Monochrome Watches
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Audemars Piguet’s New CEO Ilaria Resta Speaks About Her Arrival and the Future of AP

Our first encounter with Mrs Resta, who has the complex task of managing an industry icon, and of replacing a character like no other.

| By Kristian Haagen | 7 min read |

Five months in as CEO of one of the most luxurious watch brands, Audemars Piguet, Mrs Ilaria Resta offers her view on the current market and how she sees the future of the esteemed Le Brassus-based Maison.

Dressed in a green suit with a 38mm purple dial Code 11:59 on the wrist, Italian-Swiss Ilaria Resta looks relaxed and concentrated when I meet her in the Armani Hotel in Milan. We are here for the opening of one of the most important AP houses, a novel retail concept by Audemars Piguet that already has 19 of its kind around the world. 

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However, the Milan AP house, which is situated in the iconic parking house, Garage Traversi, on Via Bagutta that was in service from 1939-2003, is important as the first ideas of this new retailing concept were born in Milan in 2017 and have been replicated to all the AP houses. A concept that “offers a bespoke experience to clients and collectors”, according to Ilaria Resta.

Designed by architect Piero Lissoni of design studio Lissoni & Partners, the idea for the Milan AP House “was not to design a shop. It was to design a home, a club. Creating a Milanese feeling,” as Mr Lissoni said at the opening. 

The house is indeed a mix of new retail and a luxurious home with an elegant mix of glass, wood panels and metal, as well as hidden cabinets and “quiet rooms” where deals are made and drinks are enjoyed in luxurious privacy.

Offering five floors and two terraces, the upper one offering a stellar view over the Duomo, the Milan AP house is not only the largest of the AP Houses, but it is also everything you’d expect from the high-end watch Maison from the small Vallée de Joux town Le Brassus. Exquisite, elegant and private.

Audemars Piguet may be the manufacturer of some of the finest and most coveted mechanical watches, but time stands still in the calming and very luxurious surroundings. The first floor offers showcases of the current collection and museum pieces that testify to the Swiss Maison’s rich production history. 

From complicated pocket watches to the spectacular Concept watch of 2002 that marked the 30th anniversary of the illustrious 1972 Royal Oak, designed by legendary Gerald Genta, visitors (you need to make an appointment to visit), clients and collectors are left with no doubt of the importance of Audemars Piguet. Then, now and years ahead.

Another floor offers a fine art collection and a grand piano, and a third floor has a turntable and an impressive record collection that can be enjoyed with a cocktail made by the in-house bartender.

Mrs Resta says that “music keeps us united” and that the music floor connects watchmaking and music. This is also underlined with the launch of the 41mm Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar “John Mayer” Limited Edition in white gold which was designed together with the acclaimed singer-songwriter and die-hard watch collector. His latest album “Sob Rock” was on the turntable, when we visited the music room in the AP House, obviously showing respect to Audemars Piguet’s most recent collaboration.

Besides attending the opening of the Milan AP house, and introducing John Mayer as “Creative Conduite” how does Ilaria Resta see the future of the company she took over in August 2023, after Francois-Henry Bennahmias had taken the sales from approx CHF 640 mill to more than CHF 2 billion in a matter of 12 years, producing around 50.000 watches a year.

I am arriving at a pivotal moment where the market is changing.

We all see it at a macro level, but I’m taking over a very healthy company in terms of all the angles, such as growth, revenues, interest in the brand, and relevance of the brand. From a marketing and branding positioning standpoint, the brand health metrics are very strong,” Mrs Resta says, leaning forward in her seat, emphasizing her point.

the newly-introduced Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar “John Mayer” Limited Edition

She claims it is not a time of crisis or, management threats or other business interventions. Rather, she is intrigued by the change in the market. And this is due to a new generation of watch lovers.

The love and growing interest for watchmaking is a new generation of clients that offers a prospect of client opportunity with underserved women, but now there is a rising interest in watchmaking. There is a new scene happening,” she continues while mentioning the different new sizes of Code 11:59 and Royal Oaks that should get more women “to open our door.” But she is unsure if growing the annual production number is in the favour of Audemars Piguet.

When it comes to the landscape of other players, you see more and more independent personalization. You see more education on mechanical watchmaking. So, the bar is rising. At the same time, we have reached the size where we need to ask ourselves questions about whether we are solid and resilient enough to grow further while keeping what made us special. Our speciality is craftsmanship, the human touch, and our obsession with detail and innovation. To me, it’s a great moment, but there are strategic questions that we need to ask ourselves,” Mrs Resta says, somewhat indicating that production will not increase under her leadership.

Mrs Resta tells me that she was not looking for a job when she was offered an interview with the board of Audemars Piguet. Furthermore, she is certain that she was not asked to join the selection process because of her gender.

I wrongly thought that watchmaking was such a closed type of industry that I’ve never seen anybody coming from outside, so I never even considered the possibility that I could have been considered for a CEO role,” she tells me with a smile. “The best moment was talking to the board because I realized they were not looking for a specific gender. They were not looking for a certain industry expertise.

