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Audemars Piguet overtakes Patek Philippe as sales soar to CHF 1.6 billion

The latest Morgan Stanley report on the state of the Swiss watch industry is full of notable results for brands’ performance in 2021, but few will cause a greater jolt than the news that Audemars Piguet turnover has now overtaken the mighty Patek Philippe.

The Morgan Stanley report, produced with assistance from Geneva’s LuxeConsult, has to estimate the turnover of most brands, but the results are keenly anticipated and widely respected within the industry.

Audemars Piguet’s turnover reportedly remained almost flat from 2019 to the pandemic-affected 2020, dipping from CHF 1.18 to 1.13 billion, despite the loss of production in Q2 of that year.

As the world emerged from covid restrictions, and demand for luxury watches spiked, AP sales rose to CHF 1.58 billion in 2021.

Patek Philippe’s trajectory was similar: CHF 1.45 billion in 2019, dropping by more than AP in 2020 to CHF 1.16 billion before recovering to CHF 1.53 last year, Morgan Stanley estimates.

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Audemars Piguet is now placed as Switzerland’s fourth biggest brand, behind industry leader Rolex (turnover CHF 8.05bn), Cartier in second (CHF 2.39bn and Omega in third (CHF 2.2bn).

Patek Philippe has slipped from 5th in 2019 to sixth in 2021.

Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe take different approaches to retail.

AP is aiming to sell almost exclusively through its own stores, as Richard Mille does — another brand that has rocketed up the rankings with turnover of CHF 1.13 billion.

In 2021 72% of AP sales were direct to consumer.

This compares to Patek Philippe’s predominately wholesale model with 76% of sales going through partner retailers; virtually a mirror image of AP’s position.

If brands were ranked according to the value of sales at retail, Patek Philippe would still be ahead of AP.

Morgan Stanley estimates Patek Philippe’s sales at retail were CHF 2.03 billion in 2021 compared to Audemars Piguet’s CHF 1.77 billion, but AP keeps a higher proportion of the money from each watch sold.

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The arithmetic is the same in the battle between Cartier and Omega.

Cartier overtook Omega to become the second biggest Swiss watchmaker by wholesale turnover in 2021, but the retail value of sales is higher for Omega, which has a higher proportion of sales through its authorised dealer network than Cartier, which sells more through its own boutiques.

Before the industry concludes that increasing direct to consumer is the only rational conclusion from this shuffling of the pack, it is worth remembering that the world’s biggest brand, Rolex, sells 100% of its watches through authorised dealers.

That has helped it top the league table of Swiss watch brands by every measure and capture market share of 29%, measured by retail sales. The second placed brand by this measure, which is still Omega, has a 7.5% share.

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