“Patek is not for sale,” sighs Thierry Stern, chief executive of Patek Philippe in an interview with Forbes magazine this week.
“Every year someone says Patek is for sale and we have to say no. In his day, my father addressed the same issues,” he adds.
He is right. Almost every year, typically in the bar of Les Trois Rois hotel in Baselworld, well-oiled watch executives start whispering that Rolex or private equity is about to swoop in to buy the family-owned Patek Philippe.
Given the secrecy around the likes of Rolex and Patek Philippe and the shady world of private equity finance, there is little push back against the gossip and it starts to spread.
It hardly harms Patek Philippe, but Mr Stern says there is an impact on his workforce. “The people working the machines in the workshop are scared when they hear this. I care about them. When what you say touches people like that who don’t have the money and worry about their jobs, I can’t accept that. I don’t like to see people hurt,” he tells Forbes.
The interview also touches on the rocketing demand for Patek Philippe’s steel Nautilus and Aquanaut models, but Mr Stern says he has no intention of significantly increasing production.
“We don’t want to focus too much on steel. Steel is a metal that is important when business is slower and brands can’t sell their more expensive watches. They make steel luxury watches and then steel becomes trendy. But it is very dangerous because once you start selling a lot of steel, it is difficult to get customers to buy the gold. We are not known for steel except in the Aquanaut, Nautilus and Twenty-4, but it is a small percentage of our business and will remain small,” he states.