It is true, when you visit the manufacture location of a prestigious Swiss watch maker it is difficult not to fall in love with what they do, especially after seeing with your own eyes how they do it. Even modern mechanical watch making is an arduous and labor intensive process that combines contemporary component production with traditional assembly and decoration. In many ways, we still make watches the old way, and there is so much love and passion that goes into it that resisting the end result is difficult for anyone who takes the tour to see how they are made.
Francois is right, pretty much everyone who visits Audemars Piguet or one of the few brands like it is instantly tempted to make a purchase, but for a range of different reasons. Some people may fall in love with the fact that the watches are being produced in the same idyllic place as they were since the 19th century, and others love the idea that a skilled watchmaker toiled over their watch by hand for hours before it was ever “authorized” to leave the factory.
The challenge for watch brands like Audemars Piguet is to bring the manufacture to the many consumers who will never have a chance to visit their home base in Switzerland. Doing so is a trial of partnerships, sponsorships, events, and campaigns designed to reach the right people again and again, and explain to them what Audemars Piguet really does.
Of course, the greater reality is that most people aren’t like me, and don’t have the opportunity to look at Audemars Piguet from a 360 degree perspective. They may see just one or two facets of what is in reality a rather complicated entity. The booth at Art Basel communicates just a few of the many salient points which make most Audemars Piguet brand lovers the fans that they are. The exhibit of Royal Oak Offshore watches is an impressive chronicle of the history of the brand, but is just a fraction of what they offer. I would venture to say that the actual Audemars Piguet story is too deep for most people (even at the company) to fully grasp.
The people at Art Basel often like to think of themselves as art as well. I’ve been to very few places with as many people wishing to making such bold statements with their outfits. The people-watching at Art Basel is truly fantastic. Audemars Piguet is one of many high-end brands and luxurious names the population of Art Basel is familiar with, but Francois knows that even in the watch world there are very few brands left alive today that are like Audemars Piguet.
In a sense I have to simply relent to the fact that while Art Basel is a truly impressive place for Audemars Piguet to be, few of the participants will ever really understand what the brand is about when it comes to the full breadth and meaning of their products. Nevertheless the famous art show adds a unique flavor to a brand that goes from sponsoring a sport team and professional athletes, to a scientific endeavor, or an art convention all in the same month, and is equally suited to doing all of those things with grace.