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Thierry Stern, President of Patek Philippe

On the eve of his second anniversary as president of Patek Philippe, I joined 41-year-old Thierry Stern at the seaside Ritz-Carlton resort in Half Moon Bay, California for a chat about his legendary brand - the brand that his great-grandfather Charles purchased in 1932 with his great-uncle Jean ?the brand his grandfather Henri helped establish as the fake watch of legends in the 1950's and 60s, the brand his father Philippe brought into the modern age with the introduction of the Caliber 89, and the brand Thierry now controls as the fourth Stern to helm the fake watch manufacture by which all others are measured http://www.localdlish.com.

Stern was in town to present two new replica watches to select retailers ?the Reference 5550P "Advanced Research? the first perpetual calendar to employ Patek's Oscillomax silicium treatment and the Reference 5235, the brand's first regulator wristwatch. In this candid discussion, we talk to Mr. Stern about why these two replica watches are important, along with the importance of continuing advancement when in a position of such strength, how he views brands that are targeted towards younger buyers, what he thinks are gimmicks, where the industry is headed, whom he respects the most amongst his colleagues, which factory he'd love to visit but has never been allowed in, and what he likes to do in his free time.

Why Is The 5235 Regulator Special To You Personally?

The 5235 is our very first regulator. All our replica watches are important, but because this is the first time we're making one in a wristwatch, we have to be very careful. Still, I designed it to be more aggressive, less sober than other Pateks, but still in a very classical, clean way. It's more up to date, I think it's a modern adaptation of the traditional regulator. I wanted to use colors (the strap and hands are both blue) and I think we created something out of the ordinary.

When I started with the idea ?I had the dial in mind, and nobody wanted to make it. I had to fight to make it, but the result is very good. When people are going here, I like to go there. Still, our clients look for clean, readable dials without gimmicks, and that is what this annual calendar regulator is. I think it's a very cool fake watch and I think it will attract some great attention from both our existing clients, and even some new ones.

The Patek Philippe 5235 Annual Calendar Regulator - MSRP $53,600

The Patek Philippe 5235 Annual Calendar Regulator - MSRP $53,600

Speaking Of New Buyers - Several "High-End" fake watch Manufactures Have Built Less Expensive Lines To Bring Younger Buyers Into The Brand. Does Patek Philippe Have Any Plans To Do That?

We do target younger people, not in price range though, simply because I can not - a Patek movement has a certain value that I can not go below. But with only 45,000 replica watches per year, I can not supply replica watches to everyone so I have to choose what we do. With Patek, we are really at the highest level. I think we do have replica watches that we target to younger people, but young people than can afford a $30,000, $40,000 or $50,000 dollar fake watch ?that is our range and I'm not willing to make a plastic watch. So yes we want to make younger watches, but in a Patek way.

It's not a snobbery factor - last night I spoke to a client that said "I knew about Patek when I was 25 but I couldn't afford it then." And yes, maybe he bought an Audemars back then or a Jaeger-LeCoultre, but he still aspired to get to the Patek level. It's not that our buyers won't buy anything else, it just means that they know that Patek is special, they will work for it ,and when they can afford it, it will mean even more to them.

Young people do buy our watches, our travel times and annual calendars sell very well with younger buyers. But, I remember when we introduced the Aquanaut as something a younger person's watch, I don't think a young person was able to buy that fake watch for the first year it was available because all the older, bigger collectors bought them up saying it was the perfect fake watch for every day. Of course we care about younger buyers, but we also care about our collectors, too.

Of All The Models You Currently Make, What Is The fake watch That You Think Welcomes Customers Into The Brand The Best?

A few years ago, I would've said the Calatrava, but now I would say the Nautilus. The Nautilus is a very strong watch. 60 percent of the clients here are wearing one which is great, but it's dangerous too. We don't want to become a one fake watch brand, so I control the production. We could easily sell twice as many steel Nautiluses as we do. Now you can get them on the second hand market for more than the retail price because of this.

The Patek Philippe Nautilus Reference 5711/1A - MSRP $26,700

The Patek Philippe Nautilus Reference 5711/1A - MSRP $26,700

If Patek Is Already At The Pinnacle of Watchmaking, Why Do You Invest So Heavily Into Your "Advanced Research" Department?

We are always looking for ways to make a better fake watch ?better precision in a thinner case. We are at the top now, sure, and we could last maybe ten more years without trying something new, but after that we would fall if if we did not continue to push things forward.

We have 70 people in Research & Development. The research side will find new components and make prototypes, and then development will make the actual production pieces. It's a lot of people involved, and I think it's fantastic because it really gives you the vision of the future. People say "well, you will never be able to approach the accuracy of a quartz watch," but now that I see what we can do with silicium ?well, we are not far away. To be frank, not far away at all.

It will never be like a quartz movement, but we are not as far as people think. And it shows that we are bringing in fresh blood, and new people. For me, personally, it is my future..to stay number one you have to innovate ?not gimmicks, but real stuff.

I'm not the type of guy to show you a full movement made of silicium, it's useless. Other brands do it and people enjoy it, but it's useless. We do stuff that matters. Our replica watches should be made today, worn tomorrow, and worn by your grandson, we are talking about history and legacy and Pateks are really made with that in mind, with real precision, though.

