|Headquarters||Le Brassus, Switzerland|
|Products||Complex mechanical watches
|Revenue||$600 million (2012)|
Number of employees
Audemars Piguet (AP) (French pronunciation: [odmaʁ piɡɛ]) is a manufacturer of ultra-luxury Swiss watches founded in 1875 by watch makers Jules-Louis Audemars and Edward-Auguste Piguet. Tiffany & Co, Cartier and Bulgari use Audemars Piguet movements. Audemars Piguet is often regarded to be among the highest end of watch manufacturers, sharing prestigious acclamation with Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, A. Lange & Söhne and Breguet.
The Audemars Piguet watch group is composed of 1,200 employees, 14 distribution subsidiaries and 16 boutiques worldwide. It comprises three production sites: Le Brassus, Le Locle and Meyrin in Switzerland. The brand is present in 88 countries.
AP is one of the oldest watch manufacturers still owned by its founding family.
- 1 History
- 2 Products
- 3 Business
- 4 Sponsorships
- 5 Foundation
- 6 Museum
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
The Vallée de Joux, located in the Jura Mountains in the Swiss Canton of Vaud is famous for its extremely cold and snowy winters. It is known as the "Siberia" of Switzerland due to its NE-SW orientation and 1000 meter altitude.
In the 18th century, farmers and villagers of the Vallée de Joux turned to watchmaking during the long harsh winters when the land lay dormant. The geographical location of the region offers iron oxide and forests. While burning, woods enable to extract the iron and mold it.
Like other families, the Audemars and the Piguet crafted timepieces long before the establishment of the Audemars Piguet company. A pocket watch was created between 1740 and 1760 and signed "Joseph Piguet – Le Brassus" and still exists today.
A story of friendship
The roots of AP date back to 1875. Audemars Piguet was founded by Jules-Louis Audemars and Edward-Auguste Piguet in the village of Le Brassus in the Vallée de Joux, Switzerland. The 23-year-old Jules-Louis Audemars asked his childhood friend, Edward-Auguste Piguet, then only 21, to establish and produce watch movements. The two friends soon had great success with their customers. They appeared as the best at what they did.
From the beginning, Jules-Louis and Edward-Auguste showed an interest in complex mechanisms. Thanks to their watchmaking family heritage, they had developed all the skillsets necessary to create complex mechanisms. Even as a child, Jules Audemars used to craft control mechanisms for complicated watches.
When they joined forces, they decided to manufacture complicated movements for other luxury watchmaking companies such as Gubelin and Tiffany & Co. They realized they could craft and sell whole watches themselves as they had the necessary tools and expertise to start their own production.
Jules-Louis Audemars and Edward-Auguste Piguet split their work. Jules-Louis produced and assembled movements while Edward-Auguste ensured the completed movements were correctly regulated. Thus Jules-Louis started producing component parts for movements and Edward-Auguste became a finisher, one of the top jobs in the watchmaking industry. A finisher is a watchmaker who performs the final regulation of the timepiece and put the finishing touches to the escapements.
Later, the roles changed. Jules-Louis designed movements, created watches and dealt with technical responsibilities and managed the production and technical part of the business, while Edward-Auguste focused on sales and handled the financial side.
On 17 December 1881, Jules-Louis Audemars and Edward-Auguste Piguet officially founded "Audemars Piguet et Cie" in Le Brassus. In 1882, they presented their first complicated fob watches with perpetual calendars and minute repeater or chronograph.
Since 1882, members of the Audemars and Piguet families have been on the board of directors and have, therefore, always been involved directly or indirectly in the running of the company.
In 1907, Audemars Piguet built a new factory to accommodate all of its employees. However, this favorable period ended with the onset of the First World War.
The company through crises
World War I created difficulties for all companies including AP.
Jules-Edward Audemars died in 1918 and Edward-Auguste Piguet died a year later in 1919. Despite the founders deaths, AP continued its path in fine horology.
In 1918, Paul-Louis Audemars and Paul-Edward Piguet, the sons of the founders continued the business begun by their fathers and created ground-breaking watches such as the world's thinnest pocket watch caliber (1.32mm) and the first skeletonized pocket watch.
After the Wall Street crash of 1929, the company faced a major crisis. The crash of the stock market slowed the development of many Swiss companies. At one point, AP like other watchmakers was on the brink of collapse.
In 1933, Paul-Louis Audemars' son, Jacques-Louis Audemars took over the company and gave it a new impetus but the Great Depression jeopardized the development of Audemars Piguet. Only two employees remained in the company and only a few timepieces were made.
