In the 1960s, the Stern family and the Tay family laid the foundations for a multi-generational partnership and an enduring friendship. Based on trust and a shared dedication to both preserve the patrimony of the traditional watchmaking arts and to foster an appreciation for Patek Philippe watches, the finest in the world.
Dr Henry Tay, Executive Chairman of The Hour Glass, recalls how his father’s business, Lee Chay Watch, began retailing Patek Philippe watches from the 1960s. The Hour Glass’ journey with Patek Philippe officially began from the founding of the company in October 1979.
Philippe Stern, whose family owns Patek Philippe, began making regular visits to Singapore in the early 1970s. “Philippe and I forged a strong bond and more important for me, a lifelong friendship,” says Dr Tay.
Over the years, Patek Philippe has marked significant milestones for The Hour Glass as well as for Singapore. In 2004, it created a commemorative World Time watch, Ref. 5110P, replacing “Hong Kong” on the dial’s city ring with “Singapore” in red script.
For Singapore’s 50th year of independence in 2015, Patek Philippe created three unique commemorative dome table clocks, each reflecting a theme at the heart of Singapore’s history and identity. The clocks were auctioned, with the proceeds going to museums and charity. The Hour Glass bought the Ref. 1675M “Farquhar Collection” clock at a record-setting bid of $1 million, and donated the clock to the National Museum of Singapore.
Dr Tay says: “In 2018, I travelled to Geneva to celebrate Philippe’s 80th birthday. It was just the two of us. He told me, ‘Whoa, Henry. Time flies. We’ve now known each other for at least 50 years. It’s important to pass on to our children this value, that business relationships are based on friendship and tradition.’”
That close relationship is carried on by their sons Michael Tay and Thierry Stern.
Says Michael: “Beyond developing incredible watches, Mr Philippe Stern is also the world’s most important watch collector, having devoted the greater part of the past half-century assembling a collection that is uncompromising in both quality and scholarship. Most importantly, he has the generosity of spirit to share his passion and collection with members of the public at the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva.
“Mr Stern’s greatest success to date is, undeniably, the seamless transition of leadership of Patek Philippe to his son Thierry, who has been equally transformational in his agenda for the brand. He is the only President of a Grande Maison who is also a trained watchmaker and craftsman. Some of his important contributions to the collection are the expansion of the Rare Handcrafts collection, an area of fine watchmaking that has captivated him from a young age.
“The Patek Philippe Watch Art Grand Exhibition in Singapore is not only going to be dramatic in scale, it will also be unrivalled in the depth, quality and rarity of horological artefacts on display. Only Patek Philippe is able to pull off an exhibition of this magnitude.”