Tuesday, February 7, 2023

And The Next Person To Take The Helm At Audemars Piguet Is...


But while we're playing Watch Town's version of "The Masked Singer", I thought it wouldn't be such a crazy idea to float some ideas as to who might be next?

I can't really claim to know much about the machinations at AP. But this is a new reality for what is still at its heart, a private family company - suddenly everyone is up in their business... so let's have a look!

But before we go forward, let's hop into the Wayback Machine to those thrilling days of yesteryear - 1987 to be specific. For those of you around at that point, can you remember where you were and what you were doing? I had just received $50 and a firm handshake from my father, who in turn informed me that Chicago was "that way, and Oregon a bit further down the road. If you hit the Pacific, you've gone too far." Needless to say, that seems like a million years ago. Curious to relate, 1987 was another significant year for someone else in the watch world, one Georges-Henri Meylan.

Now I realize for the younger kids out there that what I am about to say is going to trip you out, but a lot of the real happenings at AP started under the guidance of Mr. Meylan. AP was a WHOLE different type of company when he took over the leadership, having a not insubstantial stake in another little brand - Jaeger-LeCoultre. By organizing the sale of it, he brought in much needed funds that helped ensure the stability of AP and also helped ensure its growth. He also was instrumental in helping guide the career and development of the current CEO. This is not to say that the current incumbent has not overseen some phenomenal growth (not to mention a truly staggering list of professional golf playing "chums of the brand"), but is to say that there were already some seismic shifts underway when Mr. Meylan abandoned the field only to pop up later with a whole new jam.

But back to AP...

What I continue to be confounded by is what seems to be the lack of a clear succession plan.  On the one hand, the argument could be made that as a private company, AP is not going to show all their cards. Well, that's as maybe, but I think there's a wee bit more going on here. What is also interesting is (and this may just be little me thinking this), is that (to the best of my knowledge) Mr. Bennahmias has not really come out with his own suggestions as to who should or could replace him from within the ranks. And as someone who is a director in his "day job" (albeit for a much less glamorous organization), I find this disappointing. I subscribe to the belief that a large part of your responsibilities as a manager is to ensure that your team grows, develops, and if you did your job well, at least one of your team will be ready to replace you. Why? For the very simple fact that nothing is permanent. Every job out there is a "temp" job. We all leave our posts eventually, one way or the other. Ideally not carried out on a stretcher feet first, but that has also been known to happen in Watch Town.

So then, who would I put my marker on to take over from the current CEO? It's a curious question. It does not help that this is perhaps one of the most talked about and drawn out talent searches for a new CEO since HBO's Succession -

Courtesy of HBO
But if I fancied a flutter, I might place a chip next to the former CEO of Carl F. Bucherer. Sascha Moeri left his post about 7 or 8 months ago. Assuming that there was a non-compete clause in his contract, it would likely be up within a year. He did well with CFB, but more importantly he has a lot of experience working with a similar set-up in terms of a privately held organization.  Now I have met Mr. Moeri a grand total of ONE time, and that was back in 2012 in Las Vegas. So truth be told, this is just me looking at the tea leaves that represent the pool of potential new CEOs out there and trying to assess who might be a "fit". 

The internal options for AP are somewhat limited, at least if we simply tried to look at the roster to see who might be a likely fit. Although I think it would be exciting if one of the new regional CEOs were brought back to the mother ship to take the helm, the US CEO is still quite new both to AP and to the watch business in general, so I don't suspect it will go that way. 

It cannot be denied that under Mr. Bennahmias AP has grown significantly as a brand. But for many people out there (both enthusiasts and those of us in the Fourth and Fifth Estates) it also feels as if it has somewhat coalesced into a large brand with, essentially, one collection - The Royal Oak. But that will clearly be a challenge for the next CEO, whoever that will be. 

So although I love a scoop and it's exciting to sign off with "You heard it here first!", the truth is that we will all have to wait and see what color the smoke is coming out of the chimney at AP.

Until then - enjoy your watches!

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