The boss of Patek Philippe not worried about high-end watchmaking – 04/11/2024 at 4:58 p.m.

The boss of Patek Philippe not worried about high-end watchmaking – 04/11/2024 at 4:58 p.m.
The boss of Patek Philippe not worried about high-end watchmaking – 04/11/2024 at 4:58 p.m.

The boss of the watch brand Patek Philippe is “not worried about the high end” despite the slowdown looming in the luxury sector after three years of spectacular growth, he told AFP during the show watchmaker from Geneva.

(AFP / FABRICE COFFRINI)

For the entry and mid-range segments, “I think it must be harder”, especially since there is “more competition” in this niche, declared Thierry Stern, during the “Watches” show. and Wonders” which takes place in Geneva from April 9 to 15.

“But for Patek Philippe, I am not worried,” added the president of this brand which is among the most prestigious in Swiss watchmaking.

“Today, I don’t have a critical market in mind, at least not at the high end,” he assures. The United States, where Patek Philippe generates 38% of its sales, is “a collector’s market” for the brand, “so I’m not worried,” he confides.

“Europe is doing very well too” and if “Asia was a little harder for a while”, “today it’s back up again”, according to the boss of this brand, very popular with collectors. , which focuses on a very high price segment.

A “slightly calmer” market

Known for its watch complications (functions other than displaying the time), Patek Philippe is notably presenting at the show a new version of the model called Heure Universelle, in white gold with an opaline blue-gray dial, at a price of 65,000 Swiss francs (66,615 euros at current rates).

Swiss watchmaking had quickly rebounded after a brutal fall in 2020, watch exports for the entire sector having since broken records three years in a row to peak at 26.7 billion francs in 2023, according to statistics from the Swiss watch federation. But in January, their growth decelerated to 3.1%, then exports fell into negative territory in February, recording a decline of 3.8% over one year.

Not all brands are affected. According to an estimate from Bain & Company, 2% of wealthy customers alone generate 40% of sales in the luxury sector, brands that rely on very wealthy customers – who are little affected by the vagaries of the economy – being well prepared to withstand slowdown phases.

For Mr. Stern, who represents the fourth generation at the helm of Patek Philippe, the recent slowdown is perhaps a sign of “a return to reality” after three years during which sales in the watch sector as a whole have “exploded “.

But “we can’t say that it’s a crisis”, it’s just “a little calmer”, he judges.

For 2024, he intends to maintain production at the same level as last year, at 72,000 pieces, a “record” level for the brand, he said during an interview on Tuesday with AFP.

The company never reveals its turnover, but according to an estimate by the American bank Morgan Stanley and the consulting firm LuxeConsult, it was around 2.05 billion francs in 2023, an increase of around 14% compared to the previous year, according to their calculations.

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