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Patek Philippe completes $600 million production facility

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Patek Philippe has officially announced the completion of its new production facility in Geneva that cost $600 million to build, fit and equip.

Planning for the building started in 1996 when Philippe Stern was still president, and construction began in 2015 under the leadership of Thierry Stern.

Now fully open, the building that has brought together all of the manufacture’s Genevan ateliers under one roof.

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“A great advantage given the growing complexity of production operations,” the company says.

To mark the final completion, Patek Philippe released a limited edition Calatrava today, its first new watch of 2020 following delays caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

The architecturally modern facility is five storeys high, 189 metres long and 67 metres wide, giving space for expansion over the next 20 to 30 years, Patek Philippe believes.

From the outset, the project had two key goals: the relocation of the ateliers from Perly to Plan-les-Ouates on the outskirts of Geneva, and to create extra space for the growing production and training activities.

There has never been an intention to significantly increase the number of watches produced from the current 62,000 pieces per year, almost half of them described by Patek Philippe as “complicated watches” with functions such as an Annual Calendar, Weekly Calendar, Travel Time Two-Zone display, or World Time.

So, while Patek Philippe may have created the space for considerably more watchmaking, the watchmaking required for each of its watches is continually increasing.

Patek Philippe says that the new building’s modern architecture accentuates the landscape of Plan-les-Ouates, an odd boast for an area that is effectively an edge-of-town business park.

Large windows and white concrete passageways are punctuated with bronze-coloured New York-style fire escapes in a way that is designed to evoke images of a huge ocean liner.

Connoisseurs doing the tour might notice subtle architectural nods to Patek Philippe watches, such as the slight horizontal curvature of the passageways reminiscent of the gently rounded octagon of the Nautilus case, or the balustrades of the fire escape ladders with a silhouette that resembles the form of leaf-shaped hands.

Interior spaces are divided into five segments that are separated by four staircases and include 20 passenger and freight elevators. The ground floor and the first floor are reserved for production and manual finissage of movement parts (plates, bridges, wheels, form parts, etc.) while the focus on the second floor is machining, manual polishing, and the assembly of exterior parts (cases, bracelets) and gemsetting. In addition to the production of the current collection, these ateliers are also responsible for crafting the inventory of spare parts needed by Customer Service, a key success factor for Patek Philippe. The restoration of antique timepieces also takes place here.

The third floor accommodates further production-related departments such as Research & Development in the fields of new materials and new technologies (Patek Philippe Advanced Research), an haute horlogerie department, and a new unit for prototyping operations. The fourth floor provides space for further evolving and handing down of the rare handcrafts skills that Patek Philippe has actively promoted (manual engraving, enameling, guilloching, wood micromarquetry, etc.). In addition to an auditorium that seats 299 persons, the same floor also has rooms where watchmakers and staff members of the international sales network receive training.

On the fifth floor, the building is topped by a penthouse restaurant for 880 guests as well as four VIP lounges.

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Rob Corder

The author Rob Corder