’s new museum starting in
                                         the autumn of 2001. Then, anyone who
                                         is interested can experience the great tra-
                                         dition of this Geneva family firm first-
                                         hand. And discover that historical reality
                                         at Patek Philippe is far more fascinating
                                         than any words or pictures can explain.
                                                                  Gisbert L. Brunner
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