How one watch exhibition ignited a lifelong passion

In autumn 1969, Patek Philippe staged a watch exhibition in Germany which prompted a 20 year old jeweller's apprentice named Jeremy Pragnell to set together the entirety of his savings and order a Patek Philippe watch.

A few months later, when the head of PATEK PHILIPPE himself, Philippe Stern, visited the jeweller where Jeremy Pragnell worked, he took the opportunity to personally hand-deliver the watch to his new customer. Jeremy Pragnell has never forgotten this moment. He prides himself in wearing the same watch to this day.

As the two men parted, they could probably never have imagined their connection would lead to a Christie's auction of record-busting proportions in a Hong Kong sale room three decades later. Or that their friendship would endure over 40 years and extend into the next generation. But then the custodians of the most successful family-owned businesses do have a knack for long-term relationships.

Today, Philippe Stern is the honorary president of Patek Philippe - his son Thierry became the fourth generation president in 2009. Jeremy Pragnell, who returned to England to develop Pragnell, the business started by his parents, is now chairman and his son Charlie, who became the third generation managing director in 2010, now runs the company. Although the reins have now been handed over by both family businesses, the special relationship that exists between them continues for another generation.

Specialising in rarefied jewellery, watches and silver, Pragnell was founded in William Shakespeare's birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon. The Pragnell showroom, a historic building with wooden beams and a recently discovered Jacobean ceiling, is made up of four Tudor cottages originally constructed in 1594 by a close associate of William Shakespeare. George Pragnell's 12 watch specialists have each been advising customers on the world's finest watches for between 12 and 30 years.

For Pragnell's 50th anniversary in 2004, chairman Jeremy Pragnell commissioned Patek Philippe to create a limited edition minute repeater watch with a black dial, specially engraved caseback, gold Breguet numerals, and a lacquered wooden presentation box. Each was priced at a handsome £162,000, but when one went on the block at Christie's Hong Kong, it soared past its pre-sale estimate fetching a cool £390,000 and setting a record price for this reference.

As part of Pragnell's diamond anniversary celebrations - and the 175th anniversary of Patek Philippe - Pragnell will be hosting its own Patek Philippe exhibition, which includes a selection of rare diamond watches.

"Patek Philippe combines the latest technology with a proficiency in watchmaking that has been passed down through the generations. The first Patek Philippe exhibition my father visited ignited in him a passion for Patek Philippe watches and a lifelong relationship between our companies that continues for another generation. I hope the Pragnell Diamond Anniversary Patek Philippe Exhibition inspires just the same passion in all who come to see it," says Managing Director, Charlie Pragnell.

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