Luxury Beat: Patek Philippe’s Big Plans for 2017

Larry Pettinelli, president of Patek Philippe US, on the new high-end watch buyer and his company’s big plans for 2017.

The interior of Cipriani 42nd Street where “The Art of Watches, Grand Exhibition” will be held. Photos: Patek Philippe

Larry Pettinelli, president of Patek Philippe US, talks about how luxury timepieces are more, rather than less, attractive to techies in the digital age and why a milestone company event will take place in New York this July rather than in Geneva. “The Art of Watches, Grand Exhibition New York 2017”—a 10-day show highlighting Patek Philippe’s haute horologerie, high-precision watch manufacturing techniques—will run from July 13 to July 23 at Cipriani 42nd Street.

Do you think New Yorkers buy luxury products differently from Europeans?

New Yorkers tend to do things at a slightly faster pace and that sometimes includes shopping for fine timepieces. However, these watches are important purchases that represent a milestone, and therefore clients usually want to have a meaningful experience when they shop for them, whatever time it takes.

Do you think the first generation of “digital natives,” (e.g. millennials) who are buying smartwatches, will want luxury timepieces?

In every generation there is a moment of awakening, when young consumers start thinking about items with real and lasting value.

How do you feel smartwatches will impact luxury watches?

There will always be watches geared toward more multipurpose and practical functions. This is not to say that people will stop appreciating finely handcrafted timepieces. Super techies can be among the most passionate for this old technology. When they work all day on a high-tech piece that is going to be obsolete in six months, they actually look for something with lasting value.

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A rendering of the exhibit’s digital salon entrance.

What are the challenges in keeping a heritage luxury brand relevant and exciting?

Mostly making sure that a very old industry continues to o er designs and products that are useful and contemporary without losing our heritage. Patek Philippe puts a great effort into research and development, in particular utilizing new materials to continue to improve the quality of the experience.

What is your best-selling watch in New York?

We are very fortunate that a broad range of our collection is salable.

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The two-sided Ref. 6002 Sky Moon Tourbillon.

Which Patek Philippe watch do you like to wear?

I have a basic Calatrava that has particular meaning to me. It was one of the timepieces created for the 150th anniversary of Patek Philippe in 1989.

Why was New York chosen for your next major exhibition?

New York was a logical choice, as this was one of the first landing spots for Patek and Philippe in the 1800s when the company began to explore the New World.

As president of a major watch company, what’s your best tip for time management?

Hire exceptional people and give them the authority to make decisions.