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Audemars Piguet - New Man at the Helm

Audemars Piguet New Man at the Helm

#SIHH/ Audemars Piguet's newly appointed CEO, François-Henry Bennahmias, met the press during the SIHH. First impressions reveal a strong personality.

WORLDTEMPUS - 20 February 2013

Carlos Torres

The newly appointed 48-year-old CEO enters the Audemars Piguet press presentation room with broad steps in a demonstration of complete confidence regarding the task ahead. Working for Audemars Piguet for the last 18 years, French-born François-Henry Bennahmias was nominated interim CEO in May 2012 after the exit of Philippe Merck, and only six days prior to the inauguration of the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie did he ascend to the highest executive position within the company. His initial statement, “I am a baby CEO,” revealed a humorous layer to his personality that immediately turned to something far more serious as he reviewed the 2012 performance of the Le Brassus-based manufacture. “Audemars Piguet did a little more than 600 million Swiss francs in revenue and sold between 31 and 32,000 watches.” A positive result, the responsibility for which he made sure to share among the 1,200 people globally working for the brand in the 88 countries in which Audemars Piguet is present.


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Bennahmias also made a reference in a somewhat humorous tone to three things that will be happening in 2013: “Audemars Piguet has signed a worldwide deal with Art Basel because it wants to be closer to modern art. This means we are going to Hong Kong, Basel and Miami…and not, as someone wrote in the press, to Basel, the watch fair…” The second theme related to other news that came out in the press stating that Audemars Piguet had been sold. Bennahmias confirmed, “Yes, we sold…to Apple…and Samsung together,” which got some laughs out of the audience. Then he immediately returned to a serious tone, “We are not, and will never be, for sale. In fact, there are some decisions being taken that will make the company impossible to sell. Audemars Piguet wants to remain independent, and this is a major message we want to communicate to the outside world.”

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With these two issues cleared, Bennahmias finally started to talk about what we can expect from the manufacture during 2013 in relation to timepieces. Making everyone aware of the special bench at the entrance of the booth where a rare collection of grande complication pocket and wristwatches were on display, he added, “We launched our Grande Complication watch in 1882, and we never stopped making them: first in pocket watches, then in classic watches and now in the Royal Oak Offshore case. Remember our tagline, To Break the Rules You Must First Master Them, where master is the fact that we have been making these grand complications for many years, and breaking the rules means putting that complicated mechanism inside a very sports-oriented watch.” The success of this approach was emphasized by the sales report that these watches are very well accepted, not only by retailers but also directly by consumers. “The history shown in that bench, very few brands can actually claim,” stated the new CEO before recognizing that the brand has been failing by not coming up with a new advertising campaign for women for at least two years. “Every advertising campaign for women that we looked at was bad. We did not know how to talk to women. Hopefully now it's done, and a new worldwide campaign will go live in April .” As a consequence of this, Audemars Piguet will put more effort into the brand's ladies collection in the future.

Finally, Bennahmias admitted that there are not many new products being presented this year, but also revealed that, “We are going from a 75 to 25 percent ratio between men's and women's watches, and will increase it to 35 percent,” adding that there will be some good surprises in 2015, without, of course, revealing anything else.

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The brand

Audemars Piguet is one of the few independent family-owned watch businesses and has been based in Le Brassus, in Switzerland's Vallée de Joux region, at the heart of the fine watchmaking industry, ever since the company was first established in 1875.

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