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The gift of time

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(L-R) Patek Philippe Diamond ribbon, Calatrava, World Time

“YOU NEVER really own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.” This is one of the best known marketing campaigns in the world, one used by the Patek Philippe watch company, which was founded in the 1800s in Switzerland. While the beautiful watches live true to their message, it’s interesting to note that the company survives as one of the last family owned luxury brands in the world, when it was acquired by the Stern family from its original owners in the 1930s. If they can pass on a legacy to their own long line of generations, surely their products have the same magic.

Patek Philippe enjoys a reputation as being one of the luxury brands proudly used by royalty. The patronage of the British Royal Family of the watch brand began in the 1800s with a purchase by Queen Victoria. It was during the queen’s reign that the United Kingdom officially expanded into an empire after she was bestowed the title Empress of India, and to show British dominance in the world, the Great Exhibition, the first in a series of fairs that emphasized crafts and products from all over the world, was set up in London’s Crystal Palace. It was there that the Queen purchased her first Patek Philippe watch, and her numerous royal relations followed suit.

The British royal family continues the relationship today, as seen in several portraits of the present Queen, Elizabeth II, wearing her Patek Philippe watch. As recently as this decade, the Queen was spotted wearing a stunning Patek Philippe watch with a bracelet of diamonds and pearls. The watch itself was seen during an exhibition hosted by Patek Philippe in London in 2015, displayed alongside a watch owned by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.

“Queen Elizabeth doesn’t loan her things for just anyone,” said Deepa Chatrath, managing director and general manager for Patek Philippe in Southeast Asia during a brunch last week at the Shangri-La at The Fort, with the theme, Mechanical Art for Ladies. “But when she knew it was her [great-great]grandmother’s watch that was being shown, she loaned her Patek to be showcased.”

It’s interesting to know the deep relationship the brand has with women, considering that its pieces have adorned the wrists (and in Queen Victoria’s case, her bosom, as her watches were set on either pendants and brooches) of some of the world’s most beloved women. “There was the technical accuracy and all of that, but we were able to marry it with… artisanship,” said Ms. Chatrath.

Women’s watches form 30% of their sales, she pointed out, while 70% goes to the men. “We wish to be 60-40, but it depends on how new introductions of products can get us a different client base,” she said. According to her, there are of course women who do buy the watches themselves, but more often they own watches given to them by the men in their life.

And why wouldn’t women accept them? During the brunch, the brand showed off some of its most recent items, combined with its classic lines for women.

The Perpetual Calendar Ref. 7140 was present at the launch, with a dial crafted to look like delicate silk, with a gold bezel set with diamonds. As for its mechanical mastery, it recognizes the variable length of the months, whether they have 28, 30, or 31 days and including 29 days in February during a leap year. Another interesting piece was the World Time, with the face of the watch ringed with some of the world’s most famous cities.

Another beauty, was the Diamond Ribbon Joaillerie Ref 4964/400R-001, featuring on its face a spiral consisting of 587 diamonds, with ruby hour markers.

One of Patek Philippe’s most famous lines, the simple white-faced Calatrava, also made a statement amid all the shimmer of the jewels present on the other watches. After all, Ms. Chatrath noted, “The value of Patek is not defined by the stones that are on it.” She mentioned that some of the watches from the brand that have been sold at auctions and have fetched record prices are sometimes made of just steel.

A spiral of 587 diamonds on the watch on your wrist certainly will fetch a pretty price, but all the jewels in the world can never buy more time. One might think that Patek Philippe’s purpose is to give beautiful instruments for telling time, but then, “We’re quite conscious of the fact that people don’t need watches anymore,” said Ms. Chatrath. It seems that the whir of the modern world, at speeds immeasurable by any watch hands, has given them a new purpose: to guard memories, the imprint that time leaves on a human soul.

“The idea of wearing something precious on your wrist, bought at a beautiful part of your life, and then handed on to the next generation… I can’t think of many objects that have this kind of resonance in your life.” — Joseph L. Garcia

Diamond Ribbon Joaillerie / Calatrava / World Time





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