Partner to many famous brands, it is however with Audemars Piguet that Les Ambassadeurs has nurtured its longest collaboration. From its beginnings, it has offered the prestigious watches made by the only Swiss watchmaker still owned by its founding family.
Jasmine Audemars has been the Chairwoman of the Audemars Piguet Board of Directors since 1992. A graduate in social science and economic history, she served as editor of the Journal de Genève from 1980 to 1992, and was one of the first women to hold a position of this nature. She is the great-granddaughter of Jules-Louis Audemars, founder of the company. Audemars Piguet is the only major luxury watchmaking manufacturer to have remained in the hands of the family. Jasmine Audemars is the co-founder of the Cultural Council of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie.
For how long have you known Les Ambassadeurs?
It goes back to the foundation of the company. For us, Les Ambassadeurs has been an important partner in Switzerland since the beginning. In a family of watchmakers, it is quite usual to talk about partners. It has been like that since my childhood and when I was growing up. As a result, I was introduced to this world very early on. Since I have been chairing Audemars Piguet, I visit Les Ambassadeurs boutiques whenever I am travelling. Certain brands prefer to be represented in mono-brand boutiques.
What is your stance on this development?
It is undoubtedly an important development in which we have participated by opening our own boutiques. That doesn’t prevent us from continuing to work extensively with partners with a multi-brand strategy. Les Ambassadeurs maintains essential contacts with our ever-increasing number of end clients. That applies just as much to the after-sales service as it does to sales themselves. In both these domains we need the know-how of partners such as Les Ambassadeurs. During the past few years, we have nevertheless had to reduce our too extensive sales network and focus on solid partners.
What is the relevance of the after-sales service in this new strategy?
It is a key issue for the entire watchmaking industry, and in fact one of the most important challenges facing of all us. This is particularly true of luxury brands, since clients want global information on their watch and on possible repairs. The same thing goes for watchmaking around the world. When a part breaks, the client wants to know exactly which element it was and when he or she will get the watch back.
Has that not always been the case?
Unfortunately not! There were many recurrent mistakes. Today, more than ever we need well-trained people. Currently, we are also training watchmakers from Singapore with this in mind. In fact, Asia represents an important developing market for us. We send watchmakers to Asia and train Asian watchmakers here in Le Brassus. This cultural exchange has immense importance and value for both sides. A young watchmaker from our valley can acquire a great deal of experience by working in Singapore for a year or two.
What are the keys to selling watchmaking and jewellery when it comes to meeting clients’ requirements?
Les Ambassadeurs is a model in this respect and its Espace Connaisseur is an exceptional concept. This global customer service creates a close relationship with buyers and provides important and essential information. These are indispensable elements these days, when it comes to luxury watches.
All watchmaking salespeople should follow this path. This corresponds to the true needs of our sector.
In interviews, you always talk about the “genuine experience” that Audemars Piguet represents. Can you explain what this is about?
We enjoy talking about it, since this concept is linked to our history. When they come to us, watchmaking clients and sales advisors must know our history. They need to discover the origins of our watch brand in the Vallée de Joux, in Le Brassus. It is not enough just to see the Manufacture, one also needs to understand that our valley’s art of Haute Horlogerie has a history that dates back to well before the founding of Audemars Piguet. The watchmaking expertise in our valley is unique in the world. It is up to us to preserve it and to move it forward.
What are the markets of tomorrow in your opinion?
Europe and Switzerland remain the priority, even though Asia is a strong market and South America represents a substantial market for our watches. We are convinced that if local demand is high, it will be elsewhere too. This is an aspect that we must not forget. In future we must continually maintain and develop a certain balance between the markets that will help prevent us from becoming dependent on the economic development of a particular region of the world.
How do you view the long-term prospects for the Swiss watchmaking industry?
The Swiss watchmaking industry needs to protect the exceptional position it holds. It will achieve this by making the right decisions. One of the key issues currently facing the sector is that all its stakeholders want to be part of the luxury segment, whereas we must nonetheless not neglect the mid-range and entry-level segments, because the watchmaking industry is a pyramid. If the base is fragile, the entire pyramid runs the risk of collapsing. But fortunately, we have Swatch. This brand has given our industry solid foundations and I hope things will continue in this vein.
How has Audemars Piguet developed in the past 50 years?
In the 1960s, we were a small brand that employed a maximum of 150 people in Le Brassus. Most of our watches were dispatched by local post. Like all the other brands, we were part of the distribution revolution and have built up a solid sales network, especially over the past ten or 15 years. Since then, a lot has changed. Our workforce used to be mainly composed of watchmakers, whereas today we have specialists in all domains, from marketing to finance through to the legal department. Previously, an outside lawyer looked after a few cases, but this would no longer be possible today.
You worked in journalism for a long time, notably as the editor of the Journal de Genève. Were you also involved in the watchmaking industry then?
I was involved in this sector when I was a journalist in the economic department. After becoming editor-in-chief, it was no longer my beat. I maintained a certain distance while holding this position, so as to avoid any conflict of interest. But I have always had watchmaking in my blood because I grew up in a family of watchmakers here in Le Brassus. In my family conversations were almost exclusively about watches and our sector. I clearly remember the launch of the Royal Oak, as well as all the discussions with my father about the issues of that period.
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