Special product for birthday milestone

Interview: Thierry Stern and Stephen Paterson

Thierry Stern of Patek Philippe, and Stephen Paterson, Hamilton & Inches (photo by Terry Murden)
Thierry Stern of Patek Philippe, and Stephen Paterson, Hamilton & Inches (photo by Terry Murden)

Timely celebration for historic jeweller

When Stephen Paterson was looking for ways to mark a major milestone in the history of the jeweller Hamilton & Inches he knew it had to be something extra special.

The firm is known for its luxury top-of-the-market items, but when it came to celebrating the its 150th anniversary the chief executive wanted a gesture that would also contribute to its history.

What better than a limited edition item produced by one of its top suppliers? The result is a collection of specially-made watches, each worth £58,000 and carrying a unique Edinburgh time zone to replace London in representing GMT.

Only 25 have been manufactured by Patek Philippe craftsmen at its Geneva workshops and after an event for almost 200 of its well-heeled customers at the National Museum of Scotland Paterson said the response was extremely favourable.

“We are well over-subscribed. I expect them all to be sold before Christmas,” he said, enough to bring a smile to Thierry Stern,  president and fourth generation head of the family business who flew in to Edinburgh for the launch.

After the presentation Stern explained how the diamond-studded timepiece, prosaically known only by its reference number 5130P-029 is a rare example of the firm making a product specifically for a single retailer.

“We may do one a year, maybe every two years. We want to ensure the products retain some rarity value,” he said.

Patek Philippe and Hamilton & Inches have enjoyed a partnership for more than 50 years and share the loyalty of The Queen who wears the watches and has visited the shop.

The 'Edinburgh' watch
The ‘Edinburgh’ watch

Paterson, who has worked at the firm for 37 years since he left school, was delighted that the Swiss company was prepared to help with the birthday celebrations.

“It is a huge honour,” he said. “It is very rare for Patek Philippe to make a piece specially for a business. I am extremely proud that we are talking about this today.”

He admitted that despite their value some watches may not always be aesthetically pleasing. “That’s not the case with this one. It is a beautiful thing, and that was how the customers responded when we showed it to them.”

It is set in a platinum case with an engraving on the back marking Hamilton & Inches’ 150th while the black alligator strap has Hamilton & Inches purple stitching.

The dial is a guilloche sunburst in Hamilton & Inches purple. The timepiece has a self-winding mechanical movement. It is believed to be the first time Edinburgh has replaced London to represent GMT on the time zones.

It is presented in a bespoke elm box which bears a Britannia silver plaque with the Hamilton & Inches crest. Each watch comes with an accompanying pair of matching Patek Philippe 80 carat white gold cufflinks.

The jewellery house has created silverware for Bute House, the residence of the First Minister of Scotland, and the Triple Crown Trophy for the Six Nations Rugby Union. It has also created a silver gilt crown for the Lord Lyon King of Arms to mark Her Majesty’s Golden Jubilee, and ceremonial maces for various institutions.

The company has held a Royal Warrant for 120 years and is the Silversmith and Clock Specialist to The Queen.

Stern said the luxury market is holding up and is “back to normal trading conditions” after recent highs and lows.

He was critical of those manufacturers who leapt in with new products when the Chinese market opened up. “It was very dangerous because they didn’t know how China would react, and of course there was the corruption scandal and then the slowdown which saw the market fall.

“When everyone was rushing into China we just supplied two shops. In any case, we didn’t have the ability to increase production.

“Some brands took a big risk, but I felt we had to let the Chinese learn about the brand. I was told I was crazy, but they don’t say that now.”

He and Paterson will not disclose the identities of their customers. It is not so much a matter of security, more part of the ethos of the business to protect client privacy.

“Our customers do not buy our products to tell everyone they have one,” said Stern. “They buy them because they have a passion for the workmanship and because they value beautiful well-made things.”

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