Thierry Stern, fourth generation to lead the Patek Philippe watch brand, is at once genuine in his passion for watches and sincere in his oath to continually strive to be the best. In an exclusive interview in Beverly Hills a few days ago with this global president of what is the benchmark gold standard in Swiss watch brands, Thierry Stern admitted that the brand is not perfect – but insists this is the reason they continue to innovate.
“We are not perfect; we make mechanical watches. Sometimes a tiny little something can go wrong,” says Thierry Stern, who is quick to note that the rate of returns for service for the brand are in the couple of percentile vs. the industry norm of about 10 to 15 percent. “We do all we can do to make each watch as exactly and precisely as possible so that it can be passed on for generations.”
Indeed, at the event where we had our exclusive interview (see the story here), Patek Philippe was gathering an incredible number of minute repeaters together in one room, and also bringing dozens of chronographs and historical pieces for collectors and retailers to view. The question, “Why bother to go to all this effort and expense when you are Patek Philippe and everyone knows you are good?” was never asked because Stern circumvented it right off the bat.
“This is the first-ever such event we are doing in the United States,” says Stern (noting that another will take place next month in New York). “It is rare to have so many important pieces together in the US, but we need to do it because there are other good brands out there and it is important to show the customers that you are active and always there for them. You can’t just take your position for granted; you have to work for it.”
Work is something that the Stern family enjoys and Thierry says he particularly loves his role as keeper of the sound in the brand’s minute repeaters. Each time a minute repeater is completed by a watchmaker (who has had 15 years of training before he can even work on a minute repeater), it is brought to Thierry Stern to listen to and affix his personal stamp of approval. One that is not given lightly.
“Of five watches, I usually reject one – mostly because it can be improved upon. The sound can be louder, stronger, richer or more
harmonious. When a customer is willing to spend $300,000 to $700,000 on a watch it has to be as close to perfect as possible,” says Stern, who spent years in his youth with the company listening to repeaters when his father was at the helm. “If we can’t get it right, then we have to melt down the case and start again. It is sad, but it happens. Sometimes it is just some flaw in the case.”
Thierry Stern also shared with us his views on chronographs and on the challenges of the watch industry today. Stay tuned for future posts.