From 1936 to 1953, the chronographs' production had a new lease on life but the Second World War slowed down sales. After the war, AP production focused on innovative, ultra-thin watches and continued to create traditional high-end pieces.
From 1954 to 1971, the company enjoyed an era of prosperity and innovations. Its products achieved great success among international clients.
In 1962, Georges Golay became AP's business manager. From 1966 to 1987, he served as managing director and CEO of the company.
In the 1970s, watch manufacturers faced financial troubles due to "the quartz crisis". The Swiss watchmaking industry registered dramatic drops in sales because of the quartz watches coming from Japan.
In 1971, Audemars Piguet realized that the company needed a revolutionary change and decided that it was time to introduce a timepiece that had never been seen before. After getting some feedback from the Italian market about the interest in steel luxury watches, Audemars Piguet created its most famous watch to date: the Royal Oak.
Audemars Piguet's values have always been tradition, excellence and daring.
Through the years, AP adopted avant-garde techniques and developed many innovations including world firsts in the fine watchmaking history. Its two world firsts were the smallest five-minute repeater caliber and the jumping second hand (i.e. the second hand jumps from second to second in quanta rather than progressively) pocket watch. Other famous inventions were the thinnest watch and the first skeleton watch. These innovations reinforced Audemars Piguet's reputation as the world's horology leader in quality and complexity.
In 1893, Audemars Piguet began making wristwatches and produced the first wrist minute repeater in the world for Louis Brandt. Three years later, the "Grande Complication" pocket watch was launched. It was equipped with grand and small strike, minute repeater, perpetual calendar, deadbeat seconds, chronograph with jumping seconds and split-seconds hand. This unique watch arrived ahead of its time. With this watch, AP proved its expertise in sophisticated horology.
In 1920, the company produced a sophisticated fob watch comprising 16 complications (tourbillon, large and small chime, equation of time indicator, perpetual calendar, sidereal time indicator...) and a blue enamel dial engraved with 315 stars which reproduced the night sky above London, where the watch was delivered.
In 1929, for the first time, sales of wristwatches outstripped sales of fob watches but with the 1929 stock market crash followed by the Great Depression, consumers could no longer buy expensive watches and the company was forced to lay off most of its employees.
Starting in 1932, sales rebounded and Audemars Piguet continued its development.
The two world wars were very tough times for companies. As the others, Audemars Piguet had suffered. During this period only two watchmakers were working for the company. Few timepieces were created. The Women Jewelry timepiece dated 1932 was one of them.
After the World War II AP was able to rebound on the market by producing a range of ultra-thin chronograph models. In 1946, Audemars Piguet created the smallest mechanical caliber in the world (1.64mm). The sales of Audemars Piguet started growing in the 1950s and 1960s.
In 1967, the company developed the world's thinnest automatic movement (2.45mm) with a gold central rotor.
After the 70s, AP continued to release a staggering number of industry firsts, such as the ultra-thin perpetual calendar wristwatch with central rotor, self-winding ultra-thin tourbillon, self-winding grand complication, wristwatch equation of time with perpetual calendar and high frequency chronometer with double-balance AP Escapement.
In 1986, AP invented the first self-winding ultra-thin wristwatch with a second time zone. The tourbillon carriage was then the smallest ever made. The company also launched a rectangular wristwatch with minute repeater and jumping hour, composed of 412 pieces, and a ladies' watch with minute repeater and carillon.
In 2000 came the launch of "Tradition d'Excellence", a collection of crafted timepieces showcasing traditional and innovative complications.
One year later, the company presented the fifth timepiece of the Tradition d'Excellence collection, inspired by an 18th-design by watchmaker Robert Robin (1742–1799). This watch was made in platinium, in a limited edition of 20 watches.
In 2007, Audemars Piguet crafted the first case in forged carbon.
In 2015, Audemars Piguet continues to create fine timepieces. All AP's watches are produced in-house and are made by hand using traditional techniques. Audemars Piguet's headquarters are still located in Le Brassus, Switzerland, where the company began.
The Royal Oak
1972 was a turning point in Audemars Piguet history. In April 1972, they participated in the annual European watch-making fair in Basel, Switzerland.
On the eve of the fair, AP's managing director, Georges Golay, called the designer Gérald Genta and told him that the Italian market was expecting an "unprecedented steel watch". Golay needed a special watch to present at the fair. In less than a day, Gérald Genta invented the Royal Oak, which became AP's masterpiece.
