A World Beyond Time
The PEAK Singapore|January 2020
Growing a billion-dollar horology business by journeying beyond the “tiny island” of fine watchmaking.
Lynette Koh

In the conservative world of fine watchmaking, Audemars Piguet CEO Francois-Henry Bennahmias is known for doing things a bit differently. While most of his contemporaries invariably wear tailored suits at events and interviews, Bennahmias typically shows up in more relaxed, smart-casual ensembles. True to form, he is wearing a leather jacket over a casual dark outfit on the day we meet him at the Audemars Piguet (AP) boutique at Liat Towers.

The industry veteran of 25 years took a similarly bold approach when launching AP’s all-new collection of round watches named Code 11.59, at the Salon Internationale de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) last January. The brand is best known for the Royal Oak, its signature octagonal bezelled watch released in 1972. Many horology brands – especially ones with as much history as Audemars Piguet – take baby steps when it comes to launching new collections, letting clients and fans warm up to them, one or two new models at a time. Not so for Bennahmias, who unleashed 13 new Code 11.59 references all at once.

Online reaction was swift, and mostly negative. Bennahmias’ reaction? To double the number of Code 11.59 timepieces AP will produce this year, from 2,000 to 4,000 pieces. Says the CEO: “You will always have people who hate things, no matter what you do. But don’t forget, the brouhaha during the fair just touched the watch world, and the watch world is a tiny island. When Justin Bieber wears an Audemars Piguet on his wrist when he gets married (as the pop star did last October) and the photo appears worldwide – that’s noise.”

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