Home Technology Audemars Piguet just dropped one of its most affordable watches ever

Audemars Piguet just dropped one of its most affordable watches ever

Audemars Piguet just dropped one of its most affordable watches ever

Say what you like about Audemars Piguet – and people do – you can’t question the watchmaker’s ambition, nor how fast it’s fulfilling it.

Five years ago, almost to the day, the brand’s chief executive François-Henri Bennahmias boasted that his charge had just joined watchmaking’s ‘billion Swiss franc club’ (now around £900 million) – an informal term for brands with 10-figure revenues.

Thanks to the roaring trade it was doing in Royal Oaks – as worn by Jay-Z, Arnold Schwarzenegger, LeBron James et al – it had become one of only six, perhaps seven watch brands have passed the mark, along with Rolex, Cartier, Omega, Patek Philippe, Longines and maybe Tissot (which has since shrunk). The big dogs, in other words. For a high-end brand making around 40,000 watches a year, it was impressive.

Fast forward to this week, and at a press conference at AP’s home in the Swiss village of Le Brassus, Bennahmias declared those revenues have doubled. In 2022, he said, AP coined it to the tune of two billion Swiss francs (£1.8 billion), shifting 50,001 watches. The ‘and one’ added for effect, naturally.

It’s cor-blimey stuff. Only Rolex has increased revenues more over the same period, and it makes more than a million watches a year.

So how has Audemars Piguet done it? 

Upping prices, for one. More watches have helped, too. An extra 10k pieces at an average price of 40,000 Swiss francs (£36,000) is proper money. And somehow, even with the increase, AP has in no way saturated the market. Like Rolex, it could sell its annual inventory several times over.

Then there’s the Code 11:59 collection. Contrary to what critics anticipated, its introduction four years ago has amped up the business, perhaps because Audemars Piguet is using it as a gateway watch to the big prize, the Royal Oak.

But the real answer, if it can be distilled, lies in the brand’s almost peerless knack of creating desirability. As Bennahmias said to me once, ‘people want what they can’t have’. Indeed. Add to that, ‘but what Stormzy, Ed Sheeran and Serena Williams can have’, and you have a helluva formula.

Taking its watches out of shop windows and hiding them away in AP Houses (London’s is one of around 15 worldwide now) has had the same effect, too: not only can you not have that watch, you can’t even see it IRL.

Talking of which, AP has just dropped 30 new references, so let’s take a quick look at three.

It’s very complicated 

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