There’s a sure mystique surrounding Patek Philippe that exists even amongst die-hard watch followers, and the mystique is comprehensible. In any case, a enterprise that has been in steady operation for over 175 years and instructions costs of, in sure instances, the excessive six-figures (and extra at public sale) have to be on the very prime of its recreation, and this notion could be intimidating on a number of ranges. Many people are likely to admire their work from afar, with the information that these watches are largely “unobtanium” just by advantage of their worth and exclusivity. Excessive-end problems, haute horologie, valuable metals — these are all hallmarks of Patek Philippe that watch collectors are conversant in.
So how does one break into this world of tremendous high-end watchmaking? What’s the worth of entry? The place does one start? These are all official questions that bear addressing, and although the reality is that every one has a number of potential solutions, there’s a pretty logical entry level to Patek Philippe that may be appreciated by each the entire beginner and the seasoned collector alike: specifically, the Calatrava.
Following the good inventory market crash of 1929, fewer clients had the means to buy Patek’s storied difficult watches, for which the agency was famend. Jean and Charles Henri Stern, co-owners of a dial manufactory, bought a controlling curiosity within the famend watchmaker in 1932, and in an try and revitalize the enterprise, determined to design a product that might attraction to the European urge for food for less complicated timepieces and are available at a lower cost level.
The Stern brothers enlisted assistance from English watch designer David Penney, and in 1932, launched the Calatrava, a gown watch that embodies simplicity, magnificence and style, and has since turn into one of many flagship Patek Philippe fashions in addition to the quintessential gown timepiece. Influenced by the German Bauhaus faculty established by Walter Gropius in 1919, these watches embody that motion’s “less-is-more” philosophy of financial system and magnificence, and take their identify from the Cross of Calatrava, the 12th-century image of the Spanish army order of Calatrava and image of Patek Philippe.
Regardless of the introduction of quite a few totally different fashions through the years, the essence of the Calatrava has remained pretty constant because the 1930s: a spherical case with built-in lugs (most frequently in a valuable metallic), a easy dial with stick markers (although Arabic, Breguet or Roman numerals have typically been used), leaf or sword arms, and the power to completely praise a go well with or formalwear whereas nonetheless managing to fly beneath the radar. And although the Aquanaut line presents one other entry level into Patek for comparable cash (roughly the $20,000 mark), it’s the Calatrava that has managed to stay a staple within the firm’s catalog for over 85 years.
We spoke with Larry Pettinelli, President of Patek Philippe USA concerning the Calatrava line, why it stands the check of time and the way it constitutes the right entry level into Patek Philippe:
Interview With Larry Pettinelli, President, Patek Philippe USA
Q: What’s necessary to speak to somebody who’s trying to purchase his or her first critical watch? What’s it concerning the Calatrava and about Patek that this individual ought to perceive?
A: The very first thing is the manufacturing. Why is Patek Philippe Patek Philippe? Why do they maintain their worth at public sale? Why do you have to be taking a look at a $20,000 watch in any respect? Once we begin that dialog, we have to begin speaking concerning the manufacturing course of from begin to end, the extraordinary lengths of hand-finishing. It’s a wearable piece of artwork (that we’re creating) and it’s not a throwaway. And this can be a very totally different sort of product than most younger individuals purchase. The iPhone is one thing that you simply’re going to need to improve yearly — the know-how is shifting so shortly that three years down the street, you’ll in all probability have to provide away what you had. However with these watches, this isn’t the case. There’s easy styling and lasting visuals — nothing that’s going to go out and in of trend.
A Calatrava from the 1940s or 1950s has the identical quantity of ending and accuracy ranges because the watches we now have as we speak; they have been made barely in a different way, however the rules are precisely the identical, and we’re not altering issues merely for the sake of doing so. Each Calatrava has the identical quantity of end as a powerful minute repeater; the hand-finishing is identical — there are merely extra elements within the minute repeater.
Not everyone wants a $20,000 watch, however in case you care about one thing that perhaps you’ll be able to cross right down to your youngsters, or move alongside to anyone else, you have got the chance to get one of many best merchandise within the class. Once I purchased my first Patek, I needed the understanding that I might personal the most effective of one thing, which is a uncommon feeling for a younger man. I can’t purchase a Monet portray or the top-of-the-line Ferrari, however I can have probably the greatest watches on the earth.
