Some news stories are like earthquakes. Look what happened in the media when François-Henry Bennahmias announced he was leaving Audemars Piguet. There were months of gossip and speculation about who would replace him, but nobody guessed correctly.

At the end of May, Audemars Piguet officially announced that Ilaria Resta would join the company in September 2023. After a short transition period, Resta will take over from François-Henry Bennahmias as chief executive officer on 1 January 2024. Bennahmias has been with the company for 30 years and has served as CEO for 11 of them. It’s a good time to be leaving for Bennahmias. Audemars Piguet has doubled its profits and it is one of the most sought-after watch brands in the world, after Rolex and Patek Philippe.

Global media outlets are rather excited about this appointment. Why? Because Ilaria Resta is new to the watch industry. When speculating about the new CEO, it was suspected that they would choose one of the incumbent directors (other brands were also considered). And herein lies the surprise: no one expected it to be a woman who has no experience in the watch industry. Although Ilaria Resta has held managerial roles at international companies for 26 years, most of her experience comes from the cosmetics industry (Firmenich and Procter & Gamble).

It is unclear whether the decision to appoint Ilaria Resta was influenced by Jasmine Audemars, the great-granddaughter of the company’s founder Jules-Louis Audemars. Although she is no longer as involved in the running of the company as before (she heads up the Audemars Piguet Foundation and oversees charity work and the brand museum), her opinion still carries weight.

So, what can we expect? What will Ilaria’s strategy be? Will she focus on the brand’s best-seller, the Royal Oak, which accounts for 90% of revenue?

It seems unlikely that they will look to significantly increase production of this model to make it more readily available, as this would make the watch less desirable and it would impact the value of the brand itself.

Perhaps Ilaria Resta will focus on women’s watches, whose value has historically been under-appreciated. Her predecessor managed to generate such high demand for the men’s models that you have to join a waiting list to buy one, but there is still a lot of work to do on the women’s collections. Even if they managed to increase interest in women’s watches by only a couple of percentage points, this would enable the brand to reach new heights. It is a rather difficult task, because not only do you have to increase awareness amongst women, but you also have to generate enough interest in the brand that instead of choosing Rolex, Patek Philippe or Cartier, they choose Audemars Piguet. It’s difficult, but not impossible, as Ilaria Resta has two women who already have extensive experience at Audemars Piguet who can help her achieve this goal – Olivia Crouan, Chief Brand Officer, and Aurelia Jouhanneau, Head of Media and Influence.

There’s also the question of distribution. Will the new CEO follow in the footsteps of Bennahmiasa? He reduced the number of points of sale so that Audemars Piguet watches were only available in boutique outlets, taking the total number of points of sale from over 400 to around 100 in just under 10 years.

And what will happen to their work with Marvel and the Code 11:59 collection? Both were intended to diversify their portfolio to stop them relying too heavily on their best-seller. These are only some of the matters that will need to be addressed, so Ilaria Resta will have her work cut out for her.

The new CEO will certainly not rest on her laurels, but does she have any revolutionary ideas up her sleeve? We’ll find out next year. Fingers crossed!

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