Five years at Audemars Piguet has made Jonathan King keenly aware of the watchmaker’s strongest assets. The brand has seen its popularity soar even in these dour times and King, who recently completed a stint as CEO of Audemars Piguet in Japan, has a few clues as to why.
On coming from Japan
Japan was great, I had a fantastic experience meeting a very sophisticated market of connoisseurs and, despite its years of stagnation and deflation – we realised a great success in that time.
On the Audermars Piguet brand
Our brand has always been open and transparent, something quite unique for the world of watchmaking. We have been humbled by the successes thus far, especially in a time when the watchmaking industry is experiencing some difficulties. The credit is really due to good planning, good decisions and good fortune.
As a family-owned brand, we have come to realise that we are a welterweight brand in a heavyweight division and hence, agility and balance is the key to success. The customer doesn’t lie – and being agile and prudent has helped us to thrive among brands which are backed by conglomerates. I would point at our counter-intuitive decision to significantly decrease the price of our gold watches five years ago as an example. The move reflected the reality of the price evolution but was not reflective of value, hence our decision to act asymmetrically.
A lot of what we do takes root from the stewards and now fourth-generation owners of the founding familiar of Jules Audemars and Edward Piguet. It is one thing to be privately owned, it’s quite another to be that way since 1875. Our current owners – who are active on a daily basis and travelling the world on our behalf – talk often about their conversations with their grandfathers. Those key learnings are what they fall back on, giving them a unique and powerful perspective. Sometimes, it means that there is no one solution but rather, banking on the wisdom making long-term decisions.
On the brand’s strengths
In that same way, they have learnt that being the best is about turning disadvantages into strengths – such as our origins in Le Brassus, a little village in an alpine valley. Ultimately, our decisions today should not become an obstacle 100 years from now; we still make fine timepieces by hand with the best talents out there. This is a mission passed down to us by the founders and even with financial imperatives, it’s clear that our decisions should never run counter to this mission.
On Audermars Piguet in Malaysia
For our Malaysian connoisseurs and collectors, many of whom are well travelled and know us well, we aim to continue offering an unsurpassed collection at our own boutique at the Starhill Gallery (which was renovated and reopened last year). The boutique provides an elegant backdrop for those looking to perhaps have access to some highly sought after pieces. We continually see Malaysians as a part of the international communication stream, and these customers are well informed of our latest collections.
Another recent development here is the opening of our own service centre here in Kuala Lumpur. We now have two watchmakers who react much quicker to schedule maintenance and repairs than how it was when Singapore was the nearest destination for servicing.
A lot of my daily inspiration now comes from the customers. You can see the pride in their eyes when they wear our timepieces. We’re not talking about a car which you drive for several hours, but something which has a beating heart that you wear for so many hours in a day – few if any items are like that. Getting to know these people and receiving their comments will ultimately make us better.