Patrick Ottomani is named ceo of Audemars Piguet North America

PARIS — Audemars Piguet has named Patrick Ottomani chief executive officer of North America, WWD has learned, tapping an industry veteran with experience launching a men’s luxury shoe label in that market.

The former Berluti executive will be based in New York. He succeeds Antonio Seward and will report to Yves Meylan, the company’s chief commercial officer who is based in Le Brassus, Switzerland.

Ottomani headed Berluti’s American operations for 13 years, joining the label when it was bought by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton in 1993 and overseeing its launch in the U.S. in 2005.

Audemars Piguet is in the process of taking over its distribution in the U.S., which it seeks to complete within the next several years. Many luxury watchmakers are tightening their grip on points of sale in order to ensure high-quality client relations as part of a broader push to forge closer ties with consumers.

For U.S. stores that are owned and operated by another company, Audemars Piguet plans to turn the relationship into a joint venture, taking a 51 percent stake in order to have control.

The label cited its plans to sell through “exclusive and selective” distribution channels around the world as a reason for pulling out of the SIHH watch fair in Geneva starting next