Audemars Piguet CEO Bennahmias Talks Leadership
Since taking over the reins at the venerable Audemars Piguet brand in 2012, François-Henry Bennahmias has reinvigorated the image of the luxury watchmaker. In an interview with the New York Times, Bennahmias discussed the challenges of working for a family-owned company and how he has made them work to his advantage.
“On the positive side, everything goes a lot faster for decisions,” he said. “We have six board members and I have a direct line, so if I can convince them, I can move fairly quickly. If I was working for a large corporation, things would move at a much slower pace. That’s also allowed me to take some bold moves.
“For example, in 2005 we were the first luxury watch company to approach someone from the hip-hop world [Jay Z] to do a limited edition. At the time it was a rather bold association. We sold out in two months, and two watches showed up at auction later and went for twice their original price.”
On the other hand, Bennahmias admitted that there are also disadvantages and frustrations about being at the helm of a older, more conservative company like Audemars Piguet.
“A large group has more financial power and can unblock considerable funds pretty quickly when a project is worth it, whereas a family-owned business like ours has to move at its own pace,” he explained. “We have been in business for over 140 years without ever coming close to bankruptcy, so whatever you might think, the families have obviously done many things right.
“Today, we’re doing great, some [other watchmakers] aren’t, and we could take this opportunity to expand, but their style is a bit more conservative. It’s not a bad thing, but I certainly have to adapt, because I always want to go faster.”
While he may wish for a bit more freedom to innovate, Bennahmias is obviously the right man for the job of running Audemars Piguet.