It was the housewarming party of the year.
On Aug. 28, at a penthouse apartment high above Sunset Boulevard, Audemars Piguet welcomed an intimate crowd of clients and collectors to its new AP House Los Angeles, a 6,500-square-foot space complete with a full bar, a dining area that can seat up to 24 people, a living room lined with built-in bookcases, a watchmaking studio, and the pièce de résistance: a terrace offering sweeping views of downtown L.A.
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Best of all: A cadre of the Swiss watchmaker’s biggest fans in Hollywood, including singer-songwriter John Mayer, actors Orlando Bloom and Don Cheadle, and California’s 38th governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, showed up for the occasion.
The party, co-hosted by Ginny Wright, the brand’s CEO of the Americas, was designed to highlight Audemars Piguet’s six-year-old retail concept, which favors doing business in luxurious, residential-style lounge spaces instead of traditional boutiques.
Designed by Brigette Romanek of Romanek Design Studio, the L.A. penthouse blends elements of the brand’s roots in the Swiss village of Le Brassus—including wood, velvet, mohair, colored glass, and brass in natural hues of beige and green—with design details that reference its long-standing relationships in the worlds of music and contemporary art. These include a curated vinyl station, a DJ booth, a Steinway grand piano, contemporary artworks on loan from François Ghebaly Gallery, and instruments hand-selected by renowned musicians.
Although the emphasis at AP House L.A. is on providing exceptional hospitality, watchmaking takes center stage in an oak-paneled gallery room featuring both exhibition-only watches and timepieces from the current collection. At a nearby watchmaking station with views of the Hollywood Hills, a full-time watchmaker is on hand to service clients’ timepieces and lead master classes dedicated to the brand’s sought-after models.
The event, which marked the official opening of the location, doubled as a farewell party for outgoing chief executive François-Henry Bennahmias.
About a year ago, the brash leader—best known for breaking the rules of Swiss watch marketing by collaborating early on with hip-hop stars and, more recently, with Marvel—announced that, after 29 years with the company, including a decade as chief executive, he would be leaving at the end of 2023.
The lounge retail concept was one of Bennahmias’ most influential ideas. Introduced in late 2017, with the opening of the brand’s first AP House in Milan, the business model centers on private, residential-style spaces, most located on the upper floors of buildings in key cities around the world. The brand uses these spaces to host clients—by appointment only—in a relaxed atmosphere that calls to mind the customer-centric approach taken by watchmakers of the distant past.
“We are not chasing traffic, we are chasing quality,” Bennahmias told the New York Times in 2018. “You can go there and not buy a watch. You can go there and have lunch with your friends or watch a soccer game. You can relax, chill out, no obligation.”
Over the past six years, Audemars Piguet has opened 15 AP Houses around the world, including locations in London, Hong Kong, St. Barths, Tel Aviv, Zurich, Tokyo, Madrid, Barcelona, Munich, Milan, Shanghai, and Kuala Lumpur. The brand opened its first U.S. AP House in New York City’s meatpacking neighborhood in the spring of 2022. The L.A. space marks its second American location.
Other watchmakers have followed suit. In May, for example, Corum opened a concept boutique in Bangkok on the second floor of the Gaysorn Shopping Center in the city’s Ratchaprasong District. Designed to resemble a clubhouse, the Corum Watch Club features a balcony, a coffee bar with a dedicated barista, and Le Corbusier furniture where clients can relax and have a drink.
In a similar vein, this fall, H. Moser & Cie. will open its first Moserland in Midtown Manhattan, a lounge space on the upper floors of an office building where the brand will “welcome guests and friends of the brand, to spend quality time with connoisseurs in a relaxed atmosphere and to discover the H. Moser & Cie. universe, as well as its latest creations,” according to a brand statement.
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