Just like every other conventional consumer, Deepa Chatrath grew up browsing fancy watch advertisements that fill up the pages of her favourite magazines. Captivated by the art of watchmaking after purchasing her first watch, Chatrath took her personal interest and passion into another level, delving deeper into the intricate world of the watch industry. Now, as General Manager of Geneva Master Time, the authorised distributor for Patek Philippe in Southeast Asia, Chatrath has come full circle.
Syahmin Ritzwan: Personally, how did you get into the business?
Deepa Chatrath: It’s been two decades since I joined the watch industry — starting out in India with a young watch brand, then to Europe, working in different roles in various Swiss brands, and finally here in Southeast Asia as part of the last family owned, independent watch Manufacture, Patek Philippe.
I grew up reading Reader’s Digest and my eyes would be drawn to the interesting watch advertisements. I remember saving up my scholarship money to buy my first watch in India. So naturally, I was very excited when I was offered a role with the very same watch company upon graduation. I love discovering the beauty of this craft through interactions with various watchmakers, artisans, and brand custodians. This love and fascination for timekeeping have simply grown with time.
I would say it is part destiny and part passion that has brought me to this point in my life. Watchmaking sits at that perfect centre of art and science, and Patek Philippe has elevated it to the highest level. It speaks to something very deep within all of us — the quest for the eternal, the desire to grasp time, to capture beautiful memories.
SR: What distinctions have you observed between the Western and Eastern watch markets?
DC: My years in the watch Industry have been focussed around Asian markets — Southeast and South Asia. In Asian markets, most retailers are part of an established family business. I see a great respect for tradition and heritage in our market. But we also see a great spirit in celebrating achievements and life goals with a substantial purchase and ability to wear the timepiece with great pride.
Asia is also younger in its demographics and less conservative in embracing new technology. The adoption rate of internet in markets like Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand is clear indicators of this nuance. We also see the strength of the inter-generational connection and the conscious effort to pass the family legacy from one generation to the other.
SR: What trends and innovations can we expect from Patek Philippe in the next 3-5 years?
DC:The industry is going through a difficult time with the global economy. But Patek Philippe continues to nurture local customer base by ensuring rarity in production. Our confidence in our products and competency of our workforce remain high.
Patek Philippe has stayed true to its mission for more than 177 years.
There is also an increase in appreciation of technical watches by women. Successful and self-made women are collecting watches, trusting Patek Philippe for creating mechanically perfect watches with timelessly beautiful aesthetic.
SR: How would you describe the typical buyer of a Patek Philippe ladies’ watch?
DC: In recent years, there is definitely a growing trend of female customers buying into complications. Women are increasingly getting interested in the complicated pieces and they want a fair share of complication/complex mechanical timepieces that are specially created for them.
Women today are financially independent and possess the financial freedom to own luxury timepieces. They do not buy just for the beauty of the watch or the diamonds embellishing them. To them, the most important thing is the movement and the complication within. They fully understand what they are wearing on their wrists.
Patek Philippe understands that women respond to the aesthetics as well as the finer details, but are equally interested in the technical perfection of the watch.
SR: What is your interpretation of a feminine watch?
DC: For Patek Philippe, a watch is a holder of special memories and emotions. Patek Philippe timepieces hold these memories in a beautiful mechanical form, in a classic, timeless, and elegant case. The timepiece becomes a family heirloom and a story that will be passed on to the next generation in time to come.
SR: What do the female buyers usually look out for in a watch? Why?
DC: Women are no longer waiting to receive watches as gifts. They are buying their own watches now and investing in several pieces. Patek Philippe has several watches that respond to the needs of a modern, active, and well-travelled lifestyle of women today. Useful indications such as the two time zones Ladies Travel Time or the 24 time zones indication of the World Time Ladies Annual Calendar are all complications that are beautiful and useful at the same time.
SR: What is your advice to a first-time watch collector?
DC: We buy watches to mark a special moment of achievement and happiness in our lives. Step out of the age and fashion of the moment and look for timeless design and highest quality in combination with great comfort. Watches are substantial investments with huge emotional connection. We must ensure that they keep both their investment and emotional value as time goes by.
SR: What is the one watch you’ve always wanted to own?
DC: I am very attracted to the wristwatches that are endowed with functions that are useful in everyday life, easy to manipulate, and extremely easy to read.
Patek Philippe’s “smart watches” like the modern World Time Ref. 5130 and the Ladies Ref. 7130 display all the 24 time zones simultaneously on two rotating disks on the dial. I would love to own these mechanical watches which are very 21st century with user-friendly interface and intuitive working. With just a look at one’s wrist, one can see the time in any time zone.
SR: Tell us about the watch you’re wearing right now.
DC: This is the 4190 Lady 24 in rose gold. The Twenty~4® is a collection of watches for all occasions. I am able to wear it for any occasion and because of the curved silhouette of the case, my wrist does not feel like it is wearing anything at all.
The style is sophisticated and compliments any outfit easily.