Q: To your thoughts, what’s it concerning the Calatrava that makes it timeless? What’s the essence of the road — does it start with the Bauhaus faculty?
A: It’s type follows perform. It’s received to be one thing which you can take a look at for 30 or 40 years and Bauhaus is definitely the basics, however I feel whether or not you’re wanting by the hands or the markers, there’s a simplicity (to them) — it’s not about creating very eccentric items. That is about one thing that’s timeless. Stick markers, dauphine or sword palms, these are the essence of the Calatrava. Now, you’ll be able to gown it up slightly bit by making slightly fancier lug, or doing one thing with a step bezel, nevertheless it’s a really delicate change. At one level once I first began (with Patek Philippe) we had in all probability 5 or 6 Calatravas with the hobnail bezel. We made one with the date and one with no date, we made one with an automated sweep second hand…all of them appeared precisely the identical. We had 5 or 6 totally different fashions however they there was solely this very delicate distinction within the design. And we bought all of them! Individuals have been drawn to the simplicity.
Q: Should you return to a Patek catalog and take a look at a bit from say, the 1930s or 1940s, perhaps a pilot-style Calatrava with Arabic numerals, it’s nonetheless recognizable as a Calatrava. So there have to be one thing concerning the design language generally — it actually isn’t only one specific sort of palms or markers, however fairly the whole package deal.
A: It’s not a coincidence, as a result of many occasions through the years when we’ve the R&D individuals design these watches, they’ll return to your personal museum they usually’ll check out a number of the older items and say, “Okay, properly, we haven’t seen that shortly. We like that — let’s introduce it into the brand new piece.” So there are a number of historic aesthetics that you simply’ll see, and that’s not an accident.
“There are numerous historic aesthetics that you simply’ll see, and that’s not an accident.”
Q: Some upgrades clearly should be made periodically with a purpose to hold the Calatrava related for the subsequent era. So how do you go about upgrading the watch whereas sustaining its essence in your clients, particularly in regard to measurement?
A: The watches are likely to ebb and circulate relating to measurement. Again within the 1950s, we have been making some watches that have been 40mm, 50mm. And when you’ve ever been to our museum and also you look again at a few of the 50s watches, that was a large-size watch period. After which once you get again down into the 60s and 70s, they acquired actually tiny and actually skinny. Proper now I feel we’re at 38 to 40mm, and that appears to be a superb balancing level.
It’s onerous to replace the (case) measurement additionally as a result of the proportions change. You typically can’t simply enlarge every little thing — it simply doesn’t look the identical, it doesn’t look proper. So Thierry Stern could be very acutely aware about doing it in the fitting approach. Not going overboard. You recognize we don’t go to the extremes — I imply, that’s simply not our model.
Mr. Philippe Stern, once we made the annual calendar, the 5035, the unique — he challenged them, he stated, “No, no, that’s too thick, and it’s too massive — I would like it thinner and I need a smaller.” And people watchmakers had only a ridiculous headache of making an attempt to place that right into a smaller case, however they did it. However I feel naturally you noticed that even the annual calendar grew again to a traditional 38mm measurement case as a result of it made it a lot simpler to create the wheels, and the manufacturing, and the restore, which can also be essential.
“It’s exhausting to replace the (case) measurement additionally as a result of the proportions change. You typically can’t simply enlarge the whole lot — it simply doesn’t look the identical, it doesn’t look proper.”
Q: With Patek, versus with many different watch manufacturers, a metal watch is usually considerably extra uncommon and useful. Is there a acutely aware choice to supply a lot of the Calatravas in valuable metals due to their performance as gown watches?
A: The overriding issue is that we will make 60,000 actions per yr, interval. We’ve been caught on 60,000 for about three or 4 years now, and that’s kind of to do with the truth that you want extra watchmakers with a purpose to make extra watches. In our case as a result of we’d like extra hand-finishing, we’re caught at 60,000, so the Sterns have made a acutely aware enterprise choice to not make greater than about 25 or 26 % metal product.
When it comes right down to it, you take a look at the Nautilus line and the Aquanaut line, we’ve received plenty of metal in that line, which you might want to have. So whenever you take a look at the opposite actions you go, okay, nicely, we’re going to place that in valuable metals.
The opposite actual issue on this equation is that whether or not you set it in a metal case or a gold case, it’s not going to have an effect on the worth that dramatically, as a result of the truth is whenever you take a look at the breakdown of these merchandise coming in by means of customs, the majority of the cash is within the motion. So sure, we might put it in metal, and perhaps it might shave it down in a pair thousand dollars. However the quantity of the case metallic just isn’t actually shaping the majority of the worth.
