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The Ten Commandments of Patek Philippe.

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Like a teenager that’s moved out for the first time, Patek is left alone to do its laundry.

I worked for a bank for about three months a couple of years ago. Safe to say, it was terrible.
Angry customers on the phone, annoyingly positive managers and bland office vibes. All things that contributed to my premature but swift exit from the industry forever.
Some might say that working there was a waste of time, and some would be right, however, some might also be wrong.

You see, in the lift that took me to this nightmare of a place, there was a screen.
Flashing before my eyes as my dreams dried up were the banks' corporate values.

“Inclusion”
“Culture”
“Integrity”

That last one is a little rich for a bank…

What did all of that bullshit even mean? Did it properly reflect the values of the bank, or was it just a way to reward you for stepping into that elevator one more time. As you speed head first into the next worst day of your life?

The second one probably…

Although most companies offer only surface level commitments, there are still some out there that have leaned heavily into their values.

Patek Philippe is one such company.

Philippe Stern and his son Theirry
Philippe Stern and his son Theirry

In 2004, Philippe Stern introduced ten corporate values that Patek Philippe lives by to this day. At first glance, they look like any other list of vague marketing slogans. Dive a little deeper, however, and you will see substance below the surface.

Independence

Kicking off our list is Independence.
Like a teenager that’s moved out for the first time, Patek is left alone to do its laundry.

In 1932, the stern family, former dial makers, purchased Patek Philippe, and It’s been in their hands ever since.
The benefits of not being under the umbrella of a group like LVMH or Swatch, Is that the leadership at Patek aren’t pressured by shareholders. They have total creative freedom and can produce watches that may not have massive commercial viability. Like the newly released Auquanaught minute repeater. Absolutely ridiculous.

It also allowed Theirry Stern to buy a yacht. Seriously. It’s called the nautilus, obviously.

Tradition

Patek prides themselves on being a bridge between the past and the future of watchmaking. This duality is apparent when you look at their movements. They are incredibly intricate and are made using largely traditional techniques, yet they still embrace the future. They do things the old way when it’s necessary, but as you will see in the next point, they aren’t afraid of pushing boundaries either.

Innovation

In stark contrast to the above and in what may be a point that’s a little harder to see, Innovation is at the core of what Patek Philippe does.
Although, to me, innovation in mechanical watches seems a little irrelevant. To innovate means to make something work better in the real world. With this in mind, If you truly want to improve a watch, you would slap a battery and some transistors in there and call it an Apple Watch.
Innovation of this kind is like trying to make your VCR work better when you could just watch Netflix.

For all of you too young to know what a VCR is, ask your parents.

Patek’s technical achievements, The Gyromax escapement and the use of silicone, are a couple of examples of their innovation. However, I’ve heard they are cutting the production of their silicone, moving back to more traditional alloys. My guess as to why would be for long-term serviceability. Sometimes taking a step back is the best way to move forward.

Quality and fine workmanship

When founding Patek Philippe, Antoine Norbert de Patek and Adrien Philippe sat down with each other over some freshly curdled cheese, and devised a plan. They would, from this moment onwards, make only the finest watches the world has ever seen. And, we mustn’t forget, eat only cheese produced with quality Swiss milk…

Antoine Norbert de Patek and Jean Adrien Philippe
Antoine Norbert de Patek and Jean Adrien Philippe

Ok, that didn’t actually happen, but you get the idea.

The Patek Philippe Seal
The Patek Philippe Seal

In more recent times, one cannot talk about quality without mentioning the Patek Philippe Seal.
Causing an outrage in 2009, Patek requested the standards for the Geneva seal to be lifted. Brands using the Geneva seal at the time obviously didn’t like that, and the request was rejected. So in a classic “fuck it, I’ll do it myself" move, the big wigs came up with their own certification standard and called it the Patek Philippe Seal.
They say it’s the most exclusive watchmaking standard in the industry and well, I guess they are right… but of course, they are. Patek are the only company that uses it.

Well played.

The caseback of the 5236P.
The caseback of the 5236P. One of the best.

Rarity

This one is no surprise, walk in to any AD, and you’ll be met with empty shelves and a disinterested sales associate. It’s frustrating, so why are Patek Proud enough about their lack of stock that they will add it to their list of values?

Well, believe it or not, people do buy their watches, and when they do, it’s special. Not only from an experience perspective, but just because it doesn’t happen very often. It’s very unlikely you will see someone wearing one outside instagram.
Patek also makes 70k watches a year and distributes to over 350 retailers worldwide. Do the math!

Value

Historically, this year aside, watches made by Patek Philippe have held their value monetarily. But I feel there is another ‘value’ that some people deem more important. Social status.
If you wear a Patek, the value is in how it makes you feel, within the context that this kind of thing matters, of course.

John Mayer wearing an Aquanaught Travel Time
There's value in looking like John Mayer wearing an Aquanaught Travel Time

Aesthetics

This Is an interesting one for me. Patek makes some beautiful watches, don’t get me wrong, but they also, subjectively, make some absolute dogs. (Sorry Theirry). Each to their own, I guess.

Alright, who thought this dial was a good idea?!

Everything you see on the dial of a Patek must be functional first. If something doesn’t increase the readability or is a specific aesthetic choice (artistic handcrafts) it won’t be included. You will never see a tourbillon visible through an aperture on the dial, for example. It would only distract from the intended function of the watch.

The 6119 Calatrava is pretty much perfect.

Service

Every single watch produced since 1839 is serviceable and repairable by the Manufacture. To achieve this, when producing watches, they also produce a surplus of parts that will be enough to sustain them for decades. Impressive considering the number of calibers they have produced.

Emotion

You know, like when you cry in front of your AD when they say they won’t give you a 5712.

What… you haven’t done that?

I’m sure you have heard the slogan “You don’t own a Patek Philippe, you just hold on to it for future generations”. It  triggers your emotions, makes you think of your children, and helps you justify purchasing something expensive.

Patek Philippe Ad
If this doesn't make you want a 5712, I don't know what will.

At the end of the day, all luxury watches are emotional purchases. So it makes sense that they would play to their strengths here. It baffles me that more brands don’t do it. Just focusing on the specs of a watch isn’t enough to make you fall in love with it anymore.

Heritage

Following on from Tradition, the Heritage of Patek Philippe is one of family, (nepotism?). Since 1932 the company has been passed down from father to son multiple times, and they want to continue that tradition with the watches that they sell. Maybe you will pass your Patek down to your family, building your own heritage as you go.

Philippe Stern and Theirry Stern
Nepotism or Heritage?

Patek Philippe is one of those brands that seems like a black box. A dark cave full of secrets, only revealed to each member of the Stern family one after the other.
As you look further into it, and get past the blinding lights of the nautilus and aqua naught hype, you can see that Patek Philippe is a company that wears their hearts on their sleeves. All of these values are clear to see.

We can be cynical all day about how these brands act in this industry that we love, but isn’t it nice to take a break from it all and appreciate the values that truly make them special?

Ok, back to the cynicism.

Cya in the next one.

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