An Analysis of the Signs and Symbols Used in Patek Philippe Geneve's "Begin Your Own Tradition" Advert.

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An analysis of the signs and symbols used in Patek Philippe Geneve's "Begin your own tradition" advert.

- MARCH 2007 -


This advert shows a dad helping his son with his homework. This is a common right of passage for many families. The advert stresses conventional family values and the importance of the father-son relationship.

The watch is presented as a precious family heirloom which dads should buy to pass on through the generations. Thus the watch has a purpose beyond its function, a purpose of tradition.


Utilitarian signs

There are limited signs relating to the practical aspects of owning a Patek Philippe Geneve watch. The functional aspect of the watch, which is to show the time, is played down throughout the advert and only referenced in note (12).

Commercial signs

The commercial signs of the watch are also largely ignored. Patek Philippe watches are among the most expensive watches commercially available. Revealing the value of the watch in monetary terms would prove detrimental to the priceless message the advertisement conveys.

Socio-cultural signs


Attention is first drawn to the two figures in the advert, one man and one boy. The relationship between the two will be investigated later, but it is assumed that this advert, by only featuring two male figures, is targeted at men.


Note (3) highlights the clothes worn by the boy and the man in the picture. The boy is dressed for school and the man is dressed in a suit for work. The suit implies a successful businessman (Na et al. 1999). This is an icon which implies he is from an upper-middle class social-economic categories AB1 (Dibb et al. 2006).

This class context can mean different things to different groups. First, it can be a reference group for others in this category. It might be an aspirational group for those working up to a management position. Such junior managers might perceive purchasing the watch as an indicator that they have reached this social class.

The father here might also appeal as a role model. He is both attractive and well dressed, implying a successful life. He also has a son who is presumably not an unruly problem child. Therefore the father acts as a well-dressed, wealthy man with a bond between himself and his son. By purchasing the watch others might also perceive themselves to have this success.

•Use of Colour

This advert uses grey and black to convey its message. Grey, when not overused, symbolises two things. The first is the practicality and timeless (Tutssel 2000). The second is education and learning (Madden et al. 2000). All of which are well reflected in other aspects of the advert.

The black in the advert represents status and power (Tutssel 2000; Madden et al 2000). SYNTACTICS


Note (11) shows the two figures in the advert are very close, the child leaning over his work and the older figure watching and/or helping him. This changes the relationship aspect of this advert from a man and a boy to father and son. The picture is also very up close, the two figures fill nearly all the space and the background is blurred.


There is a clear symmetry in notes (4) and (5) between the father and son. This is shown by both figures resting their head against their left arm in an almost identical fashion. This symmetry assists in building the connection between the two. This connection implies not only to relationship but also shared culture, values and social-class.

This symmetry also highlights a major difference between the two. On the father's left wrist is the watch, the child's left wrist is noticeably exposed lacking the watch. Given that the other child's wrist is clearly clothed, the audience is expected to notice this.

At the bottom, in note (10) the positioning of the watch between the two figures implies that there is only time...
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