You never really own a Patek Phillippe. You merely take care of it for the next generation.
So the big first step, I would say, in the Patek Phillippe history chart is when Adrien Phillippe created what’s called the “Keyless Winding Mechanism”. Basically, it’s the original version of your watch being able to be wound just by a crown. Before this time, people would have to have a little … You have a pocket watch, and you actually have a little key that would be attached to your pocket watch that you’d have to keep with you, and that’s actually how you would wind your mechanism on the outside.
Mr. Phillippe, seeing that this was going unwanted; to really make an impact on watch making and wanted to kind of change how we did things and make it a little more convenient, so he actually made the system. Now at first, not a lot of people really were attracted to this and as with all things, change never comes easy, especially when it’s big change, right? And after him and Mr. Antoine Patek came together was when they really could flourish and make some really unique watches, especially using this keyless system. Definitely, one of the pivotal moments in the history of Patek and Phillippe.
Another great thing happened; I think it was around 1851 at the Great World Faire. This was where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert purchased a few pieces from Patek Phillippe. People with high stand-in and royal and social circles paid money for the watches because even at that time, the craftsmanship was outstanding, and it was just something different and unique that you really didn’t see before.
Another really cool thing that happened was around 1935 or so. The Henri Stern watch agency actually started importing watches from Switzerland from Patek Phillippe into the US. Two very important things here. One: America, or North America, I should say, is one of the strongest collector ships or buying bases for the brand, and also the Henri Stern Watch Agency; that relationship would actually go on to be something way bigger than just a normal distribution relationship. Henri Stern’s family would actually go on to buy the Patek Phillippe company a few decades later.
To this day, a Stern family member is who runs the brand. So Thierry Stern is the current president of Patek Phillippe, and this is a gentleman who … You know, from a toddler, has been around Patek Phillippe watches, has worked every job inside the Patek Phillippe factor from the mail room up. What that gives you is somebody who is at the helm of the ship who knows how every nail has been nailed in; how every plank is there, how every stitch of your sail is going. So when heavy storms come, you have the guy that you want to really guide the whole ship through it.
Another big moment in the history of Patek Phillippe definitely has to be the introduction of the Nautilus in 1976. A Gerald Genta design; clean, classy steel watch on a steel bracelet. It was really something that was very different for its time. It really was a very polarizing thing, not that many people liked it. A lot of people hated it, in fact, but it’s something that showed, again, that Patek Phillippe is not afraid to change. And while they’re steeped in tradition and craftsmanship, they’re still willing to buck the trend a little bit, and what you got was a sports watch made by the hands of the masters.
A pivotal range I want to talk about a little bit is from 2013 to now. This is a time where we saw the brand do a lot of interesting things when it comes to the pricing of their watches. In 2013, there was anywhere from 5% to 10% decrease depending on where you were globally in the valuation of the brand. This was during the time where currencies were going a little bit crazy, and honestly, some things were just valued a little bit too high. What this showed is that Patek Phillippe wasn’t a brand that just steadily wanted to keep raising the prices of their product, but they understand the value of their pieces and what was a fair value for their product.
They’re also a brand that’s really in tune with their pre-owned market space and auction market space, and monitor things really, really well. A good example of that is this year, 2018, where the Patek Phillippe Nautilus Series, the 5711 and 5712 were both raised in prices. The demand for the piece is so strong that it’s created this kind of overlap in pre-owned effect where you have a piece that was retailing for $23,000, but on the auction block, it was going for $57,000, $60,000. This price increase, while it can be seen as some to grab a little bit of money, is actually to kind of balance out the market, in my opinion. What is great about this is, again, Patek Phillippe really listens to the market. They really see what’s going on, and they’re willing to change. They’re not stuck in their ways.
I’m CQ, and this is Pivotal Points in Patek Phillippe history.