GRAILS_Xavier Nolot

Welcome back to an original aBlogtoWatch feature, “My First Grail Watch.” In this series, we ask prominent people in the watch industry about the first timepiece that they lusted after. Today, we’re speaking with Xavier Nolot, the CEO Audemars Piguet North America. For his First Grail, he went back to very beginning, calling out a lowly LCD-equipped watch as his first.

aBlogtoWatch (ABTW): Who are you, and what is your relationship to the watch industry?

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Xavier Nolot (XN): I’m the CEO for Audemars Piguet for the Americas. I joined the industry and Audemars Piguet 11 years ago, after a career in the energy industry. My relationship with watchmaking comes from this dual background: first as an engineer passionate about technology and “how things work,” and second as a observer of a craft that has as much to do with art as with science.

ABTW: When did your fascination with watches start?

XN: As a child in the early eighties, watches were those tiny mechanisms you could open and try to decipher, and then reassemble hoping they would work again, which rarely happened. I have to say that the fascination really started a few weeks into the job at Audemars Piguet, when I slowly understood through my conversations in the workshops the amount of passion, sometimes “grain de folie,” craftsmanship, and with considerable persistence that goes into making the high end timepieces.

ABTW: What was your first grail watch?

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XN: It was a Casio electronic with a liquid crystal dial that had several functions actuated by the side buttons. It must have been in 1980 or so.

ABTW: What drew you to this particular watch?

XN: It was so futuristic at the time. The stop watch had a precision to the hundredth of a second, it had a one minute countdown display, really cool stuff for a kid!

ABTW: Did you ever get the Casio?
XN: My father did get it for me. It was not that expensive even for us.

ABTW: Given this one arrived in your childhood, I’m guessing you no longer have it. What would you say your Grail today is?

XN: No, I don’t have it anymore. After that, my grandfather gave me his Condor Chronograph. He got it sometime in the 50s and it still works and looks great thanks to the watchmaker who completely restored it. My current grail watch is the first Royal Oak Concept that Audemars Piguet released at the end of 2002, just when I joined the company.

For me this watch embodies so much of the daring spirit our master watchmakers possess, as well as the luxury that scarcity, exclusivity and uniqueness bring. It is also a reminder for me a remainder of my discovery of a community that has one foot firmly in the future while drawing its inspiration in the origins of the craft.

ABTW: Have you been able to get this new grail, or was it ever “the one that got away”?

XN: The Concept piece is way above my means, and it’s good it is. It will always remain the grail.

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