The Royal Oak was characterized by a revolutionary design. At the time, luxury watches on the market were all round, slim and in gold. Gérald Genta designed an avant gardist octagonal watch in steel with sharp angles and visible screws.
The Royal Oak was the first high-end sports watch made of steel, recognizable by its octagonal bezel with eight hexagonal screws, the guillochage on its dial, a textured blue "tapisserie" motif, its integrated bracelet and eight visible bolts on the back. The watch was slim (7mm) and had a case diameter of 39mm.
On 6 September 1651 Oliver Cromwell's troops pursued King Charles II, the future king of England, Scotland and Ireland. To escape them, he took refuge in the branches of an oak tree. The tree became the "Royal oak" and a symbol of power and protection.
In commemoration of this historical event, eight ships of the British Royal Navy took the name of HMS Royal Oak between 1664 and 1939. Gérald Genta took inspiration from one of them, built in 1862.
One battleship was reinforced with steel plates, had octagonal gun ports for its cannons that were secured by eight visible bolts. These features served as a basis to imagine and create the shape of the watch case.
The watch design and its steel case revolutionized the watch industry.
Its price and original design disconcerted the market. Therefore its launch was slow at the beginning. But collectors and trend setters began adopting the watch and the Royal Oak became a huge international success.
The first series of 1000 Royal Oak (called the A-series) took more than a year to sell. These watches are still the most sought after by collectors. They recognize them by the AP initials placed above 6 o'clock rather than at 12 o'clock like successive series.
At the beginning, AP made a limited edition of 1,000. In 2000, the brand finally sold 100,000 Royal Oak. The watch represents around 45% of the global sales.
The first Royal Oak featuring a perpetual calendar caliber 2120/2800 was designed in 1981 in order to be the world's thinnest timepiece. The Royal Oak Day Date Moonphase was then launched. In 1983, the Royal Oak was equipped with lunar phases and a lunar calendar. One year later, the watch had a perpetual calendar. In 2004, Audemars Piguet created the Royal Oak hand-wound tourbillon chronograph, a limited edition of 20 pieces. This watch had a double ten-day power reserve indication and a 30-minute counter. Its case and its bracelet were made of platinum.
Another hit of the luxury brand is the Royal Oak Offshore launched in 1992.
Royal Oak Offshore
Over the years, Audemars Piguet has introduced many variations of the Royal Oak but the most successful is the Royal Oak Offshore, an extreme sport version of the Royal Oak, created in 1992 to celebrate the Royal Oak's 20th anniversary. It was designed by 22-year-old Emmanuel Gueit.
With its 42mm case, the Royal Oak Offshore was the world's first oversized watch. This new watch was bold and futuristic. It had an oversized 42mm wide case (a normal size today but which shocked at the time) and featured a 300m water resistance and rugged materials such as carbon and rubber.
In 1999, AP paired with actor Arnold Schwarzenegger for the End of Days. In 2003, the company continued the partnership. In the movie Terminator 3, the actor wore the Royal Oak Offshore T3 chronograph.
In 2009, AP launched the Royal Oak Offshore self-winding chronograph rose gold, that featured a black dial, a date display at 3 o'clock and a black rubber bezel.
In 2013, AP presented the Royal Oak Offshore Grande Complication.
Royal Oak Concept
In 2002, Audemars Piguet launched the Royal Oak Concept for the 30th anniversary of the Royal Oak. The manually wound watch was equipped with dynamograph, tourbillon, linear power reserve indicator and function selector. One of the materials used for its bezel was the titanium. The case was made of alacrite 602 and featured a Kevlar strap. The Royal Oak Concept edition was limited to 150 pieces.
In 2010, AP launched the Royal Oak Equation of Time combining four high complications: a perpetual calendar, a precision display of the lunar cycle, the equation of time, and civil sunrise and sunset times.
A year later, the Royal Oak Complication was released. The watch boasted 52 jewel movements and was self-winding. It had a perpetual calendar indicating the day, the week, the moon phases, the month and leap years, minute repeater, split-seconds chronograph and small seconds at 9 o'clock. It had an 18-carat white gold case and a bracelet with a transparent sapphire case back.
In 2012, the Royal Oak celebrated its 40th anniversary.
In 2014, AP presented the Concept GMT Tourbillon. This watch had a titanium case and integrated rubber strap combined with a white ceramic bezel. The Royal Oak Concept GMT Tourbillon featured a twin barrel ensuring 10-day power reserve, tourbillon and second time-zone GMT display.
