Home Watches Plan-Les-Watches: The Watchmaking Prowess Behind Patek Philippe

Plan-Les-Watches: The Watchmaking Prowess Behind Patek Philippe

Plan-Les-Watches: The Watchmaking Prowess Behind Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe

If you already know something in regards to the sensible facet of creating watches, you already know that manufacturing is a delicate subject. You would possibly, for instance, see information about some large new construction that watchmaker A is constructing, and naturally marvel what number of extra watches will likely be made beneath that roof. Now, if you already know somewhat extra about watchmaking, it is not going to shock you to be taught that extra watches aren’t on the playing cards – at the very least not straight away, however actually by no means to the extent that manufacturing will instantly double.

Whereas visiting the brand new Patek Philippe facility in Geneva’s Plan-les-Ouates neighbourhood (affectionately often known as Plan-les-Watches or Plan-les-Watch), we’re proven a staggering variety of CNC (laptop numerical management) machines. It was actually a show-stopping second for the press tour, organised for Southeast Asia media, particularly for these of us who understood that CNC machines can run 24/7. For a second, this author thought of simply what number of brass motion blanks could possibly be produced on the new PP6 facility with the multi-axis CNC machines. That silly second handed rapidly although as a result of Patek Phlippe helpfully knowledgeable us that gears, pinions and arbours (additionally produced right here, with totally different CNC machines in a course of known as bar-turning, the place the uncooked materials bars flip however the instruments are fastened) wanted to be completed by hand. Something with tooth, actually. To be blunt right here, this actually implies that each spoke of each wheel will get some particular person consideration, nonetheless miniscule it could be.

Pulling again somewhat from this particular close-up, the fact of watch manufactures is commonly shocking as a result of these websites are sometimes enormous – the brand new facility we visited stands 34m excessive, with 10 storeys (4 are underground, which Patek Philippe actually describes as subterranean, in good previous secret lair model) for a complete of 133,650sqm. Clearly, the location is very large but Patek Philippe’s manufacturing quantity of 70,000 watches (that’s the top-end estimate; Patek Philippe doesn’t disclose particular manufacturing numbers). What’s required right here is an establishing scene, so allow us to take you again to 2019, within the Earlier than-Instances – allow us to return even additional than this, for a little bit of context.

Patek Philippe

In The Starting…

Patek Philippe has been on mission to increase and improve its capabilities because the agency got here to life in 1839, and definitely because the Stern household took over within the Thirties. In all this time, wealth has turn out to be extra democratised, and timepieces discovered themselves on the wrists of extra folks than ever earlier than. Bear this in thoughts if you go to the Patek Philippe Salons in Geneva – one in all three owned and operated by the model itself – as a result of this house used to accommodate the watchmakers. When the appearance of quartz know-how put paid to many a storied identify, and even despatched the watchmaking commerce into decline, these corporations that soldiered on – Patek Philippe amongst them – discovered that they needed to take steps to guard the complete business. As a matter of truth, the Patek Philippe Museum occupies an area previously utilized by one in all its suppliers, now turned in-house division – the famed bracelet-maker Ateliers Reunis. Whereas each Salons and Museum are spectacular, they can’t examine with the newest addition to Patek Philippe’s manufacturing services.

By the point Thierry Stern succeeded as President of Patek Philippe, he was constructing on the work of his predecessor, his father Philippe. The elder Stern had introduced the constructing of a producing website at Plan-les-Ouates in 1996, and that was prepared by the point the youthful Stern took over in 2009. To make an extended story considerably shorter, Patek Philippe determined that much more workspace was wanted, however had to slot in the present footprint of website; the present services had been modern however merely not retaining tempo with future wants. The answer unfolded in a number of phases, and work on the constructing often known as PP6 (the topic of this story) started in earnest in 2015. Clearly, Thierry Stern needed one thing huge, and PP6 suits the invoice. Whereas this itself is a good story, we’re extra concerned with what would possibly enlighten collectors and people nonetheless ready for his or her shot at a Patek Philippe watch.

Patek Philippe

Returning to the CNC machines and the shaping of elements with tooth, that is truly the place one can be taught one thing fascinating and probably particular to Patek Philippe. Not singularly distinctive as a result of the manufacture is the best and finest or no matter however only a rational methodology of working that the Geneva model has adopted. The gist of it’s this: the bottom plates made right here aren’t meant for classy actions, however the elements with tooth are shared between all kinds of calibres. Completely different machines produce plates and bridges for classy watches. Why ought to this be so? The reason given, and what we all know ourselves, is that sophisticated actions elements, together with plates and bridges, are thicker than regular. These are filed all the way down to the suitable dimensions (nonetheless thicker than customary actions) as a result of the expert fingers of a craftsperson can deal with extra advanced and delicate actions than even CNC machines can.

