You are currently viewing Interview: Patek Philippe Boss Thierry Stern On Ukraine, Rolex, His Succession Plan, His Personal Collection – And, Yes, The Tiffany Nautilus

Interview: Patek Philippe Boss Thierry Stern On Ukraine, Rolex, His Succession Plan, His Personal Collection – And, Yes, The Tiffany Nautilus

Excessive above the trade-show flooring, Thierry Stern bursts right into a convention room carrying a navy go well with with a Calatrava cross pinned to the lapel, simply above his coronary heart. It is the third day of Watches and Wonders, in his hometown of Geneva, and the president of Patek Philippe has already launched his new items: Particularly, a three-handed Calatrava, an Annual Calendar Journey Time, an enamel worldtimer, and a perpetual calendar with a salmon dial.

Simply as important as what he unveiled is what he did not: A sequel to the Nautilus 5711, the stainless steel sport watch which has spent the previous few years so coveted that it threatened to eclipse every part else Patek makes. In 2021, for the sake of total model integrity, Stern killed the golden goose and discontinued the 5711. The reference formally led to December with a special-edition farewell of 170 blue-dial items in collaboration with Tiffany & Co., a licensed Patek Philippe vendor. The goodbye despatched collectors into convulsions and, after all, solely made the Nautilus extra precious.

Thierry Stern

Arguably an important particular person in your entire watch business, Stern is 51 years previous with a barrel chest and skinny brown hair, which he wears swept again as if blown by the breeze on a yacht. He has the thick arms of a butcher, the irrepressible confidence of a prizefighter, and the online value of a small nation-state. He has managed Patek Philippe since 2009, when he took over from his father. And his personal succession plan is the topic of fixed scuttlebutt, as are the futures of his sons Adrien (age 20) and Tristan (19).

Patek Philippe is, in spite of everything, watchmaking’s most hallowed identify. Different firms are older (like Vacheron) or extra productive (like Rolex). However none can match Patek’s status, acquired over two centuries of hand-crafting elegant watches for dignitaries and aristocrats. These days its viewers has undergone a generational shift. In 2017, one out of each three songs on the Billboard Sizzling 100 talked about Patek in a lyric. Rappers perceive that Patek Philippe is synonymous with luxurious, and can also be enjoyable to rhyme. And so forth high of all of the landed gentry who need and even perhaps really feel entitled to personal a Patek, the model is going through equal demand from a younger moneyed viewers raised on road tradition and hip-hop and speedy gratification.

On the heart of this maelstrom is Stern, who has loads to say about the entire above within the following dialog – his solely trade-show interview with an American publication.

Thierry Stern

HODINKEE: The Annual Calendar Journey Time has eight patents. You additionally simply launched a brand new perpetual calendar, and a brand new world timer. I learn these as a reminder to anyone who has Nautilus fatigue that Patek nonetheless does severe issues higher than anyone. Am I misreading that?

Thierry Stern: No. It is proper. The Nautilus, for me, is only one watch of the gathering and I used to be by no means actually so eager to push the Nautilus to this point. It is simply that the purchasers have been loopy about it. For me, it is fairly logical to all the time convey these Calatrava traces, Ellipse, semi-complications, and grand issues. Patek Philippe has all the time been very sturdy within the business as a result of we’re launching plenty of totally different fashions – and this may by no means change. So that you’re completely proper. We now have to point out that we will all the time do lovely motion innovation and in addition lovely circumstances. And Nautilus or Aquanaut are simply one of many line. I would like to design a brand new Calatrava as a result of the problem is far more thrilling.

It isn’t solely the Nautilus who’s the troublemaker. It is all of them.

Do you’re feeling reduction? You appear relieved.

I do not say reduction as a result of it is not completed. There’ll all the time be demand for the Nautilus. However look, the demand for the easy Calatrava 6119 from final 12 months, it is also an enormous downside. We now have an enormous demand for that. So it is not solely the Nautilus who’s the troublemaker. It is all of them.

You are carrying a 6007 right this moment, sure?


How do you resolve what to put on to a public occasion like this?

As a result of that was the one one I had in my drawer. [laughter] No, I’ve just a few at dwelling, however I like her – I feel she’s a pleasant watch, simple to put on. I do not actually have a situation the place I say, ‘Okay, right this moment I am gonna put on this or that,’ or ‘I’ve to put on this piece as a result of I am gonna see this individual.’ For me, it is a pleasure to put on a watch. So that you take a look at them within the morning, you take a look at the way you costume, and also you say, ‘Okay, I like this one.’ That is the way it ought to go. It is precisely like discovering your tie or your sneakers.

I feel lots of people could be fascinated to listen to what your private assortment is like.

