The watch industry is currently going through a tough time, yet AP seems to be riding the crest of a wave. What do you put this down to?
It’s a combination of several things, but mainly because the strategy we put in place several years ago is paying off. Basically that policy was fewer, bigger, better. We now have fewer distributors, fewer small retailers and a better overall collection. Audemars has always been a good brand but, trust me, it’s now becoming even better. We are monitoring every single move we make every day to make sure we stay as good as we can be. Few brands manage to stay at the top of the game – we are one of them but we are not complacent. We want to keep surprising people and making moves that no one else will make.
Overproduction seems to be a particular problem for brands right now. How are you dealing with this?
When I came on board as CEO I knew that we needed to limit production. We now create 40,000 watches a year and we will keep at that number for at least five years. The groups can’t do that because they have to deliver a growth no matter what. We don’t. We can slow down if we want to slow down; that’s the good thing about being independent. We are in charge of our own destiny and we are not pressured or pushed by anyone else. Customers respect that. Our only goal now with our 40,000 watches is to make them the best possible. We still have a lot to do in several areas and that will be our goal in the years to come.
So you are looking at slow, steady growth?
We could lose ourselves if we grow too fast. Today we make 40,000 watches and I know that a quarter of these we could make even better – and that is our goal for 2017 and on. We have great years ahead. We are like the Loch Ness Monster – we are awake and we are coming through the water.
When you were President and CEO in the Americas, you made AP into very much a lifestyle brand.
I didn’t say: “I want AP to be a lifestyle brand.” Sure, it is good to see your watches worn by people who are some of the best in their fields – whether athletes or performers – but for this to work in your favour, there needs to be a mix of several things. Lifestyle success without having genuine craftsmanship behind it is no good in the long-term. Without craftsmanship, exclusivity and innovation there is nothing.
The number of potential buyers that can afford high-end watches is growing and there is so much still to be done to attract these people. I always look at the glass as half-empty, not half-full, and we have to reinvent ourselves – not just Audemars Piguet, but the entire industry. Whether we are talking watches, sport or business, one of the biggest downfalls is complacency. The minute you start thinking you are great, you are going to lose and that’s the biggest issue in the watch industry right now.