In an industry as established, respected and – frankly – traditional as that of watchmaking, it can be quite the task to make sure that your brand remains relevant to consumers – resting on one’s laurels and just making a great timepiece doesn’t cut it anymore, especially with the volatile and fast-paced nature of today’s digitally dominant society.
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Audemars Piguet (AP) is a brand that any connoisseur of timepieces will be heavily familiar with, given their rich history, and they have just announced their 20th Anniversary edition of their iconic Royal Oak Chronograph which is hard evidence that AP have no problems with staying relevant. The man who definitely has at can, at least, take some credit for this is Tim Sayler, who is the Chief Marketing Officer for AP.
“you admire its beauty, its style, you admire the incredible human craftsmanship that goes into it”
Having what he refers to as a “dream job”, Sayler really details exactly why representing this brand is so important to him. “It is obviously one of the coolest brands and a brand, not just with the incredible capabilities, but also the incredible design edge and also as a brand and incredibly edgy in terms of what we do in terms of art engagement,” said Sayler. “Incredible creative liberty, actually, to express the plan and reach out to our customers. So it is a dream come true really.”
Sayler points out that part of the reason of the brand’s longevity and its consistent visibility to the public is how many stories are etched into AP’s 140+ year history. “The good problem that we have is that there is an abundance of incredible stories about the brand,” said Sayler. “Many other brands obviously have to…work very hard to come up with some stories. Because of the long history the company has – over 140 years – we have a lot of stories.”
He points out that one of these stories centres around the inception of watchmaking in general, as an industry, referencing the birthplace of AP, which is the Vallée de Joux, a remote valley in the Jura Mountains. “The people who came to live there in the 15th and 16th centuries were refugees from France. They found this remote place where they could settle and live,” said Sayler.” But then you couldn’t live there just on farming…People were forced to come up with a little business at home and the only thing they had was the wood to make a fire. There was a huge forest, there was iron in the ground and they had a lot of time. This lead to a little metallurgical industry, where people at home, just over the winter, started making little parts. First to supply watchmakers in Geneva and then making their own movements and then making their own bands. Actually, that’s kind of the foundation and myth of the brand.”
The second story is that of the Royal Oak, which as previously mentioned is celebrating its anniversary this year and was a hugely pivotal moment for the brand. “(The Royal Oak) means a lot. It is fair to say between the Royal Oak, the Royal Oak Offshore and the Royal Oak Concept…makes the majority of our business today, a good two-thirds of our total turnover,” said Sayler. “That is a great thing and so this year you will see a lot of announcements again, obviously, we are bringing new innovations, new styles into this collection because it is so important to us.”
Of course, the brand is renowned, among other things, for their very exclusive and limited releases – 40,000 units per year (all of which they sell). With such a small scale release, it could be perceived as difficult for the brand to stay afloat, but Sayler says that even in a time where Silicon Valley dominates, Audemars Piguet are not about to sink.
“You buy (an AP watch) because it gives you strong emotions. It is because you admire its beauty, its style, you admire the incredible human craftsmanship that goes into it. This becomes a very rare thing in today’s world already,” said Sayler.
“Believe it or not, there are a lot of famous startup founders that wear the Royal Oak. They do not wear a smartwatch. They tell us that this is for a moment to disconnect. I feel very confident and as you see that us, as a brand, will have no plans whatsoever to do anything digital or connected.”
Ultimately, Sayler and the Audemars Piguet brand remain adamant and confident that working against the grain – with a refusal to ever go digital – is what gives them their relevance. As Sayler puts it, “Ultimately the watches are always assembled by hand and finished by hand…And this is, I think, what will make its relevance in the future.”