Due to its success, the Royal Oak has often been copied. In March 2014, Audemars Piguet won a lawsuit against Swiss Legends that produced and sold fake models of Audemars Piguet's masterpiece.
In 2015, Audemars Piguet launched the Royal Oak Concept RD#1. Its particularity is the acoustics of its minute repeater. This work on the sound's watch is considered as a new innovation of the company.
To create that sound, eight years of research were necessary. Audemars Piguet launched a research program in 2006 in collaboration with the prestigious school Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne to craft this minute repeater. AP created an Acoustic Lab to explore chiming watch artistry that used to be developed by watchmakers when waterproofing was not in progress as water-resistance muffles sound. A musician, an academic consultant from the Geneva conservatory and a sound engineer composed the team. Now, the Acoustic Lab has an educational purpose. It explores sound and emotional response to it.
Audemars Piguet has three patents pending for its Royal Oak Concept RD#1.
In 1996, AP launched the Millenary collection. It featured oval-shaped cases and self-winding caliber movements.
In 2009, Audemars Piguet created the John Legend Millenary Pianoforte watch. This limited edition was made to raise money for charity. The timepiece featured piano keys on the dial, a black crocodile strap, transparent sapphire caseback and an 18-carat white gold encasing. On one watch, John Legend signature was engraved on the back.
Among Audemars Piguet's high-end products, is the Jules Audemars collection. These timepieces are distinguishable by round 18-carat rose gold cases, and complications such as day and date windows and power reserve indicators. The company also designed the Jules Audemars dynamograph, the first watch to combine a three-tone carillon grand strike with a dynamograph.
Some watches from other brands such as Vacheron Constantin have an AP movement inside.
Between 1894 and 1899, the company produced about 1,200 timepieces. After the deaths of Audemars and Piguet, in 1918 and 1919 respectively, the company continued to grow and became more well-known. As the company's business rose, Tiffany & Co, Cartier and Bulgari became customers, who rebranded and sold AP watches under their own brand names. Today, these watches are only identifiable as Audemars Piguet products by their serial numbers.
Audemars Piguet opened a store in New York City in 2003 and in Miami in 2006.
In 2006, the Swiss company launched the Changing Times Award for the best European entrepreneurs in the field of high technology. Two years later, over 140 companies submitted their candidacy to the selection committee, composed of Europe's leading venture companies.
In January 2009, Philippe Merk became CEO of Audemars Piguet.
In May 2012, François-Henri Bennahmias was nominated interim CEO. He joined the company in 1994. Three years later, he was promoted to lead the brand's operations in Singapore. In 1996, he took over for Audemars Piguet in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Brunei, Australia and Malaysia. In 1999, he became CEO of Audemars Piguet North America.
François-Henri Bennahmias currently manages Audemars Piguet.
In 2000, Audemars Piguet celebrated its 125th anniversary and opened a new building in Le Brassus to house its workshops and watchmakers.
In 2009, a new production site opened in the center of the village of Le Brassus. The "Manufacture des Forges" was the first industrial building to meet the standards of the new Swiss Minergie-Eco® environmental certification.
In 2015, the Audemars Piguet watch group is composed of 1,200 employees, 14 distribution subsidiaries and 16 boutiques around the world.
The company has three production sites in Le Brassus, Le Locle and Meyrin in Switzerland. Audemars Piguet's headquarters are located in Le Brassus. The subsidiary Audemars Piguet Renaud et Papi SA is in Le Locle and its production site Centror SA is located in Meyrin.
AP produces 26,000 timepieces per year.
They also have a specialized workshop that repairs 200-year-old watches.
The Swiss company produces complex mechanical watches, haute joaillerie creations and jewellery.
In 2012, AP's slogan became : "To break the rules, you must first master them". "Over the years we have demonstrated our mastery of the art of haute horology and yet Audemars Piguet has also always been a beacon of innovation and creativity that dares to break new grounds" said Philippe Merk, CEO.
Audemars Piguet thus launched an advertising campaign to promote the new slogan. It was divided into two main themes. The first one showed the artistry of every watch component, the second one focused on different landscapes of the Vallée de Joux. Pictures were shot by photographers Richard Foster and Dan Holdsworth.
Like many other luxury watch brands, Audemars Piguet has a number of ambassadors, including: Stanislas Wawrinka, Sachin Tendulkar, Michael Schumacher, Lionel Messi, Sebastien Buemi, LeBron James, Michelle Yeoh, Novak Đoković, Serena Williams and many other personalities and athletes.