The bulk (of the worth) is actually coming from the ending and the motion and the effort and time and accuracy in that motion. So on the planet of Patek Philippe, metal is basically wanted due to the rarity, not a lot as a result of it brings the worth factors down. Now, chances are you’ll you may even see one thing going ahead down the road in our effort to type of revitalize the Calatrava. You may even see one other metal piece once more.
Q: Does the classic market exert any affect upon present Patek watchmaking — not essentially when it comes to developments, however maybe indicating what has endurance?
A: Sure, for positive. For instance, there are a few of these asymmetrical watches from the 60s that have been actually sort of enjoyable and funky, and we tried to reintroduce these again within the early 2000s. And you recognize, they’re very, very area of interest — you both love them otherwise you don’t like them. So to construct a line that we regularly promote yr after yr with asymmetrical might be not going to occur. However like I stated, we’ve got had some actually good success, and if you take a look at the museum items you’ll say oh yeah, this one is influenced by this, and this one is influenced by this. And there are all the time individuals on the lookout for these, for higher or worse.
Q: This idea that the identical know-how goes right into a Calatrava motion as does a extra difficult motion, and that the client is getting the identical consideration to element — are you able to expound upon that a bit?
A: I want we might take everyone to our workshops. There are 2,000 or so staff over there, you get to actually see what number of arms truly contact every watch…despite the fact that it’s (one thing) the dimensions of 1 / 4, it’s extraordinary, and you then actually do get an appreciation for simply what it’s all about.
Every watch takes no less than a minimal of 1 yr to make. Once you add up all of the hand-finishing, it takes a minimal of a yr for the only watch. Perhaps you don’t recognize that till you see it, however you’ve acquired individuals who actually are chopping out the elements — once more, we’re speaking a few full manufacture, vertical integration. So that you’ve acquired massive machines that we minimize out the preliminary case with, the preliminary half with, after which it goes via the meals chain and will get hand-finished, hand-finished hand-finished till it turns into one thing that works inside that motion.
The watches from the 50s, 60s, they’re hand-finished for that exact motion, which is why they provide it a separate motion quantity. The case is individually executed for that becoming, they usually give it a separate case quantity. And past the manufacturing capability, each watch we ever constructed from the start in 1839 is documented in our archives. So if we have to return and discover out, OK, which motion is inside which watch, what half was made by whom, and the way can we make that half once more? Properly, a whole lot of schematics nonetheless exists from a few of these early watches, and they’ll return right into a 19th-century watch, and typically they’ll remake an element.
Many manufacturers after 25 years, they’ll say, ‘You already know what, we don’t have that half producer anymore. We don’t have anyone with the capability to do it. So I’m sorry.’ However we’ll restore every little thing that we’ve ever made. And that may be a large distinction throughout the business. And I feel if you’re spending this type of cash, it’s a pleasant consolation to know that we’re not going to stroll away from the watch in case your grandkids personal it. We’re nonetheless going to restore it.
Typically the service delays are pretty vital as a result of we solely have perhaps three individuals who restore any specific motion, however we’ll restore it, and like I stated, if we have to ship it over to Geneva and remake elements for it, we’ll do this, too. So it’s type of thrilling and enjoyable whenever you go over there and meet the one or two individuals which might be truly doing the work. They’re referred to as “pivotors,” and what they do is remake elements for the classic items that are available, and these guys are simply extraordinary.
We’ve solely had one or two pivotors perpetually, so we’ve obtained to maintain coaching these guys, however this one pivoter, I feel for those who take a look at his whole stack of labor that he’s executed from the second he turned a watchmaker until now — he’s perhaps 55 or 56 years previous — it’s not hundreds of watches. It’s like, you recognize, it’s a small stack of watches. They spend eight months, 10 months a yr to redo an previous pocket watch, and in 30 years, perhaps they did 30 watches, perhaps a number of extra. Nevertheless it’s not hundreds of them. So these individuals are irreplaceable, a hundred percent.
I feel this speaks to what you’re getting, what you’re paying for and the way a lot endurance our watches have. You’ve seen our promoting: “You by no means truly personal a Patek Philippe — you simply care for it for the subsequent era.” Properly, you possibly can’t have that promoting marketing campaign after which not maintain it.