Audemars Piguet just opened a seriously hip new space in lower Manhattan on 52-58 Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District, just above Keith McNally’s celebrated Pastis restaurant.
The area, which was formerly known for its club scene and trendy hotels, is increasingly becoming a hotspot for luxury brands with everyone from Rolex to Hermès and Loro Piana opening flagships in the neighborhood. The new AP House, which follows locations around the globe from Hong Kong and London to Tel Aviv and St. Barth’s, marks the 13th location for the experiential concept—separate, private hangout spaces where the brand can entertain existing and potential clients while selling watches. The latest features 5,100 square feet of interior space accessed via an elevator to the second floor via a door adjacent to Pastis, as well as a 2,800-square-foot outdoor terrace. Upon reaching the second floor, guests enter into a circular heritage room highlighting historic AP pieces in golden bulbous vitrines encircling an art piece featuring blown-up renditions of watch components in the center. Next, guests are welcomed into a wide-open space featuring wide-plank oak floors, exposed brick walls, gray velvet couches, a fireplace, a baby grand piano, a fully-stocked bar, dining table and, of course, custom-designed vitrines to show off current and novelty timepieces.
“You can come and look at watches and even purchase them,” said Ginny Wright, Audemars Piguet’s North American CEO, at a preview of the space yesterday. That is if they have them. Audemars Piguet has been on fire in recent years with models, particularly the Royal Oak which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, increasingly hard to come by at retail. In an attempt to placate its fans, Audemars Piguet upped its production this year from 45,000 watches to 50,000. That is hardly enough to satisfy every hopeful AP owner, but during a press conference in January global CEO, François-Henri Bennahmias said the company would be reserving a “big chunk” of Royal Oaks for newcomers to the brand this year, without specifying the exact number. He added that in order for prospective new clients to be considered they would have to, “create and develop a relationship with us” and “get known by our people” and “eventually things will happen.”
To that end, while Audemars Piguet will keep its traditional flagship on 57th Street open in NYC’s Midtown neighborhood, the new AP House offers a more intimate opportunity for existing and future clients to cozy up to sales staff. For current owners, it is a more private off-street space, while prospective customers can get a more tailored experience. The house is open to the public although an appointment is recommended. For walk-ins, Wright says there will be a welcome host that will invite guests in to see the space and have a quick conversation, however, serious buyers will still be encouraged to come back another time to meet with a watch expert. Needless to say, you will have to put in some precious face time and prove your interest before being considered. There are plenty of clients who want a Royal Oak “Jumbo,” for instance, but Wright says the goal is to spend time learning what each hopeful likes about it and learning their tastes and intentions and, in some cases, steering customers towards pieces the company can get them sooner. She added that she is keen on improving customer relations and already has a new team in place at the 57th street location to make the experience more welcoming.