In the 1980s, Audemars Piguet entered into a partnership with the golfer Nick Faldo. On the high seas, AP supported the UBS Switzerland team skippered by Pierre Fehlmann.
In 1996, chess champion Gary Kasparov became the brand's ambassador. Two years later, Audemars Piguet created the Millenary Garry Kasparov model. This watch was equipped with a second time zone and a power reserve display.
In 2000, soccer player Lionel Messi became AP's ambassador. The brand created the limited edition Royal Oak Leo Messi. The collection was limited to 1,000 pieces and was outfitted with an alligator skin strap. In May 2014, Leo Messi visited the Audemars Piguet factory in Le Brassus to see where his namesake watch was made.
In 2003, the Swiss team Alinghi won the 31st America's Cup. Audemars Piguet, official partner, commemorated its achievement by creating the Royal Oak City of Sails, launched in a limited edition. Audemars Piguet was a sponsor of Team Alinghi, winners of the America's Cup in 2003 and made a series of Alinghi limited edition watches. On 3 July 2007, Alinghi won the 32nd America's Cup. To celebrate this victory, the company created the Royal Oak Offshore Alinghi Team chronograph.
AP also established a partnership with automobile manufacturer Maserati in 2005. For the 90th anniversary of the Italian company, Audemars Piguet created the Dual Time Millenary Maserati.
Audemars Piguet has made a number of special and limited edition watches for celebrities and athletes. They include Stanislas Wawrinka, Sachin Tendulkar, Rubens Barrichello, Jarno Trulli, Quincy Jones, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sebastien Buemi, Shaquille O'Neal, Lionel Messi, LeBron James, Rory McIlroy and Jay-Z.
In 2005, Jay Z partnered with Audemars Piguet to create the Royal Oak Offshore Jay Z 10th Anniversary, featuring a collection of 100 timepieces to celebrate the hip hop singer's 10th anniversary in the music business. For the occasion, watches were sold with an iPod featuring songs by the artist. Jay Z also mentioned AP in his song "Upgrade U".
Audemars Piguet has shown an interest in cinema through its ambassadors. Some of the watches have appeared in films such as the Royal Oak Offshore in The End of Days in 1999 and in Terminator 3.
Through the years, AP has also created special watches to raise money for charity. Among its very limited editions, one watch was signed by the actress Scarlett Johansson, another by the musician John Legend. Daniel Radcliffe signed a self-winding chronograph and Jay Z the Las Vegas Strip Tourbillon.
In 2007, Audemars Piguet offered its support to the Clinton Foundation. The Foundation works around the world on global issues, including education, health, and fights against HIV/AIDS. AP created the Jules Audemars Clinton Foundation Equation of Time watch in a limited edition of 126 pieces. The watch incorporated complex astronomical features. It showed sunrise and sunset times, a perpetual calendar, and an astronomical moon.
In 1992, Audemars Piguet created a foundation dedicated to forest conservation through environmental protection and youth awareness. The Audemars Piguet Foundation contributes preserving forests worldwide and educates younger generations on environmental issues.
The foundation ensures that the company maintains eco-friendly policies.
Besides its foundation, the watchmaker has created eco-groups in every department of the company.
In 2014, the Audemars Piguet Foundation worked on 75 projects in 34 countries worldwide.
The collection also features a watch created in 1769 by Joseph Piguet, a ancestor of Edward Piguet. The museum also hosts lots of world firsts, such as the world's thinnest pocket watch caliber, the wristwatch with a perpetual calendar and some of the Royal Oak watches.
Currently, about 250 pieces are displayed in the museum. Around 300 are loaned out to other museums or exhibition spaces. With its expansion, the museum will be able to showcase more timepieces.
In September 2014, AP designed a new building to house the company's new museum. It will consist of a steel structure in the shape of an overlapping spiral and recall the Guggenheim museum.
In July 2014, Audemars Piguet launched an annual art commission. Every year, an artist is rewarded after using horology mechanics and technology in its creations.
In 2014 and 2015, Audemars Piguet Art Commission curator was Marc-Olivier Wahler. In 2014, the watchmaker supported the Dutch artist Theo Jansen, who explored synergies between his creation and the fine craft of horology. One year later, the watchmaker officially presented its Audemars Piguet Art Commission with an exhibition of Robin Meier at Art Basel.
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