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Patek Philippe boss: Quality is more important than growth

By CNN wire staff
updated 10:03 AM EDT, Fri May 17, 2013
  • Patek Phillippe -- founded in 1839 and bought by the Stern family in 1832 -- produces around 50,000 watches a year.
  • A Patek Philippe time piece commands a high price and usually increases in value with age
  • Stern told CNN the Swiss company is not subject to the pressure of shareholders demanding short-term results

(CNN) -- The tick of a clock may be his business but Thierry Stern, boss of Patek Philippe, is happy to take his time ensuring the luxury watchmaker sticks to its traditional values.

Stern told CNN the Swiss company is not subject to shareholders demanding short-term results, and could therefore make decisions to benefit the company and its existing clients without facing time pressures.

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"It really allows me to do whatever I believe is right," Stern told CNN's Nina dos Santos.

Patek Phillippe -- founded in 1839 by two Polish immigrants and bought by the Stern family in 1832 -- produces around 50,000 watches a year.

Read more: Is Europe facing slow decay?

Unlike its competitors, Stern said the independent watch maker has resisted the temptation to open up "massively" in China because he believed it would damage the company's integrity.

Stern said: "If I try to get the watches from Europe to China for example, I would put myself in trouble... I would lose my client and my credibility."

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Despite building the Patek Philippe brand in the Far East, tradition and customer loyalty are of paramount importance to the success of the Geneva-based company. Stern said: "You can sell to Chinese, I don't mind, but please keep the right pieces for the people coming every year."

And Stern said reliability and a local clientele is part of the reason Patek Philippe has not fallen victim to the problems plaguing the single currency euro area.

Read more: GE Europe chief eyes investment in Germany

Stern said: "Today you need to evolve otherwise you die and the watchmakers, they have to evolve."

A Patek Philippe time piece commands a high price and usually increases in value with age, making the luxurious watches an alternative investment to other more volatile assets such as stocks or bonds.

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