Patek Philippe’s UK network of retail partners consider themselves to be part of one family, a togetherness created and nurtured by Mark Hearn during his 20 years as managing director for the brand.
With news of Mr Hearn passing away reaching these retailers this week, several have shared their tributes to the man they credit with transforming Patek Philippe in the UK, and taking their businesses to new heights as a result.
Others have chosen to send private messages to Mr Hearn’s family and the Patek Philippe UK team.
Charlie Pragnell, managing director of Pragnell, said he was sad to hear the news.
“I was fortunate to share many experiences, discussions and developments with Mark. From the moment he joined Patek Philippe he had a clear vision as to how he wished to develop the brand in the UK. He had the humility to listen to those with valuable experience or expertise and when he acted he was thoughtful, firm and fair,” he recalls.
“Perhaps most encouraging was his perpetual enthusiasm, loyalty and optimism. He formed many close relationships through an abundance of outstanding events and, whilst retaining high professional standards, he was able to let the good times roll. Mark was a great asset to our trade in the UK and has emboldened a legacy of high quality standards and values. He was a much admired friend to many of us and will be greatly missed,” Mr Pragnell adds.
Simon Walton, managing director of Berry’s, spoke on behalf of the whole company.
“We would like to express our extreme sadness of the passing of Mark Hearn. He leaves a huge legacy in the watch industry and he played a huge part in developing Patek Philippe in the UK. He was very respected by every single Patek Philippe retailer, Mr Stern [Patek Philippe president] and the Swiss management team,” Mr Walton says.
“He was a man of integrity, loyalty and hard working but also with a wonderful sense of humour who could never get used to the cold weather in the North. He will be sorely missed by us all and has passed far too early. Life is precious and health is everything,” he shares.
John Robinson, managing director of David M Robinson, has lasting memories of the relationships his team built with the Patek Philippe executives under Mr Hearn.
“It’s genuinely difficult to know where to start when I think about Mark Hearn — a friend, a mentor, an enthusiast for all things horological,” Mr Robinson begins.
“Mark, I really believe, recognised in DMR that we were underdogs of a sort in our industry and he went out of his way to help develop our business with Patek Philippe. He liked hearing our story. I think he liked the idea that we are a business which makes things too and one that respects craftsmen like watchmakers and goldsmiths alike. He gave us the confidence to go on the Patek Philippe journey with our clients. He would show me the success other retailers were having and he gave us the faith from his belief, to push on. Funny how “pushing on” seems to solve so many problems and create so many opportunities. He and Adrian personally backed me when we acquired a Patek Philippe account in London‘s Canary Wharf. I owe them both hugely. Mark’s support towards my colleagues was both implicit and explicit. He was there for our events, he was there at the end of the phone and he was there when we need help and advice,” he continues.
“Looking back I think it was Mark’s (and now Adrian’s) unshakable belief in the family values of Patek Philippe — trust and honesty and fairness that permeated through his words and deeds. It was a case of the head and the heart being aligned perfectly and the stomach too; the gut feel for a situation, an opportunity. A belief in doing things the right way, for the right reason. It’s evident in everything that happens at Rhone Products today.”
David M Robinson has an insider from the Rhone Products (the trading name of Patek Philippe distribution in the UK) in the form of Liz Allister, who spent four years in Mr Hearn’s team before joining DMR as head of creative in 2012.
“When Liz joined our business she would share with us her experience of working with Mark and the team at Rhone and a mutual understanding of the Patek Philippe “way of thinking — and doing” emerged. Attention to detail, patience, planning. Communication, always. Perhaps more importantly though, was the feeling that you were part of the Patek Philippe and Rhone family. Mark made my colleagues feel part of that family, that journey. A gift in itself,” Mr Robinson describes.
