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Antonio Seward, courtesy of Audemars Piguet.
Audemars Piguet presented the over-the-top, aptly named Diamond Outrage
Audemars Piguet's Royal Oak Frosted Gold in rose gold.
Courtesy of Audemars Piguet
Lifestyle

Antonio Seward on Why Audemars Piguet is Taking Risks in Haute Joaillerie

By Katy Donoghue

January 3, 2018

Last summer, Antonio Seward was named the CEO of Audemars Piguet, North America. Having represented the brand since 2008 in Latin America, Europe, and Southeast Asia, he is no stranger to the world of luxury watches. Just a few weeks after Seward began his new post, Whitewall sat down with him at Audemars Piguet’s New York boutique on 57th Street to discuss the company’s ongoing dialogue with contemporary artists, and his own collection of art.

WHITEWALL: You have a background in political science and your father was a diplomat. Although you thought you’d follow in his footsteps, instead you found yourself in a career in the luxury watch industry. But we wonder if your international background and education might have helped, given that you’ve now lived in Madrid, Singapore, Miami, and the U.S.?

Open Gallery

Antonio Seward, courtesy of Audemars Piguet.

ANTONIO SEWARD: I think so. I studied history because I loved history. I’m a history buff and it’s come in handy. History and political science provide you with a general knowledge of the cultural backgrounds of places. My position is a lot about connecting with people, and you create a connection more easily if the person with whom are you are talking realizes that you understand context.

WW: Your mother is an artist, which made us wonder, did you grow up in a creative home?

Open Gallery

Audemars Piguet presented the over-the-top, aptly named Diamond Outrage

AS: I did. And I’ve got three sisters, two of which are fashion designers. It’s always been there. I grew up in Paris, and I think in France there is a culture of the aesthetic. There is a respect—like here in New York—for culture and for art.

WW: Audemars Piguet puts its connection to the arts at the forefront, with artist collaborations in booths at Art Basel in Miami, Hong Kong, and Basel, as well as through the ongoing Audemars Piguet Art Commission. What role do you see this dialogue with contemporary artists playing at Audemars Piguet?

Open Gallery

Audemars Piguet's Royal Oak Frosted Gold in rose gold.

AS: I’ve always been one of the people within management who have pushed our connection to the contemporary art world. I myself collect contemporary art and have always believed that there was a space there for us. Not necessarily because of the potential of contemporary art artists, but more because of our philosophy in terms of product design and product aesthetics. Our tagline is “To break the rules, you must first master them.” And that same philosophy of going beyond aesthetic boundaries in watchmaking design is, I think, shared with the contemporary art world.

I think that rapport is very important. Artists come and visit us to understand our world and what we do, and then work from that base. It’s a dialogue. And as Olivier Audemars has said, the interesting part of the dialogue is that contemporary art is influencing us as well.

WW: In a recent interview, you said that just because Audemars Piguet is over 140 years old, it doesn’t mean your watches have to be 140 years old. And your watches are so contemporary looking, as are the haute joaillerie collections you’ve created, like the Diamond Punk, Diamond Fury, and Diamond Outrage.

AS: In a way, we took the lead in this approach to haute horlogerie. And now others are starting to realize that generationally things are changing and you cannot just rely on your name. You have to have a product people can relate to. It’s important to us that we were the first to take that risk in our segment.

Pieces like Diamond Outrage are a work of art. We approach it saying, let’s go crazy and come up with something that is radically different from what has been done.

WW: Are you interested in expanding the high jewelry market or women’s market for Audemars Piguet?

AS: We’ll do a high jewelry collection every year. And 30 percent of our sales are to ladies today. It’s a sizeable share, and we aim to increase that. Our production is capped at 40,000 watches. But we recognize that women represent 50 percent of the population. And we have a history of ladies’ watches, since our beginning. Ladies’ watches are nothing new to us.

WW: You mentioned that you collect contemporary art. Who are some of the artists you follow?

AS: My art collection follows my life trajectory. I lived for many years in the Caribbean, so I started collecting Caribbean art. In Spain I collected Spanish art. I bought from an artist in New York when I was in Spain, too. And in Asia, I collected a lot of Indonesian art and Singaporean . . . video art. I love video art because it allows you to eliminate the storage issue. And now in New York, I’ve got a good friend of mine who has an art studio in Red Hook here, and I also have his work.

This article appears in Whitewall‘s winter 2018 New Luxury issue, out now.

Antonio SewardArt BaselAudemars PiguetNorth AmericaOlivier AudemarsWhitewallWhitewaller

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