Ceo audemars piguet francois henry bennahmias
Francois Henry Bennahmias.

Outgoing Audemars Piguet chief says the Swiss are too shy and risk-averse

François-Henry Bennahmias bows out after trebling sales at AP.

The 10-year reign of François-Henry Bennahmias at the top of Audemars Piguet has ended with incoming CEO Ilaria Resta taking control in 2024.

In one of his final interviews before stepping away, Mr Bennahmias swerved questions from Business of Fashion about his future, other than to say that he will be his own boss.

“I’m not working for anyone ever again,” he tells Robin Swithinbank.

Mr Bennahmias does not confirm he will remain in the watch business, but suggests his next role will build on his current experience.

“Obviously, I’m going to stay in the field I know the best: luxury brands with a high perceived value,” he teases.

Audemars Piguet sales trebled under the stewardship of Mr Bennahmias through a combination of higher average transaction values and taking a greater margin from each sale with its switch towards selling directly to consumers.

Its more direct model means AP acquires valuable customer data, whether sales are through one of its own boutiques, AP Houses, or franchise partner stores.

According to Morgan Stanley, the average selling price for an AP watch in 2022 was $45,000, almost 50% higher than Patek Philippe’s average of $36,000.

Only a quarter of AP sales were through retail partners by the end of 2022.

For 2023, Mr Bennahmias expects turnover to have closed out at around $2.6 billion, that would be an increase of 15% from Morgan Stanley’s estimate of $2 billion in 2022.

His parting shot to the wider Swiss luxury watch industry is to be bolder.

“We’re still too shy, too risk averse, too conventional,” he suggests.

It remains to be seen whether new AP chief Ms Resta shares her predecessor’s appetite for controversy.

Alessandro Bogliolo, chairman of Audemars Piguet, described her at the time of the appointment as “a visionary leader with a passion for craftsmanship”.

A cooling market will certainly present new challenges and Mr Bennahmias thinks this will benefit the watch industry over the longer term.

“I’m kind of happy that the business is gonna get tougher because when it gets tougher, people get smarter. When everything is fine, it’s easy, but when you have to grind, it’s a different story and you think of things differently,” he advises.

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  1. I was recently in the Audemars Piguet boutique in Florida. I am a new customer to AP and had a wonderful experience trying on the Royal Oak that I wanted to add to my collection. François-Henry Bennahmias led AP, and leaves “big shoes” for Ilaria Resta to fill, but I expect she is quite capable of moving the brand forward, and launching new models that will attract more buyers.

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