Fake Watches UK — In the second part of our interview, Thierry Stern of Copy Patek Philippe looks to the future and realises that he forgot to set aside space for an office for himself in the brand’s new building.
You have invested significantly in your huge travelling exhibitions in various cities around the world. What was the reasoning behind this?
I think that anyone who rests on their laurels is making a big mistake. You cannot simply rely on your existing customers, you have to go out and look for new ones. When you have products like ours it’s important to show them. We have so much to say and to show that it was worthwhile organizing these exhibitions. Doing so on such a large scale allowed us to welcome existing customers but also a younger generation with a desire to learn. It is a big investment and takes two years of preparation to organize, including finding the right location, which is very important. But it has been a huge success. There is also a residual effect in the countries where we organize the exhibition as people discover a world that they did not know before.
Looking to future you have another major project in the form of your new factory building. What is the schedule for its completion?
It should be finished in September 2018 but let’s say the end of the year because we know there can always be delays. It’s a big building with more than 100,000 metres squared but it was important to move ahead with it. It was easier to do it like this and also cheaper, because we are talking about a 500-million Swiss franc investment, after all. The building is self-financed, which is very important, and if we had done it in two stages it would have been twice as expensive. Unfortunately, at Patek Philippe there is a tradition that every time we start building a new factory there is a crisis! Some might say it’s too big, but I remember when my father took me to the current site in Plan-les-Ouates in 1996 and told me that it would see me through the next 30 years! Four years later we had already moved the case making operations.
So this means that, like your cheap replica watches, parts of the new factory will be handed down to the next generation?
Yes, exactly. I’m actually thinking of closing off certain areas because we human beings do not like empty spaces and if I leave them open people will take them over. But the new space will allow us to bring the case making back into the same building, which will save a lot of time travelling between two different sites. It may only be five or seven minutes drive but it’s not efficient. In a second phase we will also bring movement component production under the same roof, again increasing efficiency. The third phase will be customer service, which will be very important because it is one of the keys to the credibility of Patek Philippe. We are the only brand capable of repairing every watch we have ever produced, since 1839, so you can imagine the inventory and the machines that we have for this. We also have to train our own watchmakers and those working in customer service for Patek Philippe all around the world. All this requires space. The final phase is research, because we shouldn’t forget that we do a lot of work on movement development, too. We will need high-tech facilities for this and we have a lot of projects in this field. We also need a restaurant, of course, because with all those people working hard all day they will need a place to eat and relax at lunch time. But one thing I have forgotten among all this is to reserve space for my own office!
How do you expect Patek Philippe to grow in line with this?
We are growing steadily at one or two per cent per year, but this is not my primary objective. My primary objective is quality and at our level of quality it’s impossible to envisage producing 100,000 Swiss replica watches per year and it is not something I want to do anyway. I have a great advantage in not having any shareholders on my back so I can do what I want. I enjoy doing what I do and I was well prepared for it by my father. He has endured five crises already and remembers years in Basel when half of the retailers didn’t even come to the exhibition. At least this year all of our customers came!