Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe opens its doors in Bangkok, 160 years after launching the first keyless winder
Patek Philippe finally opened its first boutique at Bangkok's Siam Paragon last week, joining the growing ranks of leading luxury Swiss watch brands that occupy the capital's shopping complexes. The flagship store arrived in town with Patek Philippe's 2011 Basel Collection, unveiled to a gathering of enthusiasts by Patek president Thierry Stern, who had flown in specially for the opening.
Joining Stern at the launch were celebrated Thai watch collectors Phao Sarasin and Jamnong Bhirombhakdi in addition to top execs from leading watch brands. Phumiphan Bunyapamai, chairman of TKI Perpetual, the exclusive importer of Patek Philippe, was also on hand.
They were there to hear the success story of this venerable Swiss watch brand, culminating in the Basel 2011, its latest collection.
Patek Philippe began life in 1839 when two Polish immigrants, businessman Antoni Patek and watchmaker Franciszek Czapek, founded Patek, Czapek & Cie in Geneva. In 1844, Patek met the French watchmaker Adrien Philippe in Paris where the latter presented his pioneering stem winding and setting system by the crown.
The company was renamed Patek & Cie in 1845 when Czapek left, then became Patek Philippe & Cie with Philippe's arrival.
The Stern family led by brothers Charles and Jean Stern, themselves owners of a fine dial manufacturer in Geneva, took over the business in 1932 before renaming it Patek Philippe SA, a strictly family-owned business.
In 2009, Philippe Stern stepped down as president, and his son Thierry assumed the title, representing the fourth generation of the Stern family that have run Patek Philippe since 1932.
Thierry was only seven when his father became president in 1977. He grew up with a collection of beautiful Patek Philippe pocket watches kept in his father's desk which went on to form the centrepiece of the brand's own museum. These include an 1852 watch featuring Adrien Philippe's keyless winding system and an enamel portrait of George Washington. Britain's Queen Victoria was among those who admired the world's first keyless watches unveiled at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851.
Thierry Stern runs Patek Philippe as a family tradition that jealously guards its autonomy. "Independence enables us to pursue our long-term objectives," he explains.
Stern is proud of the 2011 Basel collection that promises to delight admirers of haute horlogerie with its focus on so-called grand complication watches.
The collection includes highly complex masterpieces of micro-mechanical ingenuity, featuring combinations of minute repeaters, perpetual calendars, tourbillons, and/or chronographs. For the first time in the history of Patek Philippe, the line-up also includes grand complication wristwatches for ladies.
Thirteen timepieces from the collection were unveiled at the opening.
For men, the 5270G model enriches its classic chronograph with a perpetual calendar function. This grand complication watch features the new-calibre CH 29-535 PS Q column-wheel chronograph movement. The day and the month are displayed in a double aperture at 12 o'clock and the date is indicated with a hand, with leap year and day/night indication in apertures.
The 5164A model, also for men, features two hour hands for two time zones - local time and home time. It also features the convenience of the new self-winding calibre 324 S C FUS movement, with day/night indication in apertures. The dial sports two day/night indicators and an analogue date.
For the ladies, among others there's the 7130G model, Patek Philippe's famous World Time watch that simultaneously indicates the time in all 24 zones. The new white-gold version with a diamond-studded bezel and a hand-guilloched ivory-opaline dial is the perfect companion for women set on exploring the continents. It houses a mechanical self-winding movement, calibre 240HU, a sapphire crystal case back and a shiny, dark, hand-stitched alligator strap.
As the watchmaker likes to point out, you never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation. That's what Patek Philippe is all about.
Check out the Basel Collection 2011 at the Patek Philippe Boutique on the M floor of Siam Paragon. The collection is on show through Thursday.
For more, visit www.Patek.com.