Articulate, smartly dressed and immensely knowledgeable, it’s evident that Audemars Piguet meant business when it positioned Jonathan King as the new CEO of Audemars Piguet South-East Asia – a role that requires one to be on their toes as they attempt to satiate the region’s growing appetite for luxury watches. Since taking over the reins in August 2017, King has only one thing on his mind: building on the foundation of the brand to immerse customers in the world of Audemars Piguet.
As any watch connoisseur knows, Audemars Piguet emerged in 1875 from the shared fascination for timekeeping and craftsmanship between Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet. “The story of our birth has guided our approach to watchmaking, forging within us an independent spirit. Indeed, Audemars Piguet is one of the few brands in haute horlogerie that remains in the hands of its founding families,” explains King. “This gives us legitimacy and a legacy that contributes to the spirit of independence, creativity and innovation. This is the foundation of Audemars Piguet.”
Acknowledging the strength of this foundation, King admits that it serves as the basis for every step Audemars Piguet takes. “I am fortunate to have inherited a good foundation, so there’s no need for me to reinvent the wheel,” he says with a small smile. He does, however, build upon it primarily through longterm planning and developing good relationships with customers around the region.
To achieve this, King has two missions at this stage in his new role. The first is to create a window into the universe of Audemars Piguet. Waving his hand to the handsome interiors of the watchmaker’s boutique in Starhill Gallery Kuala Lumpur, King asserts that he wants to make sure that the brand has the best possible selection of products in its South-East Asian boutiques. “There should be no compromise in what’s available here versus anywhere else in the world. In Malaysia, many of our customers are collectors and connoisseurs, and I want the boutique here in Kuala Lumpur to serve as a portal to Vallée de Joux. Almost as if one could reach their arms into our Le Brassus manufacture and pick up a piece they like.”
With a gilded gateway to the universe of Audemars Piguet established, King then turns his attention to the ownership experience. “It is important that each customer gets to revel in the ownership of an Audemars Piguet piece. From the moment they set foot into the boutique, we are here with them every step of the way, even after they’ve procured a timepiece.”
A key element to creating this exquisite ownership experience includes the establishment of its very own service centre in Kuala Lumpur in late 2016. Watchmakers that have been trained rigorously to match the impeccable standard of Audemars Piguet offer immediate feedback to customers, from checking the watches to providing information on their beloved timepieces. As one of the few nations in South-East Asia to have an Audemars Piguet service centre, it is telling of the Swiss watchmaker’s confidence in the Malaysian market. “2017 has certainly been a record year for Audemars Piguet in Malaysia. It’s the first full year where our customers have been able to engage with the product in this microcosm of Vallée de Joux in our Kuala Lumpur boutique, and the collections have also been very well received,” declares King in delight. “Besides, Malaysia has plenty of potential for growth. The economy is robust; it is politically stable and has a growing entrepreneurial and uppermiddle class.”
Despite his heartening optimism, challenges remain a permanent fixture in every business. Yet, King does not seem perturbed, saying that there are some issues that are predictable in their unpredictability. “There are some problems that are constant, such as the geopolitical impact and foreign exchange rates that affect all markets, brands and industries,” he explains. “Our job and intent is to always outperform despite the challenging circumstances and, for that, we are backed up by our relatively small size and willingness to evolve and adapt. So, there’s no one challenge that I look to overcome; it’s about being alert and agile in bracing the hundreds of road bumps I face along the way.”
That being said, King is confident of what Audemars Piguet will bring to the table this year. “Seeing our 2018 collection just reinforces my constant amazement at the innovation and expertise displayed by our team, from the watchmakers to the designers and engineers. They’ve ticked every box in creating a masterful timepiece with fantastic designs, technological breakthroughs and seamless evolution of existing products in exciting ways.” King is also one of the rare few individuals who’ve had a glimpse into the watches that Audemars Piguet plans to release in the upcoming years. When asked what details he can reveal, he says cryptically: “Since our founding in 1875, we’ve been making high complications each year. You can be assured that there are many great things to come in the next several years – watch this space.”