Time To Reset & Rejuvenate
Robb Report Singapore|January/February 2022
In an ideal world, with life-changing, planetshaping technologies at our disposal, we should have shrugged off a global pandemic like water off a duck’s back. But it has not turned out so; rather, with on-again, off-again lockdowns, mask mandates and travel bans, our efforts have been as heroic as they have been ham-fisted, like turning bolts with a wrong-sized wrench: go too gently, there’s no traction; force it, the bolt is damaged and the masses take to the streets.
Yeo Suan Futt

At its worst, in the first half of 2020, air passenger traffic fell by two-thirds, and global GDP which had tracked between 2.33 and 3.28 per cent in preceding years, flipped the other way to -3.60 per cent. Baselworld was finished when Rolex, Patek Philippe, etc walked out in April, at around the same time that Swiss watch exports fell 62 per cent in value compared to 2019. Thankfully, the rest of 2020 wasn’t so bad and the industry ended the year losing just a bit more than a fifth of its value.

Has the world in 2021 been, as the World Bank described it, “poised to stage its most robust post-recession recovery in 80 years”? Just as we were about to do a wheelie, the Omicron variant has got us by the scruff of our necks, with growth forecasts for major countries including the US, Canada, China, India and Australia significantly downgraded, though there seem to be some bright spots in Europe.

But as sure as spring follows winter, things will change, and likely for the better after bumping against rock bottom. The Swiss watchmaking industry has done a phenomenal job of keeping an anachronistic, mechanical technology relevant and desirable in a digitalised 21st century.

Swiss watchmakers reinvent for the future.

Patek Philippe: The Custodian

Every watchmaking company is a custodian of sorts, each in its own way preserving the wonderful legacy of watchmakers through the centuries. But there is a distinction in scale and consequence, by which measure Patek Philippe is one of the big boys. Even as innovation is crucial, Patek Philippe is the standard-bearer of so much that is cherished of watchmaking that every little step forward must be considered in the light of defining what must not change.

Last year, the manufacture celebrated 20 years of the Patek Philippe Museum, a storehouse of horological treasures with some 2,500 watches, automata, precious objects and portrait miniatures on enamel. It’s a five-century tableau of Genevan, Swiss and European horological tradition, and also a chronicle of Patek Philippe’s production since 1839.

Patek Philippe is not above letting its hair down on occasion, though. It recently joined the bandwagon of companies releasing watches in cheerier, candied colours; to dispel the gloom of recent times, perhaps. Many of these watches earned a fat chunk of likes on social media; only the minty Tiffany & Co dial Nautilus got auctioned for US$6.5 million.

Audemars Piguet: Master Builder

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