LOS ANGELES — For the past five years, Audemars Piguet has been going around the world launching a number of salons resembling apartments or houses where the Swiss watchmaker creates an intimate atmosphere for clients, or potential customers who enjoy the brand. So far outposts have been set up in cities including Hong Kong, London, Tel Aviv, New York, St. Barth’s, Barcelona, Milan and Munich.
Think elegant spaces with comfortable furniture, sleek interiors, a dining room, a full bar, espresso coffee machines, fine art on the walls and a DJ spinning music or a pianist playing tunes on a grand piano.
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Audemars Piguet launched its AP House concept in 2018 and has slowly been opening them in major cosmopolitan hubs. Its 15th AP House was recently unveiled in West Hollywood in a Sunset Boulevard penthouse space in the same building that decades ago housed the L.A. Playboy Club on the first four floors.
What makes this most recent AP House special is the Southern California vibe infused into the 6,500-square-foot expanse that has terraces and interior spaces with sweeping views toward downtown Los Angeles on one side and of the Hollywood Hills on the other.
Los Angeles interior designer Brigette Romanek picked modern contemporary furniture in subtle colors such as beige, off-white or sage green to add a calm effect to the various sitting areas. Loaned artwork on the walls was selected in partnership with François Ghebaly Gallery in Los Angeles to complement the furniture. A small forest of greenery, with plants like alocacia, fiddle leaf figs, dracaena and money trees, create a garden effect throughout.
“Every single AP House we will do in the States will have a unique little capture,” said Ginny Wright, Audemars Piguet’s chief executive officer of the Americas, who was in town to open the venue. “For Los Angeles, we are bringing the intellectualism of watchmaking. We created our first watchmakers’ space with a full-time watchmaker on staff. We’ll be doing master classes, helping clients see different parts of a watch. There will even be exercises to help them put parts of the watch together so they can understand the physics, engineering and art that goes into the watch and makes them unique.”
The full-time watchmaker will also service clients’ timepieces.
In an adjacent oak-paneled room is a watch vault display area showing novelty and current timepieces that can be tried on and tested.
Across the way is a recessed dining room with a long wooden table that can seat up to 24 people for intimate lunches or dinners. “We will probably do a dinner a month,” Wright said. “We may have a female collector group or maybe a collector who wants to bring in all their great friends or we can bring in potential clients that we’ve networked with. There will be a host of different events.”
The dining room space is next to a full bar that can whip up something alcoholic or run the espresso coffee maker for something more caffeinated. Being California, there will be green wellness drinks on hand with touches of ginger and turmeric mixed up with kale, celery, apple and spinach. “This only happens at this AP House,” Wright said. “In New York, we serve a lot of coffee. I mean, so much coffee all day long.”
At times, a piano player will be at the Steinway baby grand piano, and there is a custom-made wooden rig set up for a DJ to spin tunes. It can be pushed down and stored under a counter to clear the space for other uses. “These houses are all about relaxing,” Wright said, “and discussing the brand.”
Off the main part of the penthouse is a large terrace the size of a living room. It is separated by nearly 11-foot-high custom-made glass doors that can be collapsed to let in a fresh breeze off the Pacific Ocean some 15 miles away. “This door system could not fit into the elevator. So, we actually had to get a 300-foot crane and get a permit to shut off Sunset Boulevard to bring those doors in,” Wright explained. “I told the team, ‘Tell me when it’s done. I can’t deal with this.’ But now we have something that is very unique.”
Audemars Piguet is one of the few Swiss watchmakers that is still operated by the same family since it was founded in 1875 in Le Brassus, Switzerland. It is probably best known for introducing the luxury sport Royal Oak wristwatch in 1972, which was designed by Gerald Genta. The steel watch was inspired by traditional diving helmets and features exposed screw heads and a unique case design.
For its 50th anniversary, the Swiss watchmaker last year published a coffee table book called “Royal Oak: From Iconoclast to Icon,” with 400 illustrations retracing the watch’s conception and its rise to popularity.
The book was celebrated at the watchmaker’s stylish AP House in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, which opened last year. Tennis star Serena Williams was on hand for the event.
Now that AP Houses are established in New York and West Hollywood, Audemars Piguet is looking toward other U.S. locations. Next on the list could be Miami and Atlanta.
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