Patek Philippe President Watches: the future is technology

In a recent interview to Forbes’ Ariel Adams, Mr Thierry Stern, President Watches at Patek Philippe spoke about the crucial role of technology in every aspect of watchmaking, from design, production to marketing and customer service. According to Mr Stern, today’s watchmaking is about a very good production which can only be achieved by building up personalized machines. ”You have to be able to build your own machine and we do that with our partners and internal technicians”.

According to Thierry Stern, a successful watch maker needs to be able to implement technology also in terms of materials used. ”Today, with silicone, we can create parts which are half the size of a hair piece. Patek has been testing internally silicon based technology for the past 10 years”. Mr Stern also insists that the implementation of technology takes time and needs to be done step by step ”We work closely with partners to create our machines, we consult with professors at universities, here in Switzerland and abroad” adding ” You have to be visionnary and realistic at the same time in order to achieve long term credibility”.

Asked about the importance of customer service, Mr Stern said ”Customer service is not about being fast. When you take your car to a repair shop they do not need to open the entire car to fix it. In the case of a watch, we need to open the entire watch and the process takes time”. He also added that customers need to be reassured that the watchmaker is able to repair a watch in the future too and that is why, Patek keeps a stock of old watches as well as parts which it can reproduce. ”For Patek, the danger is the time…customers need to understand it takes time to repair or refurbish a watch”. In order to optimize the time for customer service, Patek has 57 after service centers around the world, however, the most complicated pieces are always brought to Geneva. ”We need to train more watchmaker but this takes time, too”.

Talking about the importance of the internet, Mr Thierry Stern believes it is a great tool to create awareness and educate existing and potential customers. ”But even when it comes to a video you post on the internet, what you say, you have to be able to do it”. ”Creating a quality video showing our manufacturing process takes time and we take things step by step, although clients may have a need to show it all at once”. In terms of business, Mr Stern said that the internet should not be a reason for companies like Patek to change their strategies. ”For us, inviting customers to our factory remains the most important sales tool. Unfortunately, we cannot invite thousands of people, that is why, the internet is a great tool to show our work”.

When asked by Adams what he thought about the importance of retail experience, Mr Stern said that although the internet provides shopping tools, advice and service are best performed by retailers. ”The role of a sales consultant is both to teach and give advice. They would know the perfect gift for your wife when you are in a rush”.

Answering the question on how Patek maintains its values on the long term, Mr Stern had a short anwer ”Being honest!”

Ariel Adams is a contributor for Forbes Magazine

Thierry Stern, President Patek Philippe Watches