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François-Henry Bennahmias, CEO of Audemars Piguet, about AP Certified Pre-Owned Watches, Leaving SIHH and more

François-Henry Bennahmias, CEO of Audemars Piguet, has a reputation for speaking his mind. And he doesn't let us down...

| By Brice Goulard | 3 min read |

Recently, Audemars Piguet has had a lot of hot news headlines – unprecedented revenues, quitting the SIHH, new technological partnerships. We decided that it was time for us to move to Le Brassus and have a good talk with the one person to answer our questions: François-Henry Bennahmias, CEO of Audemars Piguet. It isn’t the first time we’re in conversation with François-Henry – see here, here and here – and each time, his straight talk brings the right answers. Today’s video interview (viewable on top of this article) is full of interesting facts and observations.

Without going too much into the details about the interview – we leave this to François-Henry – there are several important topics that we wanted to clarify about Audemars Piguet.

  • 1 billion Swiss Francs revenue – Even though François-Henry Bennahmias emphasizes the fact that this number wasn’t the end-goal of the brand’s strategy, nobody can overlook this impressive performance. What is interesting is that this increase in turnover has been achieved with a constant production (around 40,000 watches a year). The increase is the result of a change in the business model – wholesale (selling watches through multi-brand outlets) gets more and more replaced by retail (boutiques owned by Audemars Piguet or operated with partners or franchises).
  • Audemars Piguet pulling out of the SIHH – As we reported in this article, Audemars Piguet (alongside Richard Mille) won’t be exhibiting at the SIHH as of 2020. In the video, Mr Bennahmias explains the reasons for this departure. Since Audemars Piguet has drastically reduced the number of multi-brand retailers in pursuit of higher integration (boutiques fully owned by Audemars Piguet or joint-ventures with partners or franchises), the concept of this SIHH (which is to present collections to these retailers) isn’t suitable anymore for Audemars Piguet.
  • Time to market – Audemars Piguet wants to have more control over the introduction of watches throughout the entire year. Time to market has become crucial for brands. In the past, many watches announced by brands at SIHH took months to be delivered. Audemars Piguet wants to change this (meaning, announcing a new product/collection and then deliver in the stores in the following weeks).
  • Knowing the end client – The final reason, which has already been articulated by the Swatch Group (when it decided to leave Baselworld) was to have direct access to final customers – which means local events to present new watches not only to retailers and the press but also to collectors. By being closer to the end client, the brand has a direct relationship with him, knows him better and thus reacts faster to his needs and expectations.
  • Certified Pre-Owned watches – An important step for the brand, which has, to date, kept rather quiet on the topic, is the introduction of a certified pre-owned programme inside the distribution network. Still undergoing a test period, this means that Audemars Piguet is now, in selected official boutiques, selling second-hand watches.
  • Swatch Group x Audemars Piguet hairspring collaboration – Recently, the Swatch Group and Audemars Piguet announced a technological partnership for the production of hairsprings. While we all know that magnetism is an important issue for watchmakers, a solution was found in silicon. Yet, Audemars Piguet has always refused to use this technology, questioning the future of silicon technology. As a result, since Audemars Piguet isn’t sure this technology is sustainable, the brand was looking for another solution and has teamed up with Swatch Group to create a new antimagnetic alloy for hairsprings – a modern solution that is still based on traditional materials and that will be suitable for the coming decades (and more).

We leave the floor to François-Henry Bennahmias, CEO of Audemars Piguet, who answers all these questions in our video at the top of this article.

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10 responses

  1. A nice brand completely ruined by the Royal Oak. Don’t get me wrong the Royal Oak is a nice watch. But it completely cannibalized the brand which has magnificent classic timepieces. Plus in some countries every single show off person who knows absolutely nothing about watches will automatically buy a Royak Oak as a status symbol. There is nothing I like more than a nice watch and nothing I dislike more than watches as status symbols. Unfortunately AP, and mayne against its wilk, is today the brand that symbolizes watches as status symbols. How classy is a Lange or a GO precisely because they embody the opposite?

  2. It seems like that François-Henry Bennahmias is the right man for AP. He knows well what needs to be done next and how to get it done!
    Nice interview of an smart person with character.
    Not to compare with the Fake CEO at Breitling 😉

  3. Probably the best CEO of the whole watch industry. Knowing his brand and the path to go. Look at the results ! Since Mr Benhamias took over as CEO 5 years ago, the roadmap is clear and the brand has never been as strong as it is today. Creating great products and value for all the stakeholders. At the end of this year it will become only the 7th Swiss made watch brand to join the billionaires club making a billion CHF sales !

  4. F-HB has not convinced me that AP belongs to the world of Haute Horlogerie. In the same price bracket Patek does, as well as Lange or H.Moser or Laurent Ferrier even though those brands may not be as commercially successful as AP.
    As there is an increasing number of “nouveau riche” individuals in the world year after year the status symbol parameter has become a more decisive criteria in shopping for expensive watches. This phenomenon is very unfortunate. AP is not different from Hublot for that matter : making products that are liked by people whose main desire is to show off.
    Value on the contrary has nothing to do with status symbol and showing off. Value results from a combination of factors like rarity, refinement, extreme detail orientation, innovation – true innovation not a copy cat of someone’s else – all things which create class, singularity and at the end of the day real long term value.

  5. OMG! “(Silicium) is a great thing, but we don’t know how long it could last…., but actually we know.” Oh, just tell me quietly, please!!

  6. This is excellent business and strategy management. Well done.

  7. I just don’t get the whole royal oak thing at all. Looks cheap and nasty. Give me (please) a Lange any day. Royal Oak isn’t even in the same class.

  8. Most people here are little and don’t like showing off because they have 6.5 in wrist sizes.
    Selling direct is a way for them to say they know the customers and stuff. Sounds great but in reality is that is the Authorized dealers they are hurting who are the real ones who know the customers. They don’t want to pay the middle man and will not send steel 15400 pieces to the AD’s anymore either just like Rolex is doing. They want full retail and they think they can get it. They can not increase production so the only way to maximize profit is sell at full retail and sell direct. Good for them. Their movements are ancient and all need upgrades 5 years ago.

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