If I Were Running Audemars Piguet North America
Deep Thoughts, Uncategorized

If I Were Running Audemars Piguet North America

Last week, news broke that Audemars Piguet was parting ways with their CEO, Philippe Merk and replacing him (supposedly in interim) with François-Henry Bennahmias, formerly head of AP North America.
AP is my favorite “big” brand.  In fact, the watch I wear most often is an AP.  They have great products, great history, and many great people who work there.  They have the resources to do some amazing things.  So I couldn’t help but think: if they hired me to replace Francois, what would I do?

First, I would listen to the chime of the minute repeater that I made them give me as a signing bonus.  Then I would get down to serious business.

My focus would be on service and value.  The two are intricately related.  I would push them to finally take the jump into online sales and create a technology platform that offered the best user/customer experience in the business.  I would invest heavily in the US service center to the point that NO SERVICE SHOULD TAKE MORE THAN 4 WEEKS, with the eventual goal to turn out routine services and minor fixes in less than 2 weeks.

I would promote transparency and open dialogue.  I, myself, would be available continuously through social media and email and also empower other employees to be as well.  I would answer the tough questions honestly and make my positions very clear.  I would be swift in rectifying any and all instances of poor service from us or our partners.  Any customer willing to spend $10k+ on an archaic instrument deserves to be treated with utmost respect – not propitiation but true fairness.  This has to be hammered into the culture from the top down.

Chris Dixon, tech entrepreneur and investor, posted a great piece over the weekend on how people are now focused on experience rather than product.  Luxury brands have known this for a while, but have lost their way.  They see people tire of the experience, and think they have to focus harder on selling the product.  That’s why you see all sorts of BS claims on materials, movements, complications, etc.  What they’re missing is that the experience is still what’s important, they are simply selling the wrong experience.  The typical arrogance and elitism of luxury is not as effective anymore.  What people want is a company that is committed to doing things in the best possible way, with the utmost integrity, and that treats its fans and customers like family, not suckers.

There are plenty of other things to do, but I believe that if someone were to truly implement these few points with passion and integrity, the brand would rise head and shoulders above the rest and set a fantastic example for the industry as a whole.  The US is different from the rest of the world.  Customers are very savvy, status is much less important, etc.  No watch company has gotten the message right here yet.  It’s not hard, but it can’t be faked and there is no shortcut.

For a nominal (7 figure) salary and a brownstone in the West Village, I’d be happy to do it for them without breaking a sweat.  But do you think they’d make me learn French?

  • Anthony

    AP was for me one of the best service experiences. Sadly I had a watch under warranty in need of service. Twice. In both cases they were communicative, understanding and turned it in less than 3 weeks.
    If only others could follow this level of excellence.

    • Yep, they’ve done a great job with their US Service center. Hopefully they will continue to invest and use that to highlight the ethos of the brand

  • I completely agree.  It is what I often refer to as the “Nutella/Peanut Butter” reality.  It is time for the brands to stop platooning out their staffs to the US from Switzerland.  A few brands continue to do this, and wonder why they cannot gain any traction here.  GP is one of the few brands that I think have got it right recently – find someone talented and passionate in the US.  Give them a good position, the authority to set a positive course, and the trust to do so.

  • Mr. Y

    There is one more thing to do as the interim president of AP. If you we’re one of the very first customers that purchased a rose gold ROO for 60K plus, you can’t feel anything less than betrayed when AP adjusted the price of the very same watch to 40K. I would send all of those customers a stainless RO to wear along with my personal apologies and an invitation to visit me in Geneva. I will make sure to express my appreciation for clients who are willing to get on waiting lists and place deposits for products that have not reached retailers yet. And I will personally call them when I decide to strategically drop the price by more than 30%, and allow others to acquire the same timepieces for much less. Perhaps a call from the new president will make those clients feel special. Needless to say, I am still waiting for that call…