This year’s WatchPro Awards was a special occasion at which a grateful industry gave thanks to the wisdom, passion, expertise and friendship that Patek Philippe managing director Mark Hearn has brought to the community of British watch professionals.
The ballroom of 8 Northumberland was packed with leaders from the industry, many of which have Mr Hearn to thank, at least in part, for the soaring success of their businesses.
Today Patek Philippe is a kingmaker for every retailer that works with the brand, but this has not always been the case. Only a generation ago, the British had far less passion for luxury watches, and leading jewellers like Pragnell, Wempe, Berry’s and Laings were far more focused on gold and diamonds.
The rich history of Patek Philippe, which began life in the mid-19th century, was of interest only to the true watch obsessive 30 years ago. It was more of a museum brand than a commercial venture. Business had certainly improved in the UK by the time Mr Hearn took the managing director’s role in 2010, but it was hardly transforming the lives of the jewellers that stocked it.
The financial figures bear this out. In 2000-2001, the first full year that Mr Hearn was at the helm of Rhone Products, the name of the Patek Philippe distributor at the time, the company’s team of 10 people generated sales of £7.5 million. The following year, turnover had increased by around one third to almost £10 million.
Establishing the right network of retail partners was crucial, and Mr Hearn set about cleaning up the channel so that Patek Philippe could be found in only the finest jewellers. Today that network amounts to only 22 partners, although several of them have multiple doors. Patek Philippe watches are scarce — roughly 70,000 are made per year for the entire world — so its dealers cultivate comparatively small client bases who value both the exquisite quality and the rarity of each piece.
The dealers take great care of these clients, and Mr Hearn’s team at Patek Philippe take great care of the dealers. As a result, less than 20 years after he moved from Zenith to Patek Philippe, the business now has sales of over £155 million, more than a twenty-fold increase during his tenure.
More important than the business, Mr Hearn has transformed the lives of every partner he has worked with, which is why they were so delighted to congratulate and thank him for his lifetime of achievements.