Twenty-Four Hours in Milan
The hints about a new women’s collection from Patek Philippe have been coming thick and fast for the past 18 months, so an invitation to Milan for a “new launch” caused more than a streak of excitement in the watch press. On arrival in the Italian city, suspicions were peaked when the overwhelming majority of invited guests proved to be female.
The Twenty~4 has been one of Patek Philippe’s best-selling collections since its release 19 years ago, but no one in serious watchmaking circles ever talks about it, because, dare we say it… (tiny, tiny voice) it is quartz. Even if it does have a gorgeous design, it is a bit like the ginger step-child in the family. But now we can shout from the rooftops because after nearly two decades, the all new Twenty~4 version has an automatic movement – and not just any automatic movement, but the most precise one that Patek Philippe has to offer, putting it firmly on any girl’s wish list.
We tried them all on and they are not only gorgeous, but amazingly comfortable too, thanks to that great bracelet design that has thankfully stayed the same. The size is also totally on point, which is probably one of the hardest things to decide on with women’s watches.
Patek Philippe President Thierry Stern and his wife Sandrine Stern, Head of Creation, have never been shy when it comes to giving people something they are not expecting. Nowhere was this more evident than at the 2009 launch, in Paris, of the Ladies First Chronograph, housing the brand-new CH 29-535 movement. “Everyone assumed we would launch the movement in a man’s watch. But I like to surprise,” Thierry told Revolution at the time. “When you think I will go left, I will go right because that’s how I am. It worked and it was fun because no one expected it. It was revenge for every woman.”
And, when it comes to what female clients want from Patek, Thierry says the answer is pretty much universal: “They want to be shocked; they also want something that bears meaning.” This is something that Sandrine is in full agreement with: “What is important to us, and to our female clients, is that they have their own watch, so we do not just take the same movement and case and add precious stones. We insist on a collection that is specifically for women.”
So, does the new Twenty~4 deliver? In terms of movement innovation, which both Thierry and Sandrine consider as crucial to their success in the female market, yes. “It’s not only a question of design,” explains Sandrine. “Thierry insists on not using calibers from men’s timepieces for ladies watches and that is why the Twenty~4 is such a phenomenal collection.”
Thierry believes that every watch starts with a movement. “If you have a big chunky caliber, you can’t expect a beautiful feminine watch — it doesn’t work,” he says. “So, if you want to be a leader in women’s watches, you have to be able to fabricate a thin movement, which is small in diameter and has [the desired] complications. The external design comes way after the movement. We have beautiful cases because we have beautiful calibers.”
The Twenty~4 Automatic is an extension of the existing relationship that Patek Philippe has been building with the feminine side of its customer base ever since it launched the original Twenty~4 collection in 1999. Common knowledge is that the Twenty-4 is one of the best-selling watches of Patek Philippe, and that they are predominantly worn on feminine wrists.
Referring to the entire Twenty~4 family, Sandrine says: “There is nothing wrong with quartz, but it is important to have options. Today you have both the woman who likes a quartz movement and the woman who likes a mechanical watch — with or without a complication — and, most of the time, those women are buying the watches for themselves. When we first launched the Twenty~4, it was often a watch bought by men for women. But today women are buying for themselves because they know what they want.”
And, while some see women’s interest in mechanical watches as the flavor of the month, the Sterns believe that this is a movement set to continue and one that Patek Philippe is ideally placed to lead. “Although we approach a new watch in the same way regardless of whether it is for a man or a woman, I do think that creating for a woman is in some ways more difficult. Because women tend to look more closely at the details,” says Sandrine. “But our standards are high and goes across the board. So, it is just a case of being creative — and that, after all, is our job.”