“I will never forget his personal support towards me. I will look back with immense fondness at the times we watched his beloved Nottingham Forrest (or Chelsea, for Adrian’s sake) at Anfield, good times (often crying with laughter) on the golf course. Lots of lunches and dinners when, often, conversation was about family and life rather than just “references”. I will remember the pride with which he talked about his family and particularly about Clarissa’s time in the Alps. And when we actually met Clarissa on holiday, in the Alps, it’s was evident that she loved her Dad and much as he loved her. Many people will miss Mark but none more so than his family and at DMR, our collective heart aches for their very personal loss,” he concludes.
Adam Spiers, managing director of Michael Spiers in Devon and Cornwall, joined the Patek Philippe family of dealers a decade ago, but had worked with Mr Hearn during his days with Zenith.
“We first met Mark in the 1980’s when he was with Zenith”, Mr Spiers remembers. “Our chairman, Keith White, and my late father Michael immediately hit it off with Mark and he became a lifelong friend. We were honoured to have the opportunity to work with Mark again when we became a Patek Philippe authorised retailer in 2011. Mark was integral to the great success of Patek Philippe and his passion for the brand and the watch industry was, and still is, an inspiration.”
Over in Ireland, which was under the umbrella of the Patek Philippe UK team, Weir & Son’s legendary owner David Andrews paid a personal tribute after working with Mr Hearn for more than three decades, and gives clues to his success.
“I knew Mark for the best part of 32 years. His ambition was always to be managing director of Patek Philippe UK. This he achieved in 2000. Mark built a team within Rhone Products that is the envy of other distributors. He insisted that all his retail outlets should be dedicated to service and training. There was no arrogance in the way in which he achieved this,” Mr Andrews reveals.
“I will always remember his smile and humility. He was a true ambassador for Patek Philippe and it’s values. May he rest in peace,” he concludes.
Karl Massey, managing director of Prestons, is another executive who worked with Mr Hearn for 30 years and fondly remembers his earliest experiences.
“I first met Mark in 1990 when he was representing Zenith in the UK, he came to store unannounced with, as was the norm in those days, a trolley and sample cases. His passion for Zenith was infectious and I soon understood all the advantages of the monocoque case on their 9ct Gold presentation watch. Nobody could have given more to Zenith and subsequently Patek Philippe,” Mr Massey recalls.
Along with those professional skills, Mr Hearn is best remembered for his personal qualities. “Competitive, driven and dedicated but also quietly compassionate. When events either personally or professionally were not going your way, Mark was intensely loyal. I am very proud to have known and worked with Mark throughout his career in our industry,” Mr Massey adds.
Jon Weston, managing director of Patek Philippe partner Ruddell the Jeweller in Birmingham, also worked closely with Mr Hearn to support the British School of Watchmaking.
“I had known Mark for 36 years and I was delighted when he joined Patek Philippe. Mark was a great gentleman, kind, helpful and indeed humble,” Mr Weston says.
“We shared a committed passion for the education of watchmakers within the industry, Mark was also instrumental in the development of our business through our Patek Philippe partnership, something I will always be grateful for.
“He was always there for me and the feeling was mutual. Mark was a great guy who I had the utmost respect for, he worked closely with a lot of charities and always gave his all to devote time to help them.”
The closeness of the Patek Philippe family of dealers shines through in Mr Weston’s final thoughts: “Mark was a farther figure to some of us, a brother to others. A straight-talking guy with the determination to get a job done and a kind heart, he was always respectful to others. Rest well my good friend, you will be dearly missed by us all.”
Tunbridge Wells jeweller G. Collins & Sons became a Patek Philippe dealer in 2005, and Harry and Josh Collins say they always referred to Mr Hearn as “The Grand Master”.
“What he did not know about horology was not worth knowing,” they share with WATCHPRO.
“That is why he chose to work for the best in the world. Any remark he made with regard to Patek was made with pride,” they continue.
“The world of horology has lost a wonderful man; the perfect ambassador, a man who cared about the whole profession. A true trailblazer, he wanted to make a difference and he did,” they say.