The Audemars Piguet CEO for Southeast Asia on a challenging first year in her new role and what the future holds for the independent Swiss watchmaker.
Options: It has just been about a year since you took over as CEO of Audemars Piguet’s Southeast Asia office. What was it like working in various roles in the company ahead of taking the regional leadership position?
Stefanie Ng: I joined Audemars Piguet in 2012 in the marketing (now known as brand) department for Southeast Asia. The role gave me opportunities to interact with partners in eight countries, looking at the business from a marketing perspective and witnessing the growth of the company through the eyes of a marketer. I saw how the tight alignment between commercial and brand goals contributed to the success of the company. Now in this leadership position, I have a macro view of the business in the region, and my background and past experiences also provide me with a micro view when needed.
What was the mandate given to you when you took on this role, and how did you adapt to the challenging year that followed?
The mandate was simple and has been the same for the past few years, and that is to continue our strategy of growing retail in the region. And to do so, I need to continue to build and maintain an engaged team and consistently focus on the changing needs of our end clients.
The world is no longer the same as pre-Covid-19. This pandemic has taught us the importance of adaptability — still having an eye on the target but with the resilience and creativity to adapt. An example would be how we engage with our clients and continue to remain relevant to their changing needs.
What has working from home in the past year been like for you?
Like many others, a lot of phone calls. You find yourself spending the entire day on the phone with different parties and you really need to be disciplined enough to set time aside, block the calendar for thinking and planning.
Did you make any adjustments to your home to adjust to the work-from-home arrangement?
More adjustments were made to the ways of working than to my home itself. I saw myself deliberately making more calls to facilitate the day-to-day work. Apart from work, it was still very important to build team spirit while everyone was in lockdown. Hence, a couple of initiatives such as allocating time for employees to chat and catch up at the start of the day helped them to remain connected to each other and the organisation. We even have virtual boxing sessions to ensure that employees are taking breaks and exercising.
Singapore’s economy has been reopening as life has almost gone back to normal — has sales responded accordingly? Additionally, what about Malaysia and the rest of the region?
Southeast Asia is still doing well because of the steady demand for the brand. We are lucky to be in this position and our affluent clients still indulging in fine timepieces.
Do you have a favourite watch from the maison, or a favourite family?
No particular favourite family. But I do have a favourite watch, which is the Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon — 26227BC. If I need to choose something more recent, it will be the CODE 11.59 by Audemars Piguet self-winding in smoked lacquered burgundy dial with a sunburst pattern base and Royal Oak Concept Frosted Gold Flying Tourbillon.
What is it about working with Audemars Piguet that continues to keep you inspired?
One is a very well-known fact: we are the only watch brand still in the hands of the founding families. Being independent and owned by the founding families means the ethos of the brand is consistent. It’s present in the strategy, direction, and wherever the brand goes. Also key is innovation — in product design, marketing, vision — which has been embedded in the brand’s DNA since it was founded in 1875.
Are you making any holiday plans in anticipation of borders reopening, or perhaps a trip to Le Brassus (Audemars Piguet’s home in Switzerland)?
Given the uncertainty of the Covid-19 situation, there are currently no plans for any holiday. But definitely a trip to Le Brassus when travel reopens — to see the Musée Atelier!
What does 2021 and beyond look like for you and Audemars Piguet?
2021 and beyond brings hope of recovery for the world. With vaccination programmes rolled out extensively worldwide, everyone is looking forward to the day when travel reopens, when economies can move along at full speed without any disruption. For us, we will continue to engage with our clients on new innovations, product launches and communication campaigns. About 60 new models will be launched throughout the year to better answer for our clients’ demands. Our product launches will follow through three main themes: Serious Fun (January to June), Be Yourself (July to September) and Harder, Stronger (October to December).
This article first appeared on Mar 8, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.