Interview with Thierry Stern, President of Patek Philippe SA Geneve.
Patek Philippe has been creating luxury timepieces to the most exacting standards of excellence and class since 1839. Gulf Insider sits down with Thierry Stern, president of Patek Philippe and the fourth generation of the family to run one of the world’s most prestigious luxury watchmaking company.
Upon choosing to become part of the Patek Philippe family like his father and grandfather before him, Stern decided to excel and learn this industry starting from the ground up. After completing his business studies, he enrolled at the Watch Making School of Geneva for an accelerated two-year course to gain a deeper understanding on the intricacies of mechanical watchmaking. When asked why he chose to spend two years doing this, he replied that it is essential to have an in-depth knowledge of the product. It is also vital in maintaining credibility within the company as well as upholding respectful relations with the watchmakers and their clients. By knowing the intricacies of mechanical watchmaking, one learns the process along with the challenges a watchmaker faces during creation.
Stern said that takes a lot of passion in watchmaking as it is a very intricate creative process involving long hours and tiny pieces of machinery. He also added that it was hard to recruit a quality craftsman as it takes years of thorough training and experience for them to achieve the level they need for Patek Philippe.
When asked about the character of a watchmaker, he laughed and said “stubborn”, adding “quiet” and “open-minded” which sounded like strange requirements for a watchmaker. Stern went to elaborate that evolution is essential in the art of watchmaking. Patek Philippe is at the forefront of sparking innovations and Stern believes that it is vital for watchmakers to not just rely on traditions in order to produce watches that will last long term. “Fine watchmaking isn’t just about tradition. It is also about innovation”, he added. With that said, he shared with us that he’s currently looking way ahead for Patek Philippe. As Chairman of the group, Stern is expected to have a ten-year vision but he confided that he’s looking far beyond that; in fact, to the year 2032.
Patek Philippe remains to be one of the oldest independent family-owned watch brands in the world. Stern said that the greatest advantage of being a family-owned business is the freedom and independence in the sense that there is no pressure from any shareholders. He added that family ownership provides liberty from the demands and quarterly profit/loss statements. Belonging to a large group can result into a watch brand’s loss of identity, according to him. Independence allows Patek Philippe to have creative freedom and full control in everything they do.
When asked about the threat of technology to watchmaking companies, Stern is not concerned and did not seem to consider it as a danger at all. He said that a fine timepiece is something that is loved, kept and passed through generations – from father to son. “That’s not going to happen with an Apple watch”, he added. Many see that these computerized wristwatches are the biggest rivals to mechanical watches but luxury watch companies like Patek Philippe are in a different position. Patek Philippe’s timepieces are created and designed to be worn for decades and by generations. A Patek Philippe watch is not made just to know the time – it is in itself, a piece of art.
Patek Philippe has recently expanded its branch in Moda Mall.
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