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patek philippe’s president on why e-commerce is wrong for watches

by:KingKonree     2020-03-02
Published by Jack Forsteron Hodinkee.
I had a chance to sit down with my husband a few weeks ago.
Thierry Stern, I believe every Hodinkeereader knows him, he is, and is, already, the president of Patek Philippe.
In Switzerland, no watch brand can be like Patek.
Its historical combination, coupled with its never-produced anything other than the most upscale luxury watch, makes it a company that, despite sometimes controversial, still wins more general respect
And higher prices)
Than competitors.
It is also a fully privately held company and is still a family business. run—
Although this is not a unique position to occupy (
Love is a family-
Owned by the original founding family and privately held)
This is an increasingly rare world of luxury watches, dominated by large international luxury companies since the 1990 s and the 2000 s.
With all this in mind, I ask Sir.
Stern will share with us his thoughts on the past, present and future of Patek Philippe
And what it means under such a high demand, and how this will affect production and design decisions.
Jack Foster: It seems that Patek Philippe is different from other industries and occupies a unique position.
Do you think this is true? If so, why do you think this is true?
Thierry Stern: Well, I don\'t know if that\'s true.
I always say that we have to be careful that we are not the only one who offers a beautiful watch.
Now, perhaps the advantage we have is experience. . .
Over the years, we have made a lot of mistakes. through these mistakes, we have learned a lot.
So maybe that\'s the difference;
Now, we learn from these mistakes, and Patek Philippe may be better.
We strive to improve our products;
We have always maintained the same strategy.
It\'s still in the same family and it\'s been four generations now, which allows us to really trust a simple strategy to create the best and most beautiful watch in the world.
Also work with the best partners we can find around the world.
This makes it very special too.
Are we the best today?
I wouldn\'t say that because I know there are some very talented watchmakers, but as a company I definitely think we are one of the best watchmakers.
We have the right people, we have the right partners, and we have the right vision.
I think this is the most important thing today. . .
What would you like to do with your company?
We need to be really vigilant about what is Patek Philippe\'s vision.
People trust us. this is always the key.
If you trust a brand, I think it is the most important thing for me.
You know, people can trust me?
I don\'t want to fool people, I don\'t want to change anything with Patek.
I am just willing to improve the product, the design and the people around me.
Foster: especially in the past five years, we have seen more and more luxury watch brands.
Business direction.
Do you think it is still crucial to maintain a primary position in terms of human contact, showing existing and new customers the human elements of the watch?
Stern: If you\'re like me, if you\'re passionate about watches, I wouldn\'t say yes to e-commerce\"commerce.
Because if you\'re passionate, it\'s a pleasure to talk to someone who knows the watch, take a moment, have a cup of coffee and enjoy the different watches you\'re going to try.
This is something you can\'t find in your email. commerce . . . e-
Of course, I also use it to buy milk, water, jeans, but I\'m sorry if I want to buy something good, I\'m not willing to use e-commercecommerce.
This is about passion.
So, for me, I still think that where you have time, we need to really work with retailers. It\'s apleasure.
Otherwise, what will happen?
I mean, after a few years everyone will be lying in bed, working from bed and ordering everything over the Internet.
They don\'t need to move anymore.
What will your life be?
It has to stay as a pleasure.
I mean, you came to a beautiful place. . .
I think it\'s really part of your life.
So don\'t ruin your life just by standing in front of the screen. . .
You have legs. use them.
Foster: but one of the things you can do very effectively online, obviously, is to reach a wider audience and convey values that may not be easy to communicate.
Oh, of course. . .
Of course, it is very useful.
We used to have magazines. you can also surf the Internet today.
That\'s important, I agree.
But this is only part of it. . .
I have children. I know how they work.
They like to be educated online.
But they also like to have good books.
So we have to use both methods at the same time.
That\'s why I always say we have an evolutionary tradition.
We need to evolve, but we shouldn\'t always go too far.
Yes, the Internet is a great educational tool, but it is not the right tool to sell Patek Philippe.
Foster: Yes, the watch is not a piece of data. it is a physical object.
Your point is that to really understand it and make an informed decision about whether or not to include it in your life, you need to see it in person. STERN:Oh yeah.
We need at least two years, you know. . .
So, to be fair, I hope you can come and try it!
If you only want to order Patek online, it\'s not the same.
Where is happiness?
That\'s what I always wanted: you need to take the time to have fun trying your watch.
Because, I mean, never believe in pictures on the Internet. . .
Try it on your wrist and ask the right questions to the clerk and the retailer.
I think it\'s important.
It\'s like buying a car, and if you don\'t try your car, you may be disappointed that the seat doesn\'t fit you, the speedometer.
So, you need to try it.
I mean, they\'re waiting for you. they\'re good people.
It\'s very important that they listen to you all the time.
Don\'t forget, it\'s also important for me as these comments come back to me.
If you don\'t like this watch for any reason, I \'d be happy to get this feedback as well.
So maybe I can correct it.
So it\'s a complete network and I don\'t think it\'s ready to go away yet.
Foster: Over the past 20 years, I have seen a significant increase in American interest in fine tabulation.
Part of this is a huge demand for certain models, especially in the steel industry.
How do you balance demand and scarcity and avoid creating so many setbacks that it can actually backfire?
You can\'t handle it.
Many years ago, we made the choice that Patek Philippe will produce a certain percentage of steel watches.