Labored By Hand

The tourbillon bridge is a good and generally used instance, as a result of the tough half is labored over by hand fairly intensely. Additional materials additionally helps ameliorate minor errors, that are inevitable. Gears and pinions, however, may be made to 1 customary specification. Not that any model discusses issues like errors however they do occur as a result of when you take off an excessive amount of whereas bevelling, for instance, there isn’t any going again; this author is aware of that from expertise, provided that tolerances listed below are past what the bare eye can apprehend. Suffice to say right here that those that are on the lookout for the explanation why Patek Philippe could be production-limited – even with automated processes within the combine – can discover one necessary level within the hobbing course of, and what follows after. Hobbing is the technical time period for the manufacturing of tooth on elements.

Patek Philippe

Sadly, space-constraints restrict us as a lot as they do a watchmaker corresponding to Patek Philippe, so we should transfer on for somewhat bit to bracelets and metiers d’artwork. We’d have beloved to inform you extra about motion meeting however that was not on the playing cards on this event, and this operation truly takes place in one other constructing right here on the Plan-les-Ouates manufacture. On that word, we’d be remiss to not point out the Superior Analysis division at Patek Philippe, which is on the third ground of PP6. Sadly, this was not a part of the tour this time, though we maintain out some hope that will probably be in future. Having a cause to return to the Patek Philippe manufacture isn’t any cause to complain.

And so, on to bracelets we go, and this one will likely be widespread with the broader watch fanatic world. After all, the bracelets we noticed in manufacturing had been for the. Nautilus, which could be tied for many unique and most well-known watch bracelet on this planet – the GOATs of bracelets, one would possibly say. It’s at all times superb to see bracelets taking form, hyperlink by hyperlink, though it should be stated that the uncooked materials right here arrives within the type of a bar that’s within the tough dimensions required (full with a groove within the center). Famously, there are 55 steps concerned in making the Nautilus bracelet, and Patek Philippe did put aside fairly a little bit of time to get into this. Now, you would possibly marvel why all of the fuss over bracelets however of all of the manufactures we visited this 12 months, Patek Philippe is alone in exhibiting the world the way it makes its bracelets in its personal manufacture. Certainly, most watch manufacturers outsource the manufacturing of bracelets to a specialist, however Patek Philippe acquired its personal provider a few years in the past (as famous briefly above).

Case Examine

Patek Philippe

To proceed with the making of bracelets, the formed bars are despatched into the bar-fed machining centre to kind particular person hyperlinks. It is a milling course of, to maintain issues succinct, and includes many quality-control steps in addition to hand-correction, however these aren’t a part of the 55 steps. As you already know, there are two major elements to the bracelet hyperlinks – the H-shaped bit and the centre hyperlink – and these are individually labored earlier than being assembled (with pins). Even after being assembled, there may be nonetheless buffing and chamfering to be executed, and the centre hyperlinks are literally polished additional to realize the signature mirror sprucing. That is executed by defending the H-links with perforated masking tape and sprucing the size of the assembled bracelet.

Transferring on to case-making, we’ve got nearly sufficient house to get into one other well-known Patek Philippe signature, the hobnail case- center ornament (which additionally seems on bezels generally). It is a Clous de Paris guilloche approach executed with a hand operated comb and aircraft lathe. You’ll have to think about the approach required to take care of the correct quantity of strain right here (the half strikes whereas the lathe stays nonetheless). On the making of the circumstances themselves, that is fairly straight-forward, with bar-turning (simply as motion elements are made), milling, stamping and sprucing within the combine. We word for the document that Patek Philippe can be amongst the few watchmaking corporations that produce their very own circumstances, and have invested closely to deliver this know-how in-house.

Patek Philippe

Lastly, we’ll spare the final phrase for Uncommon Handcrafts, although it means we should depart issues prematurely right here and have only a phrase or two left for gem-setting in captions. Our tour included an illustration of champleve enamelling, which is just one of 12 strategies that each one enamellers at Patek Philippe are proficient with. The champleve approach includes portray contained in the strains, that are principally cavities carved right into a dial, and this system is especially suited to letting fanatics have a go, as you possibly can see right here.

An illustration of all strategies would both be cursory or take days (when you visited the Grand Exhibition [in Tokyo or in Singapore in 2019], this a part of the tour is a bit like that section), and one should keep in mind that Patek Philippe additionally has different artisans engaged on dials at specialist dialmaker Cadrans Fluckiger in St. Imier. It additionally engages exterior specialists corresponding to Anita Porchet, whom a few of you’ll have met or seen in motion in Singapore, whereas additionally permitting different artisans to work at home on their very own machines.

On that word, the Patek Philippe manufacture is a type of house for watches, the place they’re lovingly ready to be despatched out into the world. Spare a thought for this the subsequent time you take a look at your individual Patek Philippe as a result of somebody at house in Geneva is making an attempt to think about you discovering immense pleasure in stated watch. If a Patek Philippe continues to be in your horizon, we hope this story performs its half in convincing you that it’s price inching in direction of that imaginary line.

This text first appeared on WOW’s Legacy 2024 situation

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