Philippe Stern, guardian of the temple

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Philippe Stern, guardian of the temple

Postby koimaster » May 15th 2017, 11:13am

The former president of Patek Philippe, honored for his collection of old watches, tells how he has gathered it over the years

As she prepares to embark on a new chapter in horological history, the guide stops. Without a sound, Philippe Stern came behind us. In the carpeted rooms of the Patek Philippe museum, the former president of the brand is at home. The 2400 watches that surround him belong to him but he does as if it were nothing. He encourages the guide to resume. In case he has something to learn about these pieces that he himself has collected over the last fifty years.

Walking through the floors of this Art Deco building in downtown Geneva, we discover the first portable watches in history. In 1600, some had to contend with such catastrophic precision that they included a sundial to be reset on time. We pass the first watch with a minute hand (1675), the first that counts the seconds (1700), the first perpetual calendar (1762) ... The one who has been the general manager of the watch brand for almost thirty years has patiently Unearthed and redeemed all these timepieces. "It's not so difficult to make a collection," he says. What is difficult is to account for the great moments of horological history ... "

In twenty years, 1700 watches

Mission accomplished. On 15 May, Philippe Stern will receive the 2017 prize from the Europa Nostra Foundation, which is committed to "safeguarding and enhancing the cultural and natural heritage in Europe". The jury not only welcomes "this collection, this museum and its unique catalog, precious testimonies of the evolution of watchmaking technology", but in particular the pieces themselves, "the most precious, the most characteristic and the most More extraordinary of the different European watch centers ". At 79 years old, Philippe Stern, sees a concretization of his efforts. "I realize that in trying to preserve our European watchmaking culture, I worked without knowing it in the spirit of this foundation."

It all began with another intention. In 1962, when Philippe Stern joined the company acquired by his grandfather thirty years earlier, he was amazed: "We did not have any internal collections. Yet when I was trying to sell my watch cases in the United States, I realized that there was an interest in collecting these pieces. "Back in Switzerland four years later, he decided to In turn, to build a collection of Patek Philippe "for the heritage of the brand". In twenty years, it brings together 1,700 of these watches originally intended to be passed down from generation to generation.

Duty to say stop in front of a Doha Sheik

In time, Philippe Stern wants to go further and is interested in what happened before 1839 (when his brand was founded).
"I realized that there were no museums to retrace the general history of watchmaking." His objective is to find pieces that are in perfect working order and that embody the great moments of this industry . "Right from the start, my idea was to do something for the public."

It's not that hard to make a collection. What is difficult is to account for the great moments of the history of watchmaking ...
He therefore continues to skim auctions.
"It was never a favorite. First, we inquired into the origins of the play, its movement, and so on. You could not buy your head in a bag! "This retreat makes it possible to maintain a certain restraint.
For a particularly rare piece, Philippe Stern once found himself fighting against a Sheik from Doha whose portfolio seemed to have no limits. "So inevitably, after a while, I had to say stop. But it's not too difficult when you buy with reason ... "

From one safe to another

On more than 2500 watches, Philippe Stern remembers a single problem. About fifteen years ago, representatives of a prestigious London institute came to claim a piece which, they claimed, had been stolen in the early twentieth century. "We had a bit of a fight but quickly realized that they were in good faith and we returned the piece for free. The transaction is written off in our losses and profits. "

For decades, these thousands of rooms were silently sleeping on the different trays of a private safe. Since 2001, they are enthroned in a four-storey museum in the middle of Geneva. 50 000 people come every year to make a pilgrimage in this temple watchmaker but the canton and the city of Geneva do not seem to be interested in it. "The relationship between the museum and the public authorities is non-existent," notes Philippe Stern.

With the increase in the number of collectors and channels of information, the value of this treasure has increased tenfold. And the difficulty there would be in bringing it together. However, good moves are always possible. Last year, museum director Peter Friess managed to get his hands on the first perpetual calendar ever produced. According to various media, he paid 62,500 pounds (about 80,000 francs) in a tiny auction, when in theory, it was worth several hundred thousand. Philippe Stern smiles across the table. "Sometimes we still manage to double all the collectors. It's rare, but it happens."

1962. Philippe Stern joins the family business

1966. He embarks on the constitution of a collection of watches

2001. Opening of the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva

2017. Honored by the Europa Nostra Foundation for its collection ... ien-temple


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