As recently as two decades ago, Patek Philippe was a name uttered almost exclusively by the horological cognoscenti. Its permeation in pop culture and everyday conversations might have surprised traditional fans but there is no denying its contemporary influence. In fact, statistics from 2017 suggest that one in eight hip-hop songs that year lyrically referenced the watchmaker, as the industry’s elite cemented their status among the haute monde with this casual bout of name-dropping.
Under the stage handle The Carters, power couple Beyoncé and Jay-Z inverted the brand for the sake of rhyme in the 2018 single Apeshit (“Bought him a jet/ Shut down Colette/ Philippe Patek) that flaunted their lavish taste in a video shot at the Louvre in Paris, no less. Meanwhile, the likes of Soulja Boy (Patek, with the line “I got that Patek on my wrist” repeated seemingly ad infinitum and comprising the entire hook) and Valee (Patek Philippe) were among those who made song titles of the Swiss stalwart. Condé Nast’s online music magazine, Pitchfork, cheekily commented that the brand is rarely pronounced correctly in these contexts in an article that also asserted “a watch is seen by most rappers as a king-making talisman” and “owning a Patek represents entrance into a new class of rap sophisticate”.
Contributing to its arrival in the minds of the masses is the seminal Generations campaign of 1996: “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.” It was one of the most iconic taglines of that era, wriggling its way into public consciousness and framing its products as prestigious heirlooms for demographics that might otherwise have never encountered or remembered the brand.
Another recent significant rise in brand awareness could be traced to the Watch Art Grand Exhibition, a biannual affair that made its Asian debut this year. The fifth instalment was held in Singapore, after successful shows in Dubai (2012), Munich (2013), London (2015) and New York (2017). In conjunction with the city state’s bicentennial celebrations, marking Sir Stamford Raffles’ arrival in Singapore 200 years ago, the immersive exhibition at the Sands Theatre in Marina Bay Sands recreated the iconic salons on Rue du Rhône in Geneva, the manufacture in Plan-les-Ouates and the Patek Philippe Museum. Collectors and journalists flew in from around the world to savour the spectacle and tens of thousands of visitors thronged the hall during the 18-day exhibition. And in the middle of it all, shaking hands and fielding questions, was Patek Philippe president Thierry Stern.
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