From 2018 all the company’s divisions will be housed together in a new building in Plan-les-Ouates (GE).
Twenty years ago, Patek Philippe reunited all its departments, which up to that point had been scattered all over Geneva, in one glamorous new manufacture in Plan-les-Ouates. “At the time, around 1995–1996, the watchmaking business was in dire straits,” notes Philippe Stern, “but we were confident about the future. Indeed, by 2003 we were already feeling cramped in our new premises, which we had thought would stand us in good stead for decades. So we moved our casemaking division out to a nearby site, and then in 2009 we expanded our plot in Plan-les-Ouates and renovated another building to accommodate our movement component workshop. Today, twenty years down the line, the market is in trouble once more and the future is difficult to predict, but again we are investing. It’s our duty to the future.”
And what an investment. CHF 500 million: 450 million for construction and 50 million for the manufacturing equipment. It’s a colossal sum, and it’s entirely self-financed.
With a surface area of 110,000m2 spread over six floors, including four underground levels, the new building due to be inaugurated in 2018 will bring together all the brand’s activities and 2400-strong workforce under one roof.
Thierry Stern explains his goals for the building: “Our aim is to make a lasting commitment to Geneva by further developing and strengthening our activities here. Our goal with this new tool is to further improve the quality of our products and to invest in training and applied research, particularly in the sphere of new materials. As things stand, we have already validated our plan for movement production up to 2024, and this building, half of whose surface area will be set aside for manufacturing, will enable us to achieve these objectives. Aside from that, it will also provide a home for our craftsmen and women, chainsmiths and chamferers. We will be able to set up pilot projects to provide continual testing of our manufacturing processes and products. There will also be an enormous restaurant, and a service centre where spare parts will be produced and stored, which will enable us to further consolidate our restoration and refurbishment activities for legacy models. Finally, we will centralise all our training activities for watchmakers, distributors and retailers there.”
Designed by Geneva architects Frisk de Marignac Pidoux, the new building will have sustainability built into its DNA. The design takes into account not only energy management (energy generated by the machines is recycled to heat the adjacent community) but also the ‘social’ quality of the spaces, which make abundant use of natural light, as well as its footprint in the Plan-les-Ouates business park, and transport solutions (there are 650 parking places for two-wheeled vehicles).
Finally, if proof were needed of the project’s importance to the Canton of Geneva, the building permit was issued in the record time of three months. Antonio Hodgers, the councillor in charge of urban planning, housing and energy for the canton of Geneva, points out: “This shows that, above and beyond the tax revenues it expects to collect, Geneva is investing in industry, not just the tertiary sector. It’s also about wanting to preserve an image, the image of research, innovation and our watchmaking tradition.”
Source: Europa Star December/January 2016 Magazine Issue