When building work began at ’s Plan-les-Ouates manufacturing facility in 2015, stories of increased production permeated through the watch industry. However, Patek’s owners, the Stern family, quickly put paid to those rumours, saying that the decision to strengthen the brand’s presence in Geneva was based solely on the need to increase integration and strengthen in-house capabilities in regards to innovation, artisanal craftsmanship, service and training.
The Genevan suburb, today known as ‘Plan-les-Watches’, has been home to Patek Philippe since the 1990s, when the then company president, Philippe Stern, chose to build his revolutionary manufacturing site there. His goal was to house all areas of the business together under one roof, where they had previously been spread over a number of sites throughout the city.
However, accelerated growth meant that within a decade it was necessary for certain disciplines, including case and bracelet production and gem-setting, to once again be relocated. Adding to the problem was the fact that, today, of the 62,000 men’s and women’s watches made by Patek Philippe each year, almost 50 per cent are what the brand refers to as “useful complications” – chronographs, calendars and dual/multi time-zones. With about 160 in-house calibres, the more complex ones obviously requiring additional components, increased capacity became less of a wish and more of a necessity.
三级成人视频Hence, when Thierry Stern succeeded his father as company president in 2009, he set himself a goal to reunite all parts of the business through an expansion of the existing manufacture and the addition of a new building. Now, five years after Stern’s ambitious plans were put into action, the dream has become reality.
The building became operational in 2019, with the multi-million pound programme of works, which included CHF 500m (approx. £4.2m) for the structure and CHF 100 million (approx. £840,000) for interiors and technical resources, being completed early in 2020. Nearly 200 metres long and with 10 floors – four of which are below ground – the building design is sympathetic to its surroundings as well as functional and ergonomic for the workforce.
Large windows let in the light that is so essential for watchmakers, while the gently curved, white concrete walkways and bronze highlighted fire escapes are subtle nods to the core models and distinctive features of the brand. As well as dedicated areas for production and finishing, servicing and restoration, R&D, and evolving rare handcrafts, there is an auditorium, penthouse restaurant and VIP lounges, plus underground parking for more than 600 vehicles. The new building complies fully with the Haute Performance Energétique (HPE) standards of the canton of Geneva and Stern has applied for Minergie-P label, Switzerland’s highest energy efficiency classification.
Speaking earlier this week to the Telegraph, Stern said of the development: “It is very important to have the best flow possible given the growing complexity of production operations. We also want to have more space for the rare handcrafts, for example, and other activities such as training of employees – and most importantly this is a plan for the next 20 to 30 years in anticipation of the manufacture’s future growth.”
As is now commonplace with Patek Philippe, the brand has created a celebratory watch to mark the completion of the new complex: a deceptively simple and superbly elegant 40mm Calatrava ref. 6007A-001. Putting it among the rarest and most highly-prized Patek models, the new watch is in steel, as opposed to the more usual precious metals, and will be made in a limited edition of 1,000 pieces. Powered by a self-winding Calibre 324 S C movement, the aesthetics of the watch demand more than a cursory glance.
At the centre of the dial is a steely-blue and grey textured chequerboard pattern, the deeply-engraved and contrasting corrugations of each square catching and reflecting light at different angles. An inner ring marks the quarter hours, while gold lacquered Arabic numerals and triangle indexes denote the hours, and an outer chapter ring indicates the minutes.
The thick, steel bezel and multi-layered effect of the dial created through the different finishes, provide the ideal frame and background for the white accents of applied numerals, white-gold, pierced baton hands with luminous coating, lacquered bronze sweep seconds hand and date window at three o’clock. The blue calfskin strap is embossed with a textile-like finish and has complementary white stitching that subtly reflects the dial design.
Speaking of the watch and what it represents, Stern says: “This special edition marks an event that is an investment for today and for the future. It is contemporary in line with the new building’s role, the state-of-the-art technical equipment and the architectural approach. The ‘carbon’-style texture of the dial centre is a design touch that refers to the world of high-tech at Patek Philippe, as expressed in our new building’s architecture.
“As with most Patek Philippe designs, it also takes inspiration from a previous Calatrava model that was also considered very modern when it was launched in the 1990s – the ref. 5000. More importantly, when we celebrate an event, we want to make it very special for our clients, to say thank you for their support, so this limited edition Calatrava is in steel – as you know a very rare material in Patek Philippe’s collections.”
The watch’s sapphire-crystal caseback is marked with the brand’s signature Calatrava cross and the inscription 'New Manufacture 2019'. Referring to the choice of commemoration year, Thierry says: “The inscription ‘New Manufacture 2019’ indicates the year when the first workshops moved into the new production building. For our 1996 move to Plan-Les-Ouates, we did it the reverse way. The limited-edition watches were presented the following year and marked with ‘1997’ to highlight the official inauguration of the new manufacture. It’s not always the same and there is no specific reason behind it.”
Understated and stealthy, this new launch is sure to be an instant sell-out. During lockdown it was confirmed by UK retailers that waiting lists for hard-to-get Patek models had not diminished, and demand for this new piece is certain to be higher than supply.
三级成人视频Stern agrees: “There are never enough watches available when it is a limited-edition model, although for Patek Philippe 1,000 pieces is a rather important number – a quantity that makes it possible to celebrate on an international level. Distribution of such models is the ‘headache’ part of the celebration. There are clients who collect these particular models and unfortunately we will not be able to make everyone happy.”
三级成人视频So, with this in mind, will we maybe see a similar design repeated in a production model? “You’ll have to wait and see what comes out in the next years,” says Stern. “We need to keep some surprises in reserve.”
Patek Philippe Calatrava ref. 6007-001, £21,710
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