Rather, Mrs Resta says, the board sought personal skills, leadership attitudes and values. 

I believe that the best leaders are learners, not people who want to learn in our everyday agility to adjust.

The ability to adjust is the key skill of today. And I think that’s what the board were assessing. I’ve been raised in an American company (red: Mrs Resta was Senior Vice President for Procter & Gamble North America for 22 years) that gave me opportunities without ever making my gender important. 

When asked if she owned a watch from Audemars Piguet before she was appointed as CEO, she admits that she never wore a watch, but wanted to buy one and visited the Geneva boutique as a mystery shopper to discover the service a client is offered when entering the boutique.

The staff spent an hour and a half on a Saturday with me and treated me perfectly, explained the history of watchmaking and even gave me a book on high complications. It was a wonderful experience,” Mrs Resta smiles, adding that she presented herself as a candidate for the CEO position at the Maison after the visit and congratulated the team once she took the helm.

Marvel x Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Tourbillon Spider-Man
An example of Marvel x Audemars Piguet creation… Will this be the main focus of Mrs Resta…? Time will tell.

After the interview with Ilaria Resta, I realized she was nothing like the former CEO when I left the suite at the Hotel Armani. And that is good. Why would Audemars Piguet employ a spitting image to face the future of fine watchmaking?

Admittedly, Bennahmias did well as CEO. But that was then. This is now. And the future looks nothing like it did with Bennahmias at Audemars Piguet’s helm. That said, I am very excited about what is to come, as it takes a new watch three years to go to market after the initial ideas are on paper. This means we will not see an entire collection of watches from the hand of Mrs Resta until 2026. But I have a feeling the outcome could be more couture than Marvel.

7 responses

  1. Haha… She made experience as a new Buyer to AP? The trouth is, she would have a happy landing on a Waiting-List. Try to get an appointement in a Boutiqe…..have fun.

  2. Unless you’re a famous footballer, rapper or golfer, you won’t get an AP anyway. Especially not as a new customer. So what’s all the fuss about? In my opinion, AP has seriously damaged its reputation with this behavior and will end up somewhere between Hublot and Jacob & Co. What a shame for this great brand.

  3. Thank you Monochrome-Portal for not censoring such posts. All of AP’s PR campaigns are for nothing. I know some watch enthusiasts who give AP a wide berth because they simply can’t buy a watch. I hope they have enough fans worldwide who remain loyal to the brand. For the real enthusiasts, there are good alternatives where you are really welcome.

  4. As pointed out by other people, the idea of going to an AP boutique is pointless, there’s nothing to see or try on in most of them including some of the biggest metropolitan cities in the world. Most staff have nothing to do all day and are terrified of being approached by clients, or flat out annoyed. Statements like those impact credibility. All that said, hats off on getting the job and best of luck!

  5. Glad I am not rich. Otherwise I might end up in a parking house, drinking orange juice, with the lonely bar keeper being the only person to talk to.

  6. The follow up at AP is quite astonishing. None. And trust me I am a serious buyer. The arrogance of most luxury brands these days is so striking that you think they really should deserve a further cooling down of the market to give them back their senses. You have to ask, no beg for buying a AP watch and even get punished whenever you try to sell it. They give you the feeling that you are not worthy for the brand. It should be the way around. I actually went spending serious money on 2 full gold indies. The personal touch and journey was way more satisfying. I don’t want a shitter of a brand such as to put it mildly a mediocre code 11:59 or an ugly oversized Offshore with rubber straps that are incredibly out of fashion to get a frikkin purchase history. I want one nice model, since NEWSFLASH: HELLLO BRANDS there are collectors who collect more than one brand! Just listen and take me serious when I name 5 options. Fully understand your point when you don’t want to allocate a jumbo but don’t act if everything is an application piece when you produce 50k pieces/year and always get back in touch with a serious client who takes an effort to spend time in your boutique/house.

  7. I agree with all of these insightful comments. I am giving a special shoutout to the Chicago, Boston, and Milan boutiques. Good luck, after waiting years on their waitlist, getting a watch from either boutique. It’s a joke! Last week I was in the new AP House in Milan. If you think that because the boutique is newly done, in a new location with more space (behind the temporary Louis Vuitton building on Via Bagutta), that they are likely to have watches for sale—don’t waste your time. If you’re fortunate enough to get an appointment, the most you will receive is a tour of the boutique. Outside of a Code 11.59, which now seems like a mandatory purchase to even be considered for a Royal Oak or Royal Oak Offshore, you’ll be lucky if you’re added to their never ending waitlist. And don’t expect an email or call anytime soon (if ever) after being added to this waitlist. I hope that their current business model of making watches readily available to rappers, professional athletes, musicians, and movie stars, is sustainable. This brand is now almost exclusively dedicated to so-called influencers. I find it hilarious that none of their rapper, athlete, or musician collaborations have proven enduring over time. The discerning man or woman who truly appreciates the brand and can afford it can forget about owning one. It’s not for us. If Proctor and Gamble operated under a similar business model for the 22 years that Mrs. Resta was Senior Vice President of North America, they would have been in trouble long term. All the best Mrs. Resta.


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