Patek Philippe, the most prestigious firm in the watch world, has thrown down a gauntlet to the Swiss watch industry. After 123 years, the Swiss brand replaced the Geneva Seal with a higher-standard seal of its own.
The company announced at the Baselworld exhibition in April 2009 that, starting that year, it will no longer submit its movements for inspection by the Geneva Seal Bureau. Instead, it will affix its own Patek Philippe Replica Watch (an emblem with a double P) on its movements, testifying that they have met quality standards that the company claims are “the most exclusive and stringent” in the world.
Patek’s break with the Geneva Seal is a dramatic about-face for the firm, which for years touted it as the watch industry’s highest assurance of quality. The seal was created in 1886 by the Canton of Geneva to protect the reputation of the Geneva watchmaking guild. The Poinçon de Genève, as it is called in French, established technical criteria for the quality of a movement produced in the canton. Only watches manufactured in the Canton of Geneva are eligible for the seal. An independent bureau inspects the movements and issues certificates of quality. Patek Philippe was a strong backer of the seal from the beginning. In a statement, Patek acknowledged that it “became the foremost ambassador of this quality label and contributed significantly to building its global reputation as one of the strictest benchmarks in the watchmaking industry.”
The decision to create its own seal was not made lightly; Patek executives say it has been discussed internally for five years. They say the firm urged the Geneva Seal Bureau to strengthen the requirements, which Patek now claims define only the minimum quality levels for a mechanical watch. When the Geneva Seal Bureau declined, Patek decided to go its own way.
The Patek Philippe Seal goes far beyond the requirements for the Geneva Seal and addresses the two major complaints about it: that its criteria deal only with the watch movement and that they are only concerned with movement materials and finishing, not rate performance. In its press release announcing its seal, Patek takes a clear shot at both the Geneva Seal and COSC, Switzerland’s independent chronometer testing body, both of which judge uncased movements, not complete watches.
Patek Philippe has created internal legislative and executive bodies to set standards for the quality seal and to ensure their enforcement. The Quality Replica Patek Philippe Seal Committee defines the rules for the seal through a Technical Committee and an Aesthetic Committee. A Supervisory Authority monitors the observance of the rules in all Patek workshops. The Supervisory Authority reports to the PP Seal Committee. Philippe Stern and his son and designated successor, vice president Thierry Stern, have declared themselves the guardians of the Patek Philippe Seal. The two appear in a global ad campaign announcing the new seal and committing themselves to maintaining its standards. “We will spare no effort to assure that the emblem with the double ‘P’ continues to symbolize trustworthiness and the ultimate in watchmaking artistry — for this and all coming generations,” they declare in a signed statement in the ad.
One concern raised by some observers and not addressed formally by Patek is that, in dropping the Geneva Seal, it has dispensed with any independent verification of its quality. Whatever their faults, both the Geneva Seal Bureau and COSC offer independent validation of quality claims. When WatchTime raised the independent verification question separately with two Patek executives, each noted that the company has too much at stake to not enforce the seal’s rigorous standards. Moreover, they said, customers can themselves test the watches to see if they live up to the criteria of the Patek Philippe Copy Watch.