FashionAll The Rage

Patek Philippe has the luxury of time

Business

Beverly Hills further cemented its reputation as a must-shop for high-end watch aficionados when the first free-standing Patek Philippe boutique in the United States opened its doors on Rodeo Drive late last month.

Owned and operated by Gearys of Beverly Hills — which also owns and operates the adjoining Rolex boutique — the 1,250-square-foot Art Deco jewel box of a space at 360 N. Rodeo Drive has walls of blond bird's-eye maple and dark Indian rosewood lacquered to a high gloss, accented with imported custom sconces, display cases and chandeliers, all by Patrick Gaguech, the French interior designer responsible for the look of the brand's company-owned stores in Geneva, London and Paris.

While the 173-year-old Swiss watchmaker may not be as well-known as some of its luxury-brand counterparts (it's pronounced pah-TEK fil-EEP, in case you were wondering), its timepieces are sought after by collectors.

At a recent store event, Larry Pettinelli, president of Patek Philippe USA, said New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco have traditionally been the brand's three biggest markets.

"And over the 25 years that I've been with the company," he said, "this has always been where most of the collectors are."

Founded in Geneva in 1839, the brand was purchased in 1932 by brothers Charles and Jean Stern, who previously supplied Patek with watch dials. The company, which holds some 80 patents relating to the design and function of watches, has been owned by the Stern family ever since.

The company's entire output is only about 45,000 timepieces a year — of which just 8,000 reach the U.S. retail market. Gearys' President and Chief Executive Thomas J. Blumenthal said one of the biggest benefits of the stand-alone store is the ability to display the newest (and hardest to get) timepieces each season.

"It will also allow us to showcase more styles and more pieces overall," Blumenthal said, explaining that some 75 to 100 of the hand-assembled, rose gold, white gold and occasionally diamond-encrusted wristwatches will be on display at one time — almost double the number stocked at a traditional multi-brand retailer.

The boutique boasts a full range of men's wristwatches (prices start at $20,300) and women's timepieces (starting at $13,000). Also on display, temporarily, is a $117,500 cloisonné dome clock honoring the home state of Patek's first U.S. boutique by depicting, in colorful enamelwork, the California state bird (the valley quail) and flower (the California poppy).

Blumenthal said a collector bought the one-of-a-kind clock within a week of the store opening but is allowing it to remain on display at least through Sept. 20.

Patek Philippe at Gearys Beverly Hills, 360 N. Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills

adam.tschorn@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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