When price is not a consideration
Arthur Lee
Mon, May 31, 2010
The Business Times

(SINGAPORE) It's often said that prices are spoken of in hushed tones when it comes to fine jewellery. And sometimes they are not mentioned at all, for reasons like exclusivity or security.

This is the case with Patek Philippe's first exhibition of fine timepieces in Singapore, which started on Thursday and runs until today.

The company's representative politely declined to put a dollar value on the 250-plus items - spanning the latest 2010 novelties and Grand Complications to rare objects from the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva - on display at the St Regis.

The exhibition illustrates Patek Philippe's revered past, states its modern intent and points to the company's future.

Singapore is the first stop in Asia, after stints in New York, Los Angeles and Milan. The display includes precious vintage timepieces, pocket watches and decorative timekeeping curiosities chosen from more than 2,000 historical items.

They include ornate 18th and 19th century time-keepers created for the Chinese market, the famed 'King of Siam' timepieces made for Thai royalty during the late 19th century, and rare vintage pocket watches with 'grand complications'.

According to Patek Philippe president Thierry Stern: 'This exhibition is a great opportunity for the public to experience our passion and know-how. The timepieces take the visitor on a journey through the history of watch-making, revealing the values our brand holds so dear.'

The 171-year-old company is the last remaining independent, family owned, Swiss watch-maker company in Geneva. Among watch enthusiasts, Patek is regarded as 'the' premium brand. The firm is a master of complicated timepieces, such as the Patek Supercomplication for Henry Graves, completed in 1933, which changed hands at auction last year for a record US$11 million-plus.

Today, Patek Philippe employs just 200 watchmakers among its staff of 1,300. They produce 40,000 watches a year, three-quarters of them mechanical and one quarter women's quartz models.

The small production figures often mean there is a waiting period for some models, and Patek timepieces hold their value well, often appreciating through the years.

The senior vice-president of one of the big three watch retailers in Singapore says he bought a Patek for its enduring craftsmanship. According to him, the brand's marketing motto sums things up: 'You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.'

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