Audemars Piguet CEO Talks Asian Market, Smartwatches
In his less than three years heading up the prestigious Audemars Piguet brand, François-Henry Bennahmias has made a few major changes like making the label’s gold watches more affordable and cutting the number of new products introduced each year. In an interview with Blouin Lifestyle, Bennahmias gave his opinions on subjects including the problems with the Asian market and the potential threat to luxury watch brands from smartwatches.
While other luxury watchmakers are seeing significant hits to their bottom lines due to the slowdown in demand from Asian markets, Bennahmias sees Audemars Piguet as getting by nicely thanks to strategic planning.
“Well at the end of May our sales were up 15 percent year on year on the same period last year, so no; and I can tell you right now very few watchmaking companies can claim to have achieved that,” he said. “There is a real commercial war out there. Business is tough. We have retailers with too many brands and brands with too many retailers, so we all have to make choices.
“So far with the strategy we implemented three years ago, including our pricing policy, retailers are pushing us more than others. We have a good watch collection and a collection which is easy to understand, because we reduced the number of references a lot. We’ve increased our quality and delivery timing, and we have a great marketing strategy and interaction with our retailers. So it’s a great mix, which is helping us weather the storm even though business is tough.”
One problem that does not bother Bennahmias is the coming of smartwatches and other wearable devices. The CEO does not see them as a threat to Audemars Piguet or other luxury watches.
“If we make an analogy with the food business, smart watches are like fast food. They’re mass-produced for everybody. A billionaire can go to McDonald’s and order a Big Mac, but he’ll still go to a 3-Michelin-star restaurant, and that’s what we are.
“It’s not the same proposal, it’s completely different and I’m pretty sure I can find 50,000 people on the planet, that are passionate about craft and timepieces that last for a long, long time. Fast food will never kill a 3-star-Michellin restaurant.”