The foremost watchmaking name at auction houses across the world, Patek Philippe has long enthralled timekeeping connoisseurs with an enigmatic blend of craftsmanship, rarity and quality. Last year, at its 175th anniversary, the brand burnished its reputation with an astounding array of timepieces including the 20-complication coup de grace, the Grandmaster Chime.
Philip Barat, Head of Patek Philippe's Development who recently visited Singapore for the brand's 175th anniversary celebration, points to lessons learnt every day. "We have to be very modest because each year, we bring new pieces into the world. And we have to take care of each one like a child," he says. "Changing a single screw, lever, material or just applying different finishing may alter reliability so there are always plenty of checks and tests which we perform."
That there is so much design going into Patek Philippe timepieces means even more gruelling tests to guarantee perfectly working timepieces: "In a small space and with tiny mechanisms, we have to be so careful to ensure timekeeping precision."
Case in point: this year's Split Seconds Chronograph Ref 5370 which features the new CHR 29-535 PS calibre - with the R denoting a rattrapante (split-seconds) function. On the exact instant where lap times are stopped, a new isolator uncouples the split-seconds wheel from the whirring chronograph wheel - thereby eliminating any friction as well as disruption to the balance amplitude. Then, lavish hand finishing on these parts confer an ineffable sparkle of emotion, amply showcased by sapphire crystal on the back of its platinum 950 case.
"We know how to do it," Barat says, alluding to creating new references year on year. "We have a great museum to visit for inspiration - and there are many ideas from other brands which we find interesting including independent watchmakers who can come up with some extraordinary timepieces," he continues. "But most importantly, there needs to be a lot of humility and honesty in asking ourselves to always be better." www.patek.com