Interview: We Sit Down With Olivia Crouan, Chief Brand Officer At Audemars Piguet
The independently owned Audemars Piguet likes to stick to its strategy: activating local clients by offering them exclusive experiences. So, with a growing network of boutiques and AP Houses, we sat down with the brand’s Chief Brand Officer to speak about the new business model in motion.
It may surprise you, but Olivia Crouan, Chief Brand Officer for Audemars Piguet, hasn’t always been a watch person. She spent most of her career (almost 20 years) working with brands in the Wine & Spirits division of LVMH. In fact, she only joined the horological world after moving to Geneva, Switzerland, with her two sons in 2018.
Nonetheless, at some point, her time with the historic brand became almost fated to happen, as their shared values, like family spirit, long-term vision, and craftsmanship, became more apparent.
I first met Olivia at Dubai Watch Week 2021, where Audemars Piguet was hosting a large-scale exhibition on the development of the Royal Oak Offshore. And it was there we talked about the brand’s strategies, development, the AP House concept, the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet, and the upcoming anniversary of the Royal Oak.
Let’s get to it!
Interview with Olivia Crouan, Chief Brand Officer at Audemars Piguet
Thank you for sitting down with me today. Let me start by asking, how has the brand evolved since you joined the team?
When I started three years ago, I found the brand in amazing condition. It was already very vibrant. The question I faced was, “What is the next step?”
So my mission became to assure that the vision of the brand and the family stayed alive. Being anchored to who we are and to the brand’s DNA. And we have been challenging ourselves pretty much every day, trying to find new opportunities.
One challenge we faced was how to evolve the brand to appeal to people outside the watch community. Indeed, the brand has always been well-known within the watchmaking industry. But if you go outside the watch community (and here is one of the reasons why François-Henry Bennahmias hired me), people didn’t really know Audemars Piguet.
So, the goal was to get more people to know and understand who we are. Understand, I am not speaking about getting them to buy watches but about awareness of the brand and the spirit we want to convey to the world.
For instance, three years ago, our Instagram page was only about our products, but that didn’t reflect the entire spirit of AP. When you enter the AP family, you get more than just a watch; you experience something special, you meet crazy and instinctive people, and you couldn’t feel that our Instagram. So we adapted to make it reflect our whole spirit.
What is the quintessence of the Audemars Piguet’s strategy today?
I would say it’s about the natural, organic development of the brand. There are different aspects to this. For instance, in terms of retail, we continue to take control over a large proportion of our distribution via our own network of boutiques and developing the AP Houses. In terms of the brand strategy, we want proximity to our clientele. Our goal is to sell without any walls.
In terms of the brand strategy, we want proximity to our clientele. Our goal is to sell without any walls.
And in terms of collections, I would say that we want to evolve but, at the same time, stay true to our roots. We are about to have a huge development in the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet collection that will gain us more interest and respect. So we plan to explore this playground with more materials, design solutions, etc.
Let’s talk about the AP Houses. As I understand it, the concept behind them is to create a meeting space centered around a passion for fine watchmaking, with watches being sold (or not) after a casual conversation on a couch or over dinner. Why could this not be realized in an AP boutique?
When you are in a boutique, you are in a retail space, so it can be difficult to experiment a brand properly. Meaning that the AP House is more about education, experimenting, talking to people, and spending time with people than sales. And that is something you can’t do in a boutique.
It’s been two years since the launch of 11.59. What have you learned? And what are the next steps?
One important thing was learning to believe in yourself. I remember François gathering the team and saying, “We are there. We know why we are there. We know what we are doing. We need to believe in ourselves.” We do something because we believe it is right for us.
On the other hand, we also learned how to manage social media, even within the company. We learned a lot about crisis management. And realizing that [as a brand] you don’t control what is and how to accept that.
Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the Royal Oak. What should we expect?
Next year, we are going to celebrate the spirit behind the brand. The goal is to make it shine throughout the family. Of course, we are going to make a lot of announcements in terms of products, but I can’t tell you more at the moment.
We are also going to launch some new initiatives, which you will find out about next year.
Finally, we are, for sure, going to reach out to collectors and give them more information about who we are and about our pieces. That is something crucial for us.
For more information about the brand, visit the Audemars Piguet website.
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)