It is cool. I wouldn’t have tons of of items. In my household, the pleasure is to design them. That is what drives me. I like to design. I like to think about an advanced motion. That is implausible. I can perceive, for a consumer, his dream is to put on a watch. However additionally they have to grasp that my dream is to design them. As soon as it is performed, I am already on one other planet. I am already working for 2023-24. So in my assortment, I’d say I’ve 15 items.

All Patek?

Yeah. All Patek. I’ve had totally different ones since I used to be younger. I’ve a 5056 – I like her as a result of 5056 platinum was the annual calendar. And that was my first watch with a grey dial, which did not exist at Patek earlier than. That is additionally a pleasant reminiscence for me as a result of it was a battle with my dad on the time to say we must always launch this grey dial. And he was saying, ‘This isn’t what we’re used to doing.’ And I stated, ‘However Dad, we additionally should innovate a bit of bit.’ In order that’s why I prefer to put on this 5056 platinum. 

After which, after all, I’ve my sporty watch. I’ve an Aquanaut – it is a easy one which I prefer to put on once I go on holidays or once I go swimming. I even have one known as a 5970, yellow gold. That is, for me, perhaps the nicest one I’ve as a result of I needed to design the case. It was very, very difficult as a result of the earlier one, 3970, was an icon watch. So when it’s a must to redesign a case that can have the identical motion, however the earlier case was an icon, that is a problem. Usually it is practically unimaginable. And the 5970 was even higher – my dad informed me that. And consider me, he is not simple. So that is actually my favourite watch. If you wish to know what I like and what I see in my thoughts, it is all the time the 5970 fashion.

You talked about your ardour for design, and also you’re well-known for being far more concerned than many executives are within the design course of. Many executives will see a design, approve it or give notes – and that is it. How early are you concerned?

Oh, because the starting. For instance, I’ve three conferences per week by way of design – plus additionally the uncommon handcrafts. I begin from scratch. The toughest half is to have the concept. While you begin from, as an instance, an image of a watch and also you simply have to alter the colour of the dial, that is simple. However when you might have a clean paper and say, what ought to we do? What sort of motion, what sort of form of the case? That is what I like.

That is actually vital as a result of at Patek Philippe, it has all the time been the household who’s designing the items. And because of this you all the time have this DNA with a sure continuity. Each member of the household at one level will become older and perhaps much less inventive by way of innovation – not by way of watches, as a result of the older you get the extra expertise you might have – however you additionally have to have the youthful era to convey you new colours, new concepts. That is what I am instructing my sons, really.

I am not good at drawing, however I’ve a superb one that helps me with that. And he is designing the items – after which we modify. While you understand a brand new Patek, very hardly ever are you able to solely make one drawing. You want about 10 to twenty drawings earlier than you may say it seems to be good.

You talked about your sons. You have stated many instances that you just will not power your sons to take over the enterprise. If they do not wish to, what is the contingency plan?

Effectively, then we’ll have a CEO who will take over and I will bounce ahead one other era – so simple as that. However now it is not the case as a result of each of them are keen to work at Patek. And so they’re having fun with it. Sorry [as if on cue, his phone rings] certainly one of them is looking me now.

[he speaks in French to his son for exactly seven seconds]

So that you see, it is actually their alternative. I by no means push them. And now they’re very blissful.

Tiffany Nautilus on a wrist

Picture, James Ok./@waitlisted.

At HODINKEE, certainly one of our hottest tales in current reminiscence was the disclosing of the Tiffany Nautilus. Whose thought was that?

In fact, it is me. As a result of I do know the U.S. market very nicely. I do know Tiffany very nicely. Once more, there may be not an enormous staff of creatives at Patek. All of us have to have a superb capability at Patek, and my capability is to grasp the industrial aspect and the design and the motion aspect. So for me, it was fairly logical. I stated to everyone: On the finish of 2021, it is over with the 5711. And once I introduced again the inexperienced dial, I stated that is the final collection of Nautilus like that. Then I stated, okay, let’s make actually the ultimate version for Tiffany. They deserve it as a result of we’ve been working so lengthy with them. It was their a hundred and seventieth anniversary. Plus, the truth that LVMH purchased them – if you purchase one thing for practically $16 billion, it is not one thing you see on daily basis. We’re companions with Tiffany. I’d additionally like to stick with Tiffany. In order that’s why I made a decision to do it.

That watch retailed for $52,000 and offered for $6.5 million.

Just one, for a charity. Yeah.

I am not going to make an unpleasant watch, you already know? So I am trapped.

How do you concentrate on the distinction between your retail worth and what you already know is the precise market worth of your product?

You possibly can’t actually plan it. We all know after we’re doing such a restricted quantity that there will probably be an enormous distinction available in the market. However for me, what I anticipate is to promote it to the correct one that’s not going to promote it. It doesn’t all the time work like this – there are plenty of items within the parallel market. It’s kind of unhappy, but it surely’s additionally a part of the success. How do I do know and the way can I calculate? I am unable to.

