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‘We go out of our way to offer a truly unique timepiece to the winning bidder’

Thierry Stern, President of Patek Philippe, talks exclusively about the Reference 5208T-010, a unique timepiece created for the Only Watch 2017 auction on 11 November, a sale funding research into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

The Only Watch 2017  auction, a biennial charity sale with proceeds going to research into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, is a platform for the world’s top watchmakers to make unique pieces that push the limits of design and creativity. In each Only Watch  sale to date, Patek Philippe has taken top honours for the highest selling lot. In the 2015 auction, for example, Patek Philippe created a Ref. 5016 in titanium that sold for CHF7.3 million, a world record at the time for a wristwatch.

John Reardon, Christie’s International Head of Watches, recently had the honour of interviewing Thierry Stern, President of Patek Philippe, and asked him some questions about the inspiration for Patek Philippe’s contribution to Only Watch 2017, the story of the watch’s development, and the excitement building around this year’s auction, which will be held at Christie’s in Geneva on 11 November 11.

This is the seventh time that Patek Philippe has contributed to Only Watch. Can you tell me what this charity auction means to you, Patek Philippe, and the industry as a whole?

Thierry Stern: ‘This charity auction means a lot to me and is important to Patek Philippe. I think part of the success comes from the fact that when Luc Pettavino founded Only Watch  he presented a clear and honest project, showing the detailed financial redistribution, and this has established a climate of trust for all companies taking part. I was also of course very touched by the project because he was doing it for personal reasons, for his son.

Thierry Stern, President of Patek Philippe ‘At this collectors’ level I am quite sure that the future owner of Ref. 5208T will have already met me and visited our workshops in Geneva.’
Thierry Stern, President of Patek Philippe: ‘At this collectors’ level I am quite sure that the future owner of Ref. 5208T will have already met me and visited our workshops in Geneva.’

‘From the very start I decided on a strategic approach of developing unique watches that would increase step by step in terms of value and importance. This was in line with the pursuit of the common goal: financing increasingly research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy.’

Nearly two years ago, when I asked you what you had in mind for Only Watch 2017, you were very discreet with your answers. I do recall, however, that you mentioned you liked the idea of titanium combined with the rarest of Grand Complications. Can you comment on how you chose the 5208 to be cased in titanium for the Only Watch  creation?

TS: ‘[It was] in line with the product development approach I decided from the very beginning: to support the fundraising to drive research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy by creating unique watches that are increasingly complex and rare. The triple complication Reference 5208 — the second most complicated Patek Philippe wristwatch, cased in titanium, is an even stronger and more “powerful” offer to catch the interest of collectors worldwide.

Patek Philippe Reference 5208T-010. Titanium. Interchangeable full back and sapphire-crystal case back. Case is humidity and dust protected only (not water resistant). Blue dial with a hand-guilloché ‘carbon’ pattern, gold applied indexes with luminescent coating. 18K gold dial plate. 60-minute and 12-hour counters. Central chronograph hand. Day, date, month, leap year

Patek Philippe Reference 5208T-010. Titanium. Interchangeable full back and sapphire-crystal case back. Case is humidity and dust protected only (not water resistant). Blue dial with a hand-guilloché ‘carbon’ pattern, gold applied indexes with luminescent coating. 18K gold dial plate. 60-minute and 12-hour counters. Central chronograph hand. Day, date, month, leap year and day/night indication in apertures. Moon phases. Seconds subdial. Caliber R CH 27 PS QI. Self-winding mechanical movement with micro-rotor. Minute repeater. Chronograph, instantaneous perpetual calendar with day/night indication. Blue Cordura strap with fold-over clasp. Estimate: CHF900,000-1,100,000. This watch is offered in Only Watch 2017 on 11 November at Christie’s in Geneva 

‘Not only is the Ref. 5208 one of our most complex watches to produce, in titanium the intricate case is even more difficult to make. My aim for Only Watch  was always to create a unique piece by revisiting a timepiece from the current collection in a material that we do not propose in our regular collection models.

‘By creating the Ref. 5208 in titanium, we also show the capacity of Patek Philippe to work on a complex case in a difficult material. I also want to offer high level collectors the opportunity to add a unique version model to their regular collection models.’

Not only is the fact that this 5208 is made in titanium incredibly exciting, I love that the dial and movement are also customised uniquely for Only Watch. What can you tell me about the blue dial and its inspiration?

TH: ‘I chose the blue tone for the dial to underline the more sportive  look of titanium, which is also a lighter weight material. I find blue dials beautiful and easy to wear, and it also gives a younger style to the watch.

The blue dial on the watch is hand guilloched and features the blue colour in PVD and indexes with luminous coating
The blue dial on the watch is hand guilloched and features the blue colour in PVD and indexes with luminous coating

‘In addition and to underline this unique model, the dial centre is hand guilloched; it features the blue colour in PVD and indexes with luminous coating. The result is a unique minute repeater that looks sportive, young, a little more “aggressive”, and offers good readability of all the indications, which is important for a triple complication. This is a very different look for such a complication, indeed minute repeaters usually feature a more classic and “calm” style.’

One of my favourite parts of this 5208T is that it has a distinctive black rhodium plated finish and platinum hand finished platinum micro-rotor. I believe these two variants may be Patek Philippe firsts, is this true?

TS: ’Yes, the style of the movement is a first — this is the only watch in our archives to feature a modified movement. To hand guilloche a platinum micro-rotor is a challenging task, moreover the material and décor has to not influence the long-term functional integrity of the watch. I have personally tested a prototype with the platinum rotor for six months and the watch worked perfectly.

‘For me it is essential to have a win/win situation: for the buyer, more exclusivity and more value, and for Only Watch more means to finance research’ — Thierry Stern

‘The black rhodium finish of the movement is totally unique for Patek Philippe and, in fact, the contrary of what I learned, because my father always told me to never “play” with the movement. In this way the Ref. 5208T is more unique than any previous model made for Only Watch, with not only a unique case but also a unique movement with the aim of offering more value to the collector.

‘For me it is essential to have a win/win situation: for the buyer, more exclusivity and more value, and for Only Watch  greater means to finance research. I think that what the Ref. 5208T really shows is that to support such an important charity auction, we will go out of our way, up to the very tiniest detail, in order to offer a truly unique timepiece to the winning bidder.’

This year Only Watch is including ‘Experiences’ bundled with the watch for the winning bidder of many of the watches. For the buyer of the 5208T, this will be a ‘Patek Philippe Day’, which includes a tour of the workshops, a visit to the museum, and a private lunch with you. When you meet the new owner of this 5208T, what is the first question you will ask?

TS: ‘Maybe I will just say, “You again, welcome back!” And if not I will first say, “Congratulations and thank you!”. Most importantly, it has to be a nice shared time together. At this collectors’ level I am quite sure that the future owner of Ref. 5208T will have already met me previously and visited our workshops in Geneva.’