To say that François-Henry Bennahmias, CEO of Audemars Piguet, sees his managerial role as being akin to that of a sports coach might be something of an exaggeration. That said, Bennahmias, a trained athlete steeped in American culture, is a man who says what he thinks without mincing his words, and sets targets to match, ever-poised to forge ahead if there is something worth winning.
There can be little doubt that there was a huge and suitably stimulating challenge waiting at Audemars Piguet for this lover of order and achievement when he arrived there in 1994 following an earlier career in professional golf. After travelling the world in the service of the firm, he settled in New York in 1999 as its director for North and South America. It was as yet an embryonic market for the brand, in which Bennahmias was to work wonders. A friend of stars, he brought Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jay-Z, Vanessa Williams, and Shaquille O’Neal into the world of Audemars Piguet – and its Royal Oak won over the entire continent.
François-Henry Bennahmias © Audemars Piguet
Bennahmias could not have dreamed of a better springboard. In 2012, he climbed the last step on the corporate ladder, becoming the firm’s CEO – a position in which the talents of this born manager came to full fruition. He began by sorting out the firm itself, streamlining the catalogue, reducing production, rationialising the distribution network, acquiring sports, culture and arts sponsorships, as well as reorganising the production facility with an eye to quality. No stone was left unturned, with results that were to give Audemars Piguet meteoric success. Between 2013 and 2018, annual sales doubled to over one billion Swiss francs, making this independent, family-owned firm one of the greatest successes of the early 21st century. Bennahmias has always cultivated the ideal of being a man of action, and Audemars Piguet has been par for the course in this respect for this man with a golf club on his shoulder, always ready for the next swing.
*Written by Christophe Roulet
*On the occasion of GMT Magazine and WorldTempus' 20th anniversary, we have embarked on the ambitious project of summarising the last 20 years in watchmaking in The Millennium Watch Book, a big, beautifully laid out coffee table book. This article is an extract. The Millennium Watch Book is available on www.the-watch-book.com, in French and English, with a 10% discount if you use the following code: WT2021.