31 May 2023


By In Audemars Piguet, Brands, General, Hype Market

What is the most interesting novelty of 2023 so far? As every beginning of the year the main watches appointments, such as Watches & Wonders, have not disappointed us and brands made a great job by bringing back to the market icons like the Cartier Privé Tank Normale with metal precious bracelets – although in a very limited edition of 100 pieces in platinum and 100 in 18-carat yellow-gold – and IWC Ingenieur, despite the controversial price and calibre which caused a sensation along the watch aficionados. This having been said, my pick is surprisingly not a watch but a service.

What does this new service offer?

Yes, you have got it right! The novelty I am referring to is the latest Audemars Piguet Coverage Service. This program is addressed to all the customers who bought an AP watch in any Audemars Piguet boutiques, AP Houses or via official retailers in 2022 or 2023, giving them the chance to enjoy their watch without the fear of being robbed in one of the big cities that have become increasingly dangerous in recent years. In fact, the brand will now repair, replace or refund any watch, in case of theft or functional damages that took place due to external factors occurring suddenly and unexpectedly. And that is not all! This is completely free, unlike all the insurances already available in the market. Clients only need to create an account on AP website, register their purchased watch and activate the 2-years coverage service. In case of theft – of course the customer is requested to provide proof of it – the brand will evaluate whether to replace or refund the watch; in case of functional damages the brand will evaluate whether the watch is repairable or not. If yes, it will be repaired; if not, it will be either replaced or refunded.

London tube – photo courtesy of londonist

Why is it right on the button?

Watch-related crimes is a subject that is very close to my heart. In my opinion, the fact that watch lovers cannot freely wear their watches nowadays is something completely nonsense. I think that authorities should actively work on it and come up with real solutions soon. Second-hand dealers and online platforms could contribute as well, maybe avoiding buying and selling all those objects without a clear provenance. While we all wait for them to do their bit, watch industry players cannot protect our cities, make them safer and prevent robberies from happening. However, we now should say “Well done!” to AP, who pulled out of the cylinder something completely off the beaten track and did it for free. Indeed, it is the first luxury watchmaker trying to tackle this problem by launching such an innovative service that should be considered as a significant step forward. The Swiss brand winks at all the 2022 and 2023 buyers, who can now wear their timepieces without a thought in the world wherever they go, day and night, whether they are in a small secure town in the middle of nowhere, or in any other big city which is lately facing this issue, such as Milan, London or Paris. They do not have to be afraid anymore, at least for the following 2 years after the purchase.

Audemars Piguet Boutique, Osaka – photo courtesy of Audemars Piguet

Causes and effects of this move

When I first heard of this service, a couple of questions came immediately to my mind. What is the real reason behind this innovative choice? What impact will it have in the world of horology? According to the Morgan Stanley Swiss Watch Industry Report, Audemars Piguet is the fourth brand by revenue in 2022 with sales around 2,010 billion CHF (about 50,000 units sold). It reached this figure for the first time ever so it is undoubtedly doing a great job and its amazing performance is beyond doubt. This means its sales have not been impacted by unsafe cities in any way. So why has this new program been launched? From my perspective, there are two possible reasons. On one hand, the number of watches spotted around. I think AP might be concerned about selling a high number of references but seeing very few of them on collectors’ wrists, as the majority go directly to the safe-deposit boxes. The AP Coverage Service probably aims at increasing the number of watches in circulation, resulting in a major publicity for one of the top players in the watch industry, should it still need it. On the other hand, the fact that watches will be now covered by this service will probably lead enthusiasts to be even more attracted by these timepieces and likely to prioritize Audemars Piguet over some other manufactures, who do not offer the same coverage. For this reason, I believe this will not remain an isolated case but will rather be a starting point for other big names in the market as well. As we all know, maisons always pay particular attention to their competitors’ strategies and, despite no one can tell what will happen next, I bet someone might soon follow AP move to not fall behind.

Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin Openworked 16204ST – photo courtesy of Monochrome

Improvement areas and future challenges

As of now, AP Coverage Service has a 2-years life but I am very curious to see how it will evolve in the near future. This will probably depend on the number of clients that will actually use this service and benefit from it. Of course, it can be further improved and cannot be considered as a finished product. First thing, a longer duration is needed and would be highly appreciated. Otherwise, the risk is that collectors will keep their hot references on their wrists for the first two years only and then take them off, as these will no longer be protected. Then, the brand should give its customers the right to choose whether to replace or refund the watch in case of theft, and whether to repair, replace or refund it in case of damage. Unfortunately, this is up to AP at the moment and its choice might not always correspond to the enthusiasts’ one. For instance, a stolen watch could be refunded and yet the collector would be still unhappy with having lost a watch he could no longer acquire due to the so much hated waiting lists and low supply. To the same extent, a damaged watch could be replaced or refunded instead of being repaired even if the owner is very attached to that particular object and would rather go for the repair if he could choose. I must admit it is quite hard for AP to please everyone though, especially when replacement parts (which are produced on commission) or lack of watches (for example, in case of limited editions) come into play. Let’s wait for a couple of months now… Whether final feedback will be positive or not only time will tell.

Written by Renato Spada

Super curious since 1990. One of his first questions was "And why?" He is now a localization project manager 8 hours per day and watch enthusiast for much more. Before being attracted by watches, he is charmed by their stories and what they mean for their owners.