After almost 20 years as managing director of Patek Philippe UK, Mark Hearn has taken the decision to retire.
He has been undergoing treatment for Parkinson’s disease since being diagnosed four years ago, and now wants to focus on the best therapies and spending time with his wife Corrine (pictured above with Mr Hearn).
At last year’s WatchPro Awards, virtually every owner and senior executive in the industry came to the dinner to see Mr Hearn receive a Lifetime Achievement Award, and now he has announced his retirement, they are showing their support once again.
Sophie Fulford, managing director of Winsor Bishop in Norwich, is among many owners who Mr Hearn has supported. She tells WatchPro: “Mark, the ultimate and most determined gentleman, has lead the British watchmaking industry by maintaining the closest of partnerships with retailers and ensuring our standards never slip. We are exceptionally proud to have worked with Mark for almost 15 years, and from the bottom of our hearts wish him joy and happiness in his much deserved retirement.”
John Robinson, managing director of David M Robinson, which works with Patek Philippe at its Canary Wharf, London, boutique, suggests words are not enough. “What can I say about Mark Hearn?” he ponders. “Simply put, he has been an inspiration to DMR. He really believed in the potential of the two companies working together and both he and his team at Rhone have been so supportive every year. On an absolutely personal level, I believe that Mark’s personal values (loyalty, trust, integrity and endeavour) are the real keys to the growth of Rhone in the UK. I have no doubt that Adrian, Sarah and the dedicated team at Rhone, will continue to grow in the UK and we wish them every success,” he adds.
“I have been very fortunate to have known Mark for over twenty years and in that time we have experienced some wonderful occasions, many memorable milestones and one or two challenges,” describes Charlie Pragnell, managing director of Pragnell. “Throughout, Mark has always shown great integrity and foresight. Mark has valued mutual loyalty while championing the highest quality standards and personal customer service. As a result, and by tailoring his approach to the specific circumstances, he has been able to optimise the family values and independence of Patek Philippe and their partners in the UK. In doing so, Mark, has created a very loyal, strong and successful ‘Patek Phillippe family’ in the UK. On behalf of our family company, I thank Mark for his thoughtful leadership and his terrific overall contribution to the UK watch industry. We all wish him the very best for his retirement,” adds.
Mr Pragnell also welcomes the promotion of Patek Philippe UK’s deputy managing director Adrian Lurshay to the top job. “He has contributed so much to this culture and success,” he says.
Laings executive chairman Stuart Laing, who remembers Mr Hearn’s earlier role running Zenith in the UK, says he has been a unique force in the British watch industry. “Mark Hearn has always been a most dedicated and passionate advocate of the brands he has managed. He also has one of the most important qualities, yet sadly lacking in many others in his position today … loyalty,” he suggests.
“When he managed Zenith you felt that this man was worthy of representing a brand way above his current station, so when the Patek job came up and he was appointed we were overjoyed as we knew we had a chance of proving to him we could handle this brand. Mark to his credit gave us the opportunity and the rest is history,” Mr Laing continues.
“He understands retail and how to work with retailers, he formed not just business relationships, he formed partnerships. Taking orders was part of his job but making the retailer successful with his watches gave him the most satisfaction. The astute aspect about Mark is he will listen to you and enter into debate if he feels his point is worth making and justifying his actions despite ,on occasions, the retailer not too happy with whatever they were debating. So often Mark was proven correct. We wish him well in his stepping down but I am sure as Chairman we will still hear from him!!!,” he predicts.
Simon Walton, managing director of Berry’s, says Mr Hearn has been responsible for the amazing position in which Patek Philippe finds itself in the UK. “He was responsible for building up relationships with the Patek retailers when he started and for them to believe in the future of the brand when in all honesty it was a shadow of its present position. He has built an amazing team at Rhone Products and has been an inspirational leader to everyone involved in Patek Philippe,” Mr Walton continues. “He will be missed by everyone in the watch industry but in Adrian Lurshey and the Rhone Products team the brand is in capable hands. He has been a great friend to Jeffrey and I. Everyone at Berry’s wishes him and his family all the best for the future,” he adds.
Jon Weston, managing director of Ruddell the Jeweller in Birmingham, agrees. “What a gent and a pioneer, always driven with a sharp business mind and a great understanding of the Patek Philippe network. Mark has achieved so much in the past 20 years to be very proud of. We are all eternally grateful and proud to have been part of this journey with him. His resounding support for the British School of Watch making is also an inspiration to the industry,” he says. “Above all else, though, he has remained a sincere and dear friend.”
It is not just independent, family-owned jewellers that have forged deep friendships with Mr Hearn, his family and his team. Brian Duffy, chief executive of The Watches of Switzerland Group, shows that even the largest groups found and valued a highly personal connection. “The world of luxury watches in the UK will never be quite the same without Mark Hearn. He has done an outstanding job. From what I have seen around the world, the presentation and success of Patek Philippe in the UK is amongst the best. Mark is so highly regarded, respected and liked by his retail partners. He has achieved this status through being fair, hardworking, fiercely loyal to his brand and personally charming,” Mr Duffy says. “At the Watches of Switzerland Group, we will miss Mark very much but we wish him good health to enjoy some well earned rest with Corinne and his family.”
One of the secrets to Patek Philippe’s success in the UK has been its balance between working with major multiples and family-owned independents, particularly outside London where other Swiss watchmakers fear to tread.
Over in the Channel Islands, Hettich in St Helier, Jersey, has been working with Patek Philippe for decades. “Mark has developed Rhone Products into a truly world class company and has helped all of us grow our Patek Philippe business,” remaks Hettich owner Jeff Chinn. “He has managed to maintain a very human touch in the culture of Rhone Products and he has firmly spread the true spirit of Patek Philippe. His contribution and influence have been enormous and we can all be very grateful to him. In spite of his illness he is still as sharp as knife and he will be a perfect chairman for Rhone Products. We have all missed our more regular contact with him and wish him very well for the years to come. His legacy at Rhone Products is there for us all to see and we should celebrate that,” he adds.
Mr Chinn also has warm words for Adrian Lurshay, who will take over as managing director at Patek Philippe UK in January. “We are all delighted for Adrian. He is an excellent chap and we will all support him, he deserves it,” he says.