CA: Speaking of crafts, while Audemars Piguet is always about mechanical watches, is there anything to learn from the rise of smartwatches?
FHB: There is always a lesson to learn when there’s a new player in town. That player was not there five years ago. It’s not Apple only, but also Samsung and everybody else. When there’s something new, you have to look at whatever is happening. What could it generate? You’re right; it’s two different things. Because smartwatches are these connected devices and they are completely mass-market products, like fast food. And that’s fine. I can go to a fast food restaurant but I also enjoy a three-star Michelin restaurant. There are people who can only eat fast food, people who can only eat fine dining and people who can eat both. There is always room for everybody.
CA: How’s the brand’s overall progress in 2016?
FHB: We produced a total of 40,000 watches last year, a slight increase from the year before. So, in terms of production, we’re not growing too fast, only adding four to five hundred pieces per year. We’ll stick to 40,000 for at least five years’ time, however, meaning that our job now is to focus on product quality, distribution, partnership, boutiques, etc. Hopefully, we do so well that we can generate demand for 42,000 or even 50,000 watches per year, but we’ll still make only 40,000. This will significantly raise the brand’s equity, the value and also the recognition.
CA: You’ve been with the company for over 22 years. What makes Audemars Piguet still Audemars Piguet after all this time?
FHB: People. It’s always people in the end. No matter what you do, no matter what entity you’re in—whether it’s business or sports or anything—it always comes back to people. One of the most rewarding things as the team captain—it’s not “the CEO” for me—is when people come to Switzerland and they talk to our watchmakers, marketing executives and everybody else, they eventually say that our people are very humble and one thing that they exude the most is passion. They are passionate about what they do in a very humble way. They are very thankful every time they see people who are interested in what they do. That’s the number-one strength of our company. We have a lot of good people. My only goal, by the way, is to be the best conductor of the “orchestra.” I’m not the best pianist or drummer. I don’t know how to play guitar. As a team leader, you have to be able to make people play the right music together. That’s the most rewarding thing for me.
The article first appeared in DA MAN Caliber 2016. Get your copy here.