Abstract artwork with digital screen

Commissions by Audemars Piguet include Ryoji Ikeda’s Data-Verse (2019)

Olivia Giuntini is brand director at family-owned Swiss watch manufacturer Audemars Piguet, known for its thoughtful artistic collaborations. LUX travels to meet her at their HQ high in the Jura mountains to talk about art, fish and why women don’t just want diamonds
Portrait of a woman in a suit

Olivia Giuntini

LUX: So many brands are partnering with artists now. What makes you different?
Olivia Giuntini: We always want to push boundaries and pursue our own path with a free spirit. When we meet artists, we definitely see who has this spirit and who has not. For example, Ryoji Ikeda was not part of the plan historically, but we met him a few years ago. Some discussions happened and we finally met again two years ago and that’s the moment when he proposed his three-part audio-visual installation Data-Verse [the first part of which was shown at the Venice Biennale in 2019], and, we said, “Yes this is the right moment to do it”. But Ryoji is an artist unlike any other. He is a musician and composer, and he is also somebody who uses open data that is accessible to anybody. This accords with what struck me when I first met him – his work is dedicated to making sure that people don’t use their brains first so much as their emotions. He is a kind of free spirit, which is something that definitely links us. It’s about sharing common values. Jana Winderen is another example. She came here and made music from the sounds of our village of Le Brassus. She always wants to raise the awareness of sustainability, so she went onto the lake here to record those fish that nobody can hear and composed music from that.

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LUX: Did you have any idea what the artist was going to do when you first spoke?
Olivia Giuntini: Composing music from the sounds of Le Brassus certainly wasn’t the brief. Not at all. We met her and she came back and said what she wanted to do. So we found a fisherman who was
prepared to spend hours on the lake with her so she could make the recordings.

LUX: Audemars is a fascinating family-owned company. Your chairwoman Jasmine Audemars, for example, was a campaigning journalist and edited the Journal de Genève.
Olivia Giuntini: We have really interesting discussions on the board. Of course, we still have to keep on building a future for Audemars Piguet that stays true to the founder’s vision. What Jasmine said to François-Henry [Bennahmias, the company’s CEO] when he was appointed seven years ago was, “I would like more people to know more about who we are. I would like people to respect us as we are.” And that’s what we need to do with this brand beyond the selling of watches and the crafting of amazing gardes-temps.

LUX: And are you looking to strengthen your relations with your existing collectors?
Olivia Giuntini: It’s funny, because if you talked to Michael Friedman, who is our head of complication, he will tell you there are no collectors in the world. But I agree with you – we do have collectors and we want to strengthen the relationship with them. We want to open other minds, too, such as women’s – I’m sure we’re not on their radar.

Abstract photograph of rock formations

Dan Holdsworth’s Continuous Topography (2016) was also commissioned by Audemars Piguet

Read more: Tailor to A-listers Nigel Curtiss on designing identity

LUX: Why is that?
Olivia Giuntini: Because everything has been done instinctively within AP and, apart from Jasmine,
this has been driven by men. The fact that I’m here today and that we want to recruit more women into top management is because we believe that we need to have a different angle. We sell 30 per cent of our collection to women. But it’s not just a question of figures; it’s about being more visible to women who don’t know us because we’ve been a kind of masculine brand.

Luxurious timepiece with leather strap

The new Frosted Gold Philosophique watch from the Millenary collection

LUX: Have watches always been considered male and a bit geeky?
Olivia Giuntini: Watches designed for women have been more like jewellery. And I’m constantly saying to men: don’t think that women are always looking only for diamonds. It’s not true. And I think that Audemars Piguet has a legitimacy there, in a field where we can offer female clients different kinds of finishes that are attractive and sophisticated. I’m convinced that many women are really interested in movements, but, honestly, it’s been a world driven by men and their preconceptions of women. It’s beginning to change, and we have a role there.

LUX: Is the aesthetic of the watch more important to women?
Olivia Giuntini: Of course, in a way. But I think that men are convinced that, for women, a diamond is more important than a movement. And I’m sure they’re wrong.

Find out more: audemarspiguet.com

This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 Issue.