You must understand this. . .
Our factory does not produce steel watches only. . .
Patek Philippe has been dealing with a variety of materials: platinum, rose gold, gold.
The same is true of steel watches, but the number is limited.
So, what should I do? I can\'t.
Sadly, I can\'t, so I\'m really sad when I hear this, yes, there\'s a waiting list for four years and eight years.
But this is also the charm of Patek.
Sorry, I can\'t produce too much if you want a nice watch.
I don\'t have a watchmaker and I don\'t have anyone who can do that.
I don\'t want to do that either.
Patek Philippe is still a small company,
We are willing to make the best watches in the world.
I use the quantity to set the limit because I know that on top of the quantity I do now, the quality will be hurt.
This is definitely not something I am willing to do, and I am sure the client is not willing to see this either.
Foster: As a result, the production of specific watch models has been rationalized around a series of supplier and tool processes, and it\'s not that you can switch from making a certain number of round gold watches to making a certain number of stainless steel sports watches.
Is there an inherent limitation?
Stern: there are some limitations that you have to understand and they have to understand, for example, I work for 2029 today.
In terms of action, I have to plan for a lot of things;
In terms of the case, we need two to three years in advance.
It takes time for all of this and I can\'t possibly add that.
The people I have today are the best, for example, it takes me 15 years to be able to train another watchmaker and buy the best watch.
So even if we decide to increase production today, it will take me 10 to 15 years to have these watchmakers.
Again, is this what I\'m willing to do?
No, because I know that if we overproduce, it is also dangerous for me in terms of quality, and it may also be dangerous for customers, also because the value of the watch may decline.
This is not what I am willing to do, and it is not what you are willing to accept as a customer.
If you buy a Patek Phillipe, the value of it must be left in place.
Of course, it may even increase depending on the model.
Foster: What would it be if you could open people\'s minds in this market, especially to get them to know more about Patek Phillipe?
Stern: Maybe you mentioned the stainless steel watch, but we have a lot of different models.
Don\'t forget, why does stainless steel work today?
I think it\'s also because of the watch industry that we do come from a bad time.
It could be the world.
So, they are starting to really look for stainless watches because the price is a bit low.
It suddenly became a trend. Why?
It\'s hard to say why, but the trend is coming.
So today, I want to say, it\'s a loop.
Today the circle is about steel.
When I grew up in the watch industry, we often said, \"it changes every seven years,\" and I firmly believe that today ,[trend for]
The steel gauge will also change.
Maybe not seven years, maybe three years, maybe ten years.
At Patek we have 140 different types of models.
You should learn to observe all of them.
Of course, steel is one of them. we may have three or four different models.
So, there are 136,135 different types of other watches that are made of different types of materials and you should also look at them.
The trend of steel is important, but this is just a moment in Patek Philippe\'s life.
It\'s not the beginning, it\'s not the end, it\'s just been there for a few years.
But if you want to see a little further, I don\'t think you should stop just for steel.
You also have different colors, different styles to make your choice.
But today\'s steel version is probably the easiest.
Foster: Steel is easy to understand.
Stern: Sure.
It is fashionable, rare and less expensive. . .
I \'ve seen Gold, Platinum, Platinum, and it\'s popular at different times, and now it\'s the steel version-good, I like it too.
But I can\'t cross some limits, so the production of steel is always limited.
Especially Patek Philippe.
I can\'t say anything about other brands.
They have to make their own choices, but for Patek I think we are looking further.
Everything I do today is for the next 10 to 15 years.
Believe me, I can\'t see steel in the next 10 to 15 years. . .
Of course, it will stay, but other versions will come back as well.
Foster: would you say there is a specific philosophy within the company to keep it where it is?
Stern: I grew up in a family that always works with watches, so is philosophy. . .
It\'s more about my education.
More importantly, it\'s also about passion, so if you look at Patek today and how I see it, in a sense I don\'t think Patek is a business
I think it\'s a passion.
It\'s just about beauty.
This is the most important thing for Patek.
I firmly believe that if you have a good product that does a good job, it will last, maybe from generation to generation, there is no need to have a very clear marketing briefing, there is no need to consider the future.
Do what you think is best for the brand.
That\'s what my grandfather told me.
\"Enjoy what you are doing,\" he said.
Come up with a design you will like.
Travel around the world and listen to your customers.
It will also help you to make great designs.
\"That\'s what I did today.
Therefore, no book can read the strategy of Patek Philippe.
You will not be able to pass away from the best school in the world and try to understand this.
Because, even myself, I don\'t know exactly how it works.
It\'s just a matter of having this passion in your heart and willing to do the best and best watches in the world.
The same is true for most people working in Patek.
You must convey this vision to your own people.
Said, \"Forget the sales, we may encounter the opposite situation.
The anger of those who can\'t buy it because we don\'t have enough money.
But on the other hand, see how happy and proud we are because we have the best products.
\"This is the key.
So even if people hate me because I don\'t do enough, they say, \"but, you have the best watch in the world,\" it\'s more important to me.
I mean, Patek Philippe is probably the only brand today that can bring 15 to 25 new models a year.
I know there\'s too much.
I mean, that\'s what everyone told me.
But try to say to someone who is really passionate, it\'s not easy to listen.
But that\'s how we are. I don\'t believe we will change.
I hope my sons will not be under me either.
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