The moves hint at both brands wanting to dramatically scale down and cut its presence with third party multi-brand boutiques and interact directly with its customers via its own boutiques.
It was only last month that Swatch Group and it stable of brands announced it was pulling out of Baselworld, held traditionally in March every year. Its competing watch trade event, the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) held in January today faces similar turmoil as Audemars Piguet and Richard Mille have made statements about their exits with 2019 being their last turnouts.
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Started in Geneva in 1990 as an alternative to Baselworld, SIHH is dominated by Richemont Group brands, including Cartier, IWC, Piaget, Lange & Söhne, Panerai and Jaeger-LeCoultre.
On its impending departure from SIHH, Richard Mille explained "the brand’s presence at exhibitions no longer corresponds to its strategy for exclusive and selective distribution." Its statement hinted at a concentration of its future efforts on its own brand boutiques as distribution and interaction points with customers. "The Richard Mille brand has developed considerably its international distribution network over the last few years, notably by opening a growing number of dedicated mono-brand boutiques. In turn, it has drastically reduced its representation through multi-brand retailers in order to qualitatively satisfy a constant increase in demand."
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Audemars Piguet also found today as appropriate to deliver a similar ominous message, saying "the evolving nature of the watchmaking industry is such that Audemars Piguet's business model is changing and the [company] has decided to explore new directions in order to forge closer and more direct relationships with end-clients and watch enthusiasts worldwide."
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This follows its earlier announcement that it plans to eventually cut out its presence at multi-brand stores via third party distributor/retailers and also deal directly with customers via its own brand boutiques.
Audemars Piguet Opens Its Largest Store in the World in Singapore: Read Story
In May this year, Audemars Piguet had unveiled the plans for an impressive 70,000 square-foot-hotel currently undergoing construction and set to open to the public in 2020. Named Hotel des Horlogers, it will be located next to the brand's existing museum in the Vallée de Joux, Switzerland, and will be made up of five interconnecting sections housing 50 rooms. This is one part of its strategy to have direct customer interaction.
In addition, the brand has also been opening AP Houses, in cities like Hong Kong, Milan, New York, Madrid, London, and Munich.
In fact, this past June also saw Audemars Piguet for the first time in Thailand, showcasing its ground-breaking horological innovations in an exhibition entitled "From Le Brassus to Bangkok," in a sign of its strategy to bring its brand directly to customers.