Feb 5, 2018

A look into Patek Phillippe and Haute Horlogerie

I thought the accompanying video and articles (though a bit dated), offer a very good visual explanation and readings of why Patek Phillippe (and others) are considered Haute Hologerie. Patek is probably my favorite (especially the Calatrava line) of what is considered the Holy Trinity, with Audmars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin rounding out the trio. In the case of Patek, they have been manufacturing pieces since 1851, and have consistently been in the business of creating and crafting luxury goods, or Haut de Gamme. None of these three have essentially ever deviated in their respective existence of offering items that are finished by hand to a very high degree of quality and luxury, and because of some of these reasons, are the things that help define what brands are and those that aren't considered Haute Horlogerie. I present this purely as a matter for hopefully expanding some peoples understanding and enjoyment of all things watches.

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I wonder if there is any Chinese content at all in their watches? I would assume not, and if that is the case, they should push for a 100% SWISS MADE certification. I wonder how many companies could qualify.

I wonder where their straps and bracelets come from? Rolex makes their own bracelets, I believe. Hermes makes their own leather straps.

I'd be interested in the "family" nature of the business. This is really hard to maintain. So many things can go wrong. For instance, if there is a genius founder, the son will tend to revert to the mean and not be as talented. And this continues through the generations. A tactic used by some Japanese family-owned companies is the son-in-law gambit, getting a daughter to marry a bright manager. Another tactic that has been used by Swiss watch companies is what I call the Italian gambit, where the family hires an outside manager (often Italian for some reason) and letting him make the decisions. Another danger is the increasing numbers of descendant stakeholders, most of whom do not care about the business and many of whom want to cash out or make the company more profitable, at least in the short term of their lives, by creating diffusion brands, lowering quality, and so on. A smart business owner will try to disenfranchise all but one child in some way, so that only the one has say-so in the company's operation, but this can be difficult if the owner's assets are all tied up in the company. In the old days the eldest son (who is usually the smartest child, current genetic research has revealed} just got it all and the other sons went out on their own and the daughters were sold off for dowry money. But today heirs can create all kinds of legal trouble.

I wouldn't expect for any of these brands to contain any non Swiss content, as it is not in keeping with their histories, pedigrees, and traditions. As for the 100% Swiss certification, Switzerland as a country does not have any such designation for time pieces, much to the frustration of a handful of watch makers, headed by H. Moser. I suspect the big reason most of them don't push for it though is by simple reason that they don't have to, but who knows really?

And yes, Rolex does indeed make the bracelets (and straps as well), with only two components in a Rolex being outsourced (the synthetic jewels for movements, and the dial hands). I've owned several Rolex over the years, and they really are remarkable, well thought utility pieces, and the reason they are so well regarded. Ah.... Hermes, one of those terrific and storied luxury houses that has maintained solid relationships with many great watch manufacturers for most of it's history, but has acted as a retailer of other companies pieces, and only in 2012 started offering in-house mechanical watches. Beautiful pieces Hermes are.

I like your observation on the influences the offspring and scions of founders/owners/shareholders can have on a brands identity, culture and future. Thankfully, most of these companies that have changed hands or leadership seem to have shown little in forsaking the history of themselves to max out margins or market share. Let's hope the integrity stays so.

Cheers Clo
Thanks for sharing!
Anytime friend.... hope it’s insighful and enjoyable!
Hell yeah, I know it well, really well! ;-)
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