Exclusive interview with Mr. Thierry Stern, President of Patek Philippe.
The change in the brand since Mr. Thierry Stern joined Patek Philippe in 2010
How do you keep the traditions of such a well-established brand alive?
Being a family owned company, since the beginning of our history we have worked and lived by our values, our independence gives us the freedom to do so, to think and act long-term. Most importantly we have a tradition of innovation, so we evolve in a constant way in respect of our history, know-how and by creating new innovative watches in terms of quality, dependability, technical with new movements, functions and of course the aesthetics. Our goal is to make our client dream, we have to surprise them with new creations in line with our DNA. The challenge is to create a very attractive watch of today that you can wear for a long time.
Similar to the emergence of the quartz watches in the 1980s, today the mechanical watch industry is facing new threats from the popular ‘smart’ watches. Do you think this new technology can affect the luxury watch industry?
When you make technical mechanical watches, as we create and produce them, you are different, this is what will maintain our success. We are confident, our future is good, because we know where we are going, my program of development and new creations is already planned until year 2030. We also see that there is a lot of interest from younger generations of clients and potential clients for the world of fine watchmaking, this interest was once more confirmed to us during our last Grand Exhibition that took place in New York last July and that was opened to the public, the most important number of visitors was of the age group from 25 to 35.
Patek Phillippe watches continually break records at auctions, do you get surprised by the prices reached by some pieces?
From 1839 until today, without interruption in our production, we aim at making watches following our founders’ vision to make the best watches in the world, in terms of quality, technically and aesthetics, these are founding elements that answer collectors main criteria, such as rarity, quality and provenance. Yes sometimes we are surprised, but of course this is a very good sign of the trust collectors place in our brand.
Many watch brands rise to popularity but do not stand the test of time, what is the secret is behind Patek Phillippe’s longevity and iconic status?
Creating watches is our passion and our métier, long term vision is our guiding rule, we do not come from the financial world, so we have no short term marketing quick return on investment strategy or opportunistic behavior, we are family owned and this gives us the freedom to be different and hopefully stand the test of time for the many years to come.
What is your favourite watch of all time?
I am asked this question often, but no I do not have a favourite Patek Philippe watch, I am totally involved at every step of creation of our watches, it’s my passion and am proud of what we propose to our clients. Maybe there is one watch creation I am particularly proud of because it was for me a “rite of passage”, when my father asked me to redesign the famous Ref. 3970, he said “It’s a beautiful watch, but now you have to find a new design”. It was a huge challenge and so the Ref. 5970 expresses all the passion, respect and knowledge I have for Patek Philippe.
Mr. Thierry Stern, the person that always wanted to work for Patek Philippe
What did you want to be when you were a child?
From my youngest age and as far as I can remember I always wanted to work for Patek Philippe, I am born in a family watch company and I have never asked myself the question what should I do in future, the answer was always crystal clear to me.
What is the best advice you have been given?
Never sell the company.