The Patek Philippe Reference 5550P "Advanced Research"

The Patek Philippe Reference 5550P "Advanced Research"

You've Mentioned "Precision" A Few Times, That's Interesting As Many Brands Seem To Be Focusing More On Design And A "Story" Rather Than Mechanical Excellence Today.

That's because they are are not precise! Part of the reason we went to the Patek Seal is to ensure the whole fake watch is up to our standards. The Geneva seal is very good but it doesn't count for the whole watch, so we made our own. Precision is very important in watchmaking - again, we do not do gimmicks, we make real replica watches and a real fake watch much be precise.

What Percentage Of Thought Goes Into Movement Conceptuatlization Versus Pure Aesthetics?

The movement comes first. It takes roughly four years to build a Patek movement. Once we know the dimensions of the movement, we can build a case around it. A design could take around one year. But, I know exactly what will be doing up till 2019 - it is already written. Also, we have just now combined the casemakers with the movement makers. For a long time, there were controlled by two different people and neither understood how much work the other put forth and there were arguments. Having both controlled by one person has helped us a lot and now each side respects the other much more

Steve Jobs Once Said "I've Never Used A Focus Group, I've Never Used A Consultant To Design A Product," Are Things Done The Same Way At Patek Philippe? Who Is In Mind When A New Piece Is Conceived?

The global customer is on our mind. We listen to them, I travel all the time to make sure I know exactly what each market wants. We have a very close relationship with our customers, but at the end of the day, you have to follow your own vision.

The hardest thing we do is take the will of Asia, the United States, and Europe, and build just one watch. Sizing is very difficult ?if I go to Germany, they will say they want a fake watch that is 40-42mm. If I go to Asia, they will say 39 is enough and in the US, 39 or 40mm is fine, but I can not make three replica watches like this. At the end, it is our choice, and in the end you won't be able to make everyone happy. But that's also why we have over 100 pieces in the collection, so we are trying.

The 2011 Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time Reference 5164/A - MSRP $36,400

The 2011 Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time Reference 5164/A - MSRP $36,400

Do Your Look To Blogs Or Forums For Feedback On Your Pieces?

Most of our feedback comes from retailers. I prefer to talk face to face ?on forums you don't really know who you are talking to and I don't like it.

Still, we can not just do what we want, and we can not only listen to the customer, we must combine it. We work with our commercial division, and then we have distributors come to see our new pieces for feedback. And if the distributors don't like it, we don't change the watch, we change the distributor (laughs)!

No, but is important to listen to them. We have a very small team creating watches, and at the end of the day, it is our decision and the ideas come from us.

In Your Opinion, What Is About To Change In The fake watch Industry?

Everything is circular. In watches, nothing is new, it's just moving and coming back. Now maybe, everyone talks about the Chinese customers. You can't live without them, but you can't live only with them, which is very important to remember. You have to be global, too many brands today are looking only to the Chinese market. Anything could happen in China. We are lucky, we sell globally. When I started, it was the Middleastern buyers, then the Japanese, then the Russians, and now the Chinese. To be strong in China, you need to be strong in Europe. You have to remember that. They come to Europe to see what is strong then go back to China to buy.

Do You View The High-End Independent Watchmakers As Competition?

No, I don't. These guys making 100 replica watches a year are great for the industry and for collectors, but they will never make 10,000 replica watches per year. If you are still making every fake watch by hand, you simply will not have the time to make many watches, you need to have machinery and good machinery, which we have.

I have seen some of our collectors buy some great independent pieces, like those from Philippe Dufour, and have trouble because if they break, it is very difficult to get them fixed. Also, resale of independents is very hard. To lose $10,000 is one thing, but to lose $500,000 on a fake watch is entirely different. At Patek, we will fix any fake watch we have ever made from the beginning, and our lasting value is very strong.

The Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon, Reference 5002 - MSRP - Undisclosed

The Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon, Reference 5002 - MSRP - Undisclosed

So Then Who Else Within The Industry Do you Really Respect?

I respect everyone and think many brands are doing great things. They are all good guys, but most of them have shareholders to answer to which has to be tough. I will say I think Hayek and the Swatch group are doing a great job - to handle that much volume with the quality they produce is very impressive. Sure, they are our competitors, but I can respect them.

Rolex is another one I respect a lot. The quality of Replica Rolex is fantastic, and to keep that so high making as many replica watches as they do is incredible. I would love to see the Replica Rolex factory, but they never let me in!

I do think Patek Philippe plays an important role in the industry though, being independent. Imagine if we didn't exist or belonged to a group, imagine the fights then between Richemont, LVMH, and Swatch. Now, with Patek here, they know we exist and we are the challenge to them. Without Patek, there would be no challenge.

Since This Is Your First Profile on HODINKEE, Can You Tell Us More About Your Life Outside of Watches?

Well, I spend a lot of time with replica watches (laughs). But I spend time with my family and friends in Geneva. I love wine and just redid my wine cave, though I don't have a big collection because I drink it all (laughs). I love skiing and reading, and traveling. I also love the water in the summertime.

Thank you For Your Time

My pleasure!

Thierry Stern's Golf Locker For The Weekend

Thierry Stern's Golf Locker For The Weekend

Related Posts: For more in-depth interviews with global CEO's, visit here for a video chat with Zenith CEO Jean-Frederic Dufour and here for a video with Roger Dubuis President Georges Kern. We will be back tomorrow for our final installment of interview week, concluding with a video interview with Omega CEO Stephen Urquhart.

Patek-philippe Interview