Walkthrough Patek Philippe Finishing Workshops

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Hello and today we have a very special visit
that we want to share with you, as we had the very exciting and interesting privilege
to walk through some various departments of Patek Philippe where we will talk, illustrate
and partly uncover the notion of finishing in such an important brand. To do so we met Mr. Daniel Jaquet, a man who
joined the company in the early 60’s and has seen and lived from the inside the incredible
evolution of Patek Philippe and was therefore the perfect guide for us for this very interesting
walkthrough. He took us on various production sites showcasing
different types and levels of finishing depending on the types of watches and which part of
the watch we are talking about; cases, bracelets, components and movements. So firstly we went to a department focused
on case finishing and got to see how they proceed on what are called montres d’officier,
meaning officer watches, whose particularity is that you can open the case back with kind
of a lid feature or hinged caseback to be more precise, which then let’s you see the
movement through a regular sapphire glass. Here the particularity or should I say the
main goal is that you want to have this movable back protection “blend” perfectly with
the other main part of the case and ultimately almost not see the juncture between the two. This requires perfect machining of the base
elements naturally, but you still need to adjust and polish by hand these parts to attain
this almost invisible objective. But of course it doesn’t stop there as this
hinge feature itself also needs to be meticulously adjusted; you don’t want to see the hinges
and they have to be put in place in a very meticulous way. You want the action of moving this back case
to be as smooth as possible, it must feel comfortable, not too stiff and not too loose
either. And finally and this is very important, you
want to have this special “just right” feeling when you open and close this case
back: not having to push to much and not ripping your nail while opening it. Those are all minute details, but this is
what will make your customer experience unique. Think about it like when you open and close
the door of a nice German luxury car, you know that sensation of smoothness, comfort
and that little sound of perfection. Well here it’s a bit of the same story,
a bit less robots of course, because here it’s really the dexterity and the experience
of the craftsman that achieves this result, it just takes time. Ok, so let’s move on and Mr Jaquet now took
us to another atelier where they assemble and finish bracelets and as you can see there
are quite a lot of people involved in this process. Metal bracelets can be made of a very large
number of parts and they are real puzzles of ingenuity that you don’t necessarily
grasp when you look at them and for a purpose, they just need to be beautiful and precisely
hide or sublime this intricacy. Design considerations have an impact on this
number of parts, for instance the width of your bracelet can so slightly change and to
keep an overall harmony, well these parts will all vary from one another and you then
need to assemble them in a sequenced manner. But the finishing of these different parts
can also vary on the same bracelet: think of the Nautilus bracelet with its brushed
and polished parts, a clear and distinct element of the watch’s design. Well to achieve this, there is a special order
to respect and for instance for the polished parts, well you can’t do them beforehand
and then assemble them. No, the bracelet needs to be fully assembled,
well protected, and only then can you focus on making these parts shine and the reason
to do it like this is that there would be a much bigger risk of damaging these components,
for instance scratching them, if you did this assembly at a later stage. Each type of material used will also involve
different techniques and tools whether you are working on steel, gold or platinum. But now let’s go to a different department
where practically all is done by hand and you guessed it this is the Haute Horlogerie
department working on the super high-end timepieces of Patek, such as minute repeaters, tourbillons,
well the very top of mechanical watchmaking art. Obviously there are a bit less people here,
but you have to consider this department almost like a self-sufficient entity as they have
all the necessary tooling and skills to produce all the components required for these watches. The finishing of each component is fully done
by hand and in the example we got to witness, the watchmaker was telling us that he could
spend a full day just finishing one specific component and that sometimes for the same
component it can take less, but ultimately the goal is perfection and time to get there
is therefore variable, I like this attitude! Now that we’ve talked a bit more about movements,
well let’s go to another building and this is a pretty impressive operation where they
mainly work on movement components manufacturing, but this also implies the finishing performed
on some gear trains and other components and there are some really really small ones. Finishing is not only done for aesthetics
reasons, but also very importantly for the proper running of your watch’s movement
since it has an impact the chronometric performance of your watch. So for the final atelier we got to visit,
this was in a certain way a bit more classical for us, as this is where a rather large team
of people are working on the final decoration of some movements, for instance with perlage,
angling and polishing, as well as the addition of the famous Geneva stripe motive. Well this was a pretty long visit for us,
but such an interesting one and though I have already been a few times by Patek Philippe,
I must admit that it was the first time I went so deep into the brand’s full technical
operations and I have to say that I was really impressed: it’s pretty big, it’s super
well organized and you could definitely grasp the level of seriousness in these walls and
how Patek Philippe developed its know-how and expertise enabling them to produce today’s
number of timepieces and at the same time remain in a league of their own. So I would really like to thank Mr. Jaquet
and the time he spent with us and naturally all the precious and super interesting things
he shared with me, because it’s really those kind of human encounter that really makes
my day. I hope you enjoyed this visit and we were
happy to take you along. Best to you and see you real soon.

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