When Patek Philippe opens a freestanding boutique in the Miami Design District—or anywhere in the world for that matter—it is a rare occasion. While most watch companies now have a presence in every US shopping district from Rodeo Drive to Madison Avenue as part of an expansion plan that reads like a 24-city world timer, Patek Philippe is adamantly not on that trajectory. The new store in Miami’s Design District is one of only two Patek boutiques in America—the other, in Los Angeles, opened in 2012.
“There will be very few boutiques in the world,” says Patek Philippe president Thierry Stern. “We are only producing about 65,000 pieces a year, so even if I wanted to have more spaces like this—and it’s a fantastic, big space—I would have to fill them up with watches, and it would be impossible.” He also said there are no current plans to open a third freestanding boutique any time soon. He plans to continue to support retailers despite the current trend that sees many brands shutting down business with retailers to open their own mono-brand stores. “This is not our strategy,” says Stern. “I will always work with the retailers. They’re the professionals. They know the clients; they have the finest places. As long as they are working with us in an honest way, why should I start to invest everywhere with my own boutiques? I’m a watchmaker. I’m not a retailer. What I like to do is to fabricate and design the watches, and I would like to leave the rest to our retail partners.”
The partner, in this case, is Govberg Jewelers, whose Philadelphia store has been an authorized Patek Philippe dealer since 1987. Danny Govberg (third generation) and his son Brian Govberg founded the Nineteen Sixteen Company, which owns and operates the new Patek Philippe boutique in Miami (1916 is the year Govberg Jewelers was founded). “It represents a new chapter and a new opportunity for us,” says Brian. “But we’re also building on the legacy of our long association with Patek Philippe. We’re just taking everything we’ve learned over the years and bringing new life here in Miami.”
Stern says he is happy to work with longstanding partners like the Govbergs, not only because of their expertise in the market but also, like Patek Philippe, they are a family-run business. “It is not the same as dealing with a big group,” he says. “With a group, they will always change. You never know exactly what’s going to happen. With a family business, you know where you’re going to go, and you know it’s going to be stable.”
While the opening is good news for Patek fans in Miami, there will be no greater accessibility to the watches than at any other Patek outlet, and no special boutique editions. In fact, no walk-ins. The store is an appointment-only establishment. Unless a sales associate happens to be free to take you through the line when you show up, you will have to book ahead.
“One of the benefits of being appointment-only is that you really get the undivided attention of our team without being distracted by other people coming in and interrupting or looking over your shoulder to see what you’re purchasing,” says Brian Govberg. “It’s not just the watch, it’s the whole experience.”
The point of opening the Miami store despite the dearth of watches, according to Stern, is “to show clients who we are, and that there is a whole history behind the name. That’s important. If you’re willing to spend so much money on a watch, I think it’s also normal and polite to say, I’m going to spend the time with you and only with you, and you are not going to be disturbed…and we’re focusing on local clients. We aren’t going to sell the rare watches to one guy who is coming once and who will then disappear.”
Lisa Jones, president of Patek Philippe America, feels Miami is the right place at the right time to do that. “Miami has always been a booming market,” says Lisa Jones, president of Patek Philippe America. “It’s a mix of culture, history and innovation, and that matches perfectly with the values of Patek Philippe. It’s a very important city.”
The 2,600-square-foot store is a historic landmark built in 1923 on the north border of what is now the Miami Design District. It once served as the Buena Vista Post Office. The façade retains the original Neoclassical design elements, and the interior has been designed as a contemporary version of Patek’s elegant Geneva showroom—with high ceilings, dramatic chandeliers and precious woods, comfortable seating areas, a private courtyard and a bar. It is not jammed with showcases, for obvious reasons. A second-floor gallery includes a library and a private showroom. There are plenty of large windows for natural light, giving the store a breezy, casual feeling in keeping with the local culture.
Brian Govberg predicts that an increasingly younger clientele will be drawn to the space. “The age of our Patek Philippe customers is trending downwards to the 20-45 group,” he says. “They want watches they can wear all the time. They’re not as concerned with, ‘this is my wedding watch, this is my beach watch.’ It’s more ‘I want a watch I can wear any time,’ and Patek Philippe is producing those types of pieces. The Ref. 6007 is exactly that. It’s a casual dress watch. You can wear it with a suit, or with short sleeves. It’s what the new modern collector wants.”
Stern does not intend to significantly increase production despite burgeoning demand. “We have been trying to increase by 1 percent, 2 percent each year,” he says. “When I came to Patek, and back when Danny [Govberg] started as a dealer, we were producing maybe 27,000 to 30,000 pieces. Today, we are producing 65,000, so any increase will be very incremental. For me, it’s important that the quality doesn’t get compromised. Between quality and quantity, I choose quality. But it depends on the kind of product. If I’m making a new Twenty~Four, I can increase a little bit more than if I was making a new 5970, which is much more complicated. So that’s really the key. If it’s not perfect, I don’t want to see that for Patek, because this would destroy the respect for the brand and the passion of all our collectors. They expect Patek Philippe to be at the top. That’s what I’m doing.”