Monochrome Watches
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Thierry Stern, President of Patek Philippe, On The Tokyo Grand Exhibition, Its Success and Its Future

A warm welcome from the Japanese public, and also the importance of these exhibitions for Patek.

| By Frank Geelen | 6 min read |

From 10 to 25 June 2023, Patek Philippe hosted the largest exhibition ever organized by the manufacture, the Grand Exhibition “Watch Art” Tokyo 2023. Some 60,000 visitors attended what’s surely a success for the brand, which was accompanied by the launch of several limited editions, including two technical timepieces making their global debut. An important part of the communication strategy of the brand, these exhibitions allow collectors and simple watch enthusiasts to immerse themselves into the exclusive world of Patek. We’re talking with Mr Thierry Stern, President of Patek Philippe, about the importance and purposes of these Grand Exhibitions.

After Dubai in 2012, Munich in 2013, London in 2015, New York in 2017 and Singapore in 2019, Patek Philippe chose Tokyo for the sixth of its grand exhibitions across the world. Historically an important market for watchmaking, gathering some of the most discerning collectors around the globe, Japan was a suitable place for this 2023 Grand Exhibition. Taking place in the Sankaku Hiroba (a.k.a triangular plaza), inside a decor of more than 2,500 square meters – the largest ever conceived for a grand exhibition – the grand exhibition Watch Art Tokyo 2023 brought together almost 500 timepieces and objects. 

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In addition to displaying over 180 historical pieces, the Japan-based exhibition was accompanied by the launch of several limited editions – six in total – including two technical pieces making their global debut: a new self-winding Quadruple Complication with a minute repeater, a split-seconds chronograph and an instantaneous perpetual calendar in apertures (Reference 5308P-010) and the first World Time watch endowed with a date display synchronized with local time (Reference 5330G-010). In addition, Patek Philippe unveiled an exclusive version of the World Time Minute Repeater with a Grand Feu cloisonné enamel decoration representing the historic district of Chuo in central Tokyo (Reference 5531R-014), two new Calatrava models (References 6127G-010 and 7127G-010) and a reinterpretation of the ladies’ Moon Phase model in an elegant shade of pearl grey (Reference 7121/200G-010). 

With these exhibitions (with free admission), Patek Philippe allows closer acquaintance with its usually highly-exclusive creations. This is why the concept will be back again in two years, as the manufacture announced that its next grand exhibition will take place in Milan in 2025. 

But now, it is time for us to talk with Mr Stern.

Frank Geelen, MONOCHROME – What’s the purpose of the Grand Exhibitions for Patek? 

Thierry Stern, President of Patek Philippe – What is important I think, the main purpose of the Grand Exhibition is to say thank you to our clients. It’s not a commercial purpose. We really need also sometimes to say thank you to our retailers and our clients. It is also to show who we are in terms of products but I think also in terms of history.

It is very important that people understand that we’re a family business passionate about watches and for me, it is key to make people happy by giving them the opportunity to see all the collection. Because none of our retailers can have the whole collection of Patek Philippe. 

Once you come to the Grand Exhibition you can really enjoy everything. But as I said, it’s not commercial, it’s more to educate the younger generation and also to please the older connoisseur generation. That’s how I see it.

Are visitors of the Grand Exhibitions watch collectors or laymen?

The beauty of such an exhibition, and in particular in Japan, is that you do have a lot of collectors coming but it’s also important to see that there are a lot of people who just know about the name “Patek Philippe” but they are curious to see who we are. I think it also very important to be able to share knowledge with those people. 

They may not have the chance to buy a Patek Philippe, but they have the passion for our industry or for Patek Philippe and maybe they will become a watchmaker in the future, or an enameller or an engraver. 

We also have a lot of young people coming and families to discover Patek Philippe. And I think it’s also very nice that we can welcome them and explain to them who we are and what we are doing.

You never know in the future maybe one of these visitors will be very successful and will remember Patek… and he may decide to invest in a Patek Philippe watch. 

So we have to be very open to both our clients and the general public. This exhibition is for everybody. Everybody deserves to see beautiful items. I think it’s very important.

Is it the same collection that travels to these Grand Exhibitions, or is a new selection made for every new Grand Exhibition?

In terms of Rare Handcrafts, it’s always a new collection that’s going to be created – the present one is sold only in Japan and only for Japanese clients.

In terms of the current collection, it is the same. This is important that they can really see the whole range. And of course, we adapt the collection year after year because there are new models coming at the watch fair in Geneva, so all the new models are shown at the Grand Exhibition.

Then in terms of Museum pieces, we always try to bring timepieces that are related to the country where we organize the grand exhibition, I think that is also important. 

For the Museum, it is the first time that we exhibit as many timepieces. Altogether there are about 180 pieces and it shows really the beginning of the first portable timepieces (mid-16th century) until, I would say, to the most innovative pieces like the first wrist perpetual calendar and also watches that belonged to famous people like Duke Ellington, Queen Victoria and some others. 

But the Museum collection does not really have strictly speaking Japanese watches. Yet, Japanese visitors are very keen to see the history of the watchmaking industry and the history of Patek Philippe also. 

Then, there are also the limited series. I cannot say it is a collection. We’re talking about six limited edition watches and these models are, of course, always new. They are always exclusively sold to the local clientele, so only to Japanese customers, living in Japan.

For the other exhibition themes, we are presenting for example the minute repeaters, the technical room they’re always the same but we always adapt them a little bit because there’s always something new to learn, so we try to do even better for the next one. So they are adaptations but the principle remains the same.

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1 response

  1. Nobody explained me anything at the Patek Museum.
    They do not care, at all. Pay and go.
    The exhibitions is for thanking specific clients, that have a exhibition worth collection by themselves, it‘s a traveling sales‘man‘s catalog box he‘s taking with him.
    Nothing more. Direct-Sales to the top floor collectors and Sales-Partner Houses.

    Ridiculous fuzz talk by the man, that lied on the nautilus end, and the pain hyped marked bring to him before, obviously then and more so after all his fueling exercises of that frenzy in recent years.

    And still the maison with the most badly designed fonts even below the designs of Orient, yes seikosha mass products. Even timex gets it better.

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