Do you care about how your items carry out at public sale and at classic gross sales? Does the resale market and resale worth of Patek matter to you?

I care. I’ve to concentrate on it. I feel that is essential. It is a part of our historical past. We now have to just accept it. It isn’t what I like, however alternatively it is also a pleasant reward. Which means we did one thing good. I do know folks can blame me and say, ‘Yeah, however Mr. Stern, it is so costly if I wish to purchase a watch available on the market.’ Okay, but it surely’s not my fault. I am not going to make an unpleasant watch, you already know? So I am trapped.

It is clear that curiosity in watches has reached an all-time excessive.

Yeah. It is rising.

As have costs. Are we in a bubble proper now? Or is that this the brand new regular for the watch market?

It is troublesome for me to reply, as a result of I am solely working for Patek. However I do not suppose we’re in a bubble. I feel that is regular right this moment. There’s plenty of newcomers they usually take pleasure in watches. They should see these mechanical watches an increasing number of on this digital world. I feel it is one thing essential. Individuals recognize it. It seems to be easy. It seems to be secure. And sure, it is true, it is also an funding. I do not prefer to say it, however when I’ve folks shopping for a watch I do know a few of them won’t ever put on it. They’re going to put it within the secure, increase. What can I do? That is a part of the sport.

Future wearing a Patek Philippe watch

You talked about youthful prospects, youthful collectors, and an entire new viewers discovering the model. Within the U.S. – I do not find out about in Europe – a technique that younger folks uncover Patek Philippe is thru music, particularly hip-hop. And I am certain you have heard the statistic concerning the variety of hip-hop songs that point out Patek Philippe.

Oh, I did not see the statistic. However my son confirmed me some movies.

I all the time favored the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. I want I may have made one.

Did Patek do something to make that occur? Has that occurred organically? What do you make of that phenomenon?

I did not do something. I simply suppose that everyone likes watches. So I feel that these people who find themselves carrying Patek, they prefer it as a result of they know it is creative. They know it is not that simple to create one thing like that. It is like a superb music: I can’t consider you may make an amazing music in simply two hours. It takes time. It takes expertise. You could have the voice, you might have the music, you might have every part.

So I’d say that the similarity appears to be fairly clear for me – however musicians will not be the one ones. We now have all the time been working with well-known folks. It may be a singer, but it surely may also be a dancer. The humanities are one thing that we change between us, and we’re speaking artwork right here. You possibly can just like the music or not – this isn’t vital for me. It is artwork.

While you go searching, what different watchmaker do you admire proper now?

Rolex, I’d say, is all the time doing good work. I respect them by way of amount. With the ability to produce over 1,000,000 watches with all the time a stability by way of manufacturing. That is, for me, spectacular.

After which there are many different watches that I like, however not essentially the model – it doesn’t suggest I like all their different ones. For instance, I all the time favored the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. I want I may have made one. We now have one within the museum, a Patek Reverso. I used to be very tempted to do my very own Reverso, however I do not suppose it is honest – that is Jaeger’s fashion, and that is how it’s. I’ve to just accept it.

All the brand new know-how, I am not too impressed. I’ve been raised differently. I am working with gold, which is a superb factor. So the carbon and all of that, okay, it is fascinating. But it surely would not attraction to me – and I do not suppose it lasts, to be frank. So this, I am not . However what was additionally good? There are loads. I feel Bovet did some good enamel items.

You stated one thing just lately that I believed was fascinating. You stated that conflict has grow to be a a lot better hazard than COVID. The precise comment was, “a conflict someplace will have an effect in every single place.” So I needed to marvel: How does this conflict in Ukraine impression Patek?

In the truth that folks have concern. I see that additionally by way of the eyes of my youngsters. They do not perceive. They are saying, ‘however how can we nonetheless have this in 2022? How can we kill folks like that right this moment?’ They by no means had the prospect to ever see a conflict. Myself, the identical. And right this moment, we’re speaking a few conflict that is near us. And sure, it makes you panic a bit of bit.

So that is what I imply. It isn’t about enterprise, as a result of sadly there was all the time a conflict all over the world. And by chance for Patek, as we’ve a small amount, we will all the time shift the quantity of watches. So if one place is in peril – it may be conflict, but it surely may also be an financial downside – I shift the watches elsewhere. That is simple for me.

However the conflict, what I don’t like is that it offers you concern and you do not really feel comfy, and this isn’t good. I am so blissful to be within the watch business as a result of I give pleasure to folks. That is, for me, an important half. I want that it will be like this all all over the world. However human as we’re, I do not suppose it would occur.

One factor I’ve observed is that regardless of how lengthy your model has been round, regardless of how standard it will get, folks disagree about easy methods to pronounce it. Is it PA-tek or Pa-TEK?

Pa-TEK. The second syllable. In fact, in several international locations it is totally different. However keep away from Philippe Patek.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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