As managing director of the UK business of Patek Philippe, Mark Hearn gets to spend a lot of time around watches that many of us can only dream of. Rob Corder speaks to him about his plans for the brand in 2012, how the economic climate has affected this top-end watch house and asks for his tips for UK watch retailers.
What are your aims and targets for Patek Philippe in the UK this year?
We are looking to consolidate and develop our market leading and unique position in the UK marketplace still further in 2012. We aim to do this by working even more closely with our selected retail partners to provide the ultimate experience for Patek Philippe owners, in the very finest environments. If a consumer has decided to purchase a Patek Philippe timepiece, then everything must be perfect from start to finish. In other words, purchasing the ultimate watch in the ultimate environment. We are unique in being able to offer this experience and plan to enhance this still further.
How has the current economic climate, both among UK watch buyers and for tourists to the UK, affected your outlook and strategy?
There is no doubt that the current economic crisis has affected the UK watch-buying public. They have become more discerning, and have been looking even more for authentic value, which Patek Philippe is uniquely positioned to meet. Many brands have focused on the Chinese tourists and this has taken up the slack in demand from the UK buyers. We however have remained very focused on our domestic market, as well as meeting some of the demand from tourists. We will continue with this strategy going forward into 2012 and 2013.
What key messages would you give to retailers of Patek Philippe in the UK this year?
I would advise them to evaluate very carefully what their customers are looking for, and focus very strongly on the products and brands that are in demand. The days of trophy brands are very definitely numbered. I would also advise them to focus on key relationships with suppliers. Work closely with those who really understand their business, but start to distance themselves from companies that just dictate to them what they have to do. It has to be a real partnership. If it is not, then they are better off without those suppliers. They may contribute to their business today, but it will not be like that in a few years time if it is not based on mutual trust and respect.
What technical and design trends do you expect to drive watch sales this year?
I think that 2012 will be another year of consolidation for the watch market, as it is still a very tough economic environment, so real technical developments will be fairly rare. Having said that, every year Patek Philippe launches new products at Basel with several new patents, and this year will be no different. As for trends, I think that they will again be very conservative, the economic climate dictates that there will not be too many extravagant pieces launched this year. Very classical, traditional and complicated pieces will dominate in my opinion.
This interview was taken from the March issue of WatchPro magazine. To view a digital version of this issue online click here.