While Haute Couture Week was in full swing in Paris last month, Patek Philippe hosted an evening of glamour to present its new Twenty-4 Automatic collection of women’s timepieces.
Vying for the attention of couture buyers and influencers, high jewelry houses frequently time the unveiling of their sparkling new baubles to be in sync with the haute couture calendar. But it is a rare occurrence for a pure watchmaker, and one as traditional as Patek Philippe, to join the processions of silky organza, flowing gauze, and plissé tulle to present a timepiece collection. But Patek Philippe sent out its “save-the-date” notices weeks ahead to ensure attendance by its guests at the height of a party-filled week.
On January 24, Patek Philippe’s Parisian salon on the Place Vendôme, in the heart of the French capital’s luxury district, welcomed guests for cocktails ahead of a gala dinner hosted by Sandrine Stern, head of creation for Patek Philippe, to introduce in high style its newest women’s collection to clients, friends of the Swiss brand, and select members of the press.
The invitation had left no “optional” attire alternative: “Smoking et Robe Longue” for strictly “Black Tie.” It was a directive followed to the letter by the 100 guests in attendance, decked out in tuxedos and shimmering evening gowns, most of them sporting a Patek Philippe timepiece, as they headed to the salon along a carpeted path lit up by flickering candles.
“This soirée is not an ordinary evening,” Stern said in her opening statement. “It marks the culmination of years of research and reflection in an attempt to please the woman of today and tomorrow.”
There was certainly nothing “ordinary” about the glittering evening as it got underway with a party alive with the clicking of champagne flutes, each decorated with a freshly-cut white rose.
Last October, Stern was in attendance when Patek Philippe hosted a night-time garden party in Milan for the international launch of the Twenty-4 Automatic collection. On a grander scale and with a longer guest list, that event had signified the importance of the women’s collections and of the storied watchmaker’s female client base.
This time, in Paris, the evening was more intimate and more about red-carpet glitz, as guests walked across the Place Vendôme to the Hôtel Ritz for dinner. There, they were welcomed by graceful models in lace, satin, and taffeta gowns crafted by Alexis Mabille, the French couturier whose runway show just two days earlier on the official haute couture calendar had dazzled attendees with what the designer had called “a rainbow of colors,” in which snow whites, cherry reds, and royal blues symbolized, as Mabille explained, “freedom of color and freedom of expression.”
“We are here to celebrate our new creation, the ladies’ Twenty-4 Automatic, that pays tribute to women,” announced the Maison Patek Philippe. “Twenty-four hours in the life of a woman is always an adventure that you ladies accomplish with brio as heroines each day.”
The seated dinner was held in the Salon d’Été of the Hôtel Ritz where each table’s centerpiece was an enchanting miniature garden of leafy verdure and white spring flowers, echoing the charm of a softly-lit courtyard visible through the glass-panes of the ballroom’s French doors. Since its reopening in 2016 after four years of renovation (and at a reported cost of $450 million), the legendary Hôtel Ritz has reclaimed its rightful place among Parisian “Palaces,” an exclusive label that designates the highest-rated hotels in the city.
A woman’s “daily life” is an adventure on which Patek Philippe embarked when it launched its quartz-powered Twenty-4 timepiece collection in 1999, intended, as its name suggests, to be an “everyday” watch. That collection soon became one of Patek Philippe’s most popular women’s models, gaining a faithful following thanks to its stylish rectangular shape and articulated bracelet.
“In 1999, the Twenty-4 had signaled a significant turning point in the brand’s vision of a feminine collection at Patek Philippe,” Stern said. “Today, twenty years later, we are proud and pleased to present the new Twenty-4 Automatic.”
Twenty years later, the new Twenty-4 Automatic model opens a new chapter in Patek Philippe’s feminine adventure with a redesigned case on the same bracelet, and an upgraded movement, bringing excellence in watchmaking to the style-conscious woman.
“The world and the place of women in it have evolved in the last 20 years,” Stern said. “To dialogue with a world in constant evolution, we wanted the Twenty-4 to be resolute and audacious, in the image of the modern woman who knows her own taste.”
To please women of varying and often discriminating tastes, Patek Philippe offers a line-up of women’s complicated watches but also ladies’ versions of many of its men’s models, including the Nautilus, Calatrava, and Aquanaut collections. The Twenty-4 collection, however, was from the outset designed specifically for women. Now, the new Automatic comes not just with a new round case but also a level of technical precision that is equal to that found in many of Patek Philippe’s beloved men’s timepieces.
“Our dream was for the new Twenty-4 to be soft but with a force of character, and we have done everything to allow those two poles to come together,” Stern said.
The softness surely comes from the 36mm round-shaped case, in stainless steel or 18k rose gold, with a choice of four dial colors, in a “sunburst” blue or grey, and a satin-finished brown or silver. Its force comes from the Calibre 324 SC, known for its precision. It is the same movement used in many of Patek Philippe’s men’s models, including its famous Nautilus Ref. 5711.
“Haute couture and a beautiful watch can coexist well in a woman’s world, though there is really no comparison when you consider the technicity of a timepiece,” Stern said in a private interview after dinner. “This watch has a style mixed with the technicity that we believe women want today, and as such it is a nice evolution within the Twenty-4 collection.”
Before the foie gras appetizer and lobster course arrived, Stern made her closing remarks to those gathered to witness the coming together of haute couture and high watchmaking.
To the men in the room, she suggested they offer their views and “sensations” on the new collection. To the women, she presented this wish: “We only hope that the dreams that we have embedded in this timepiece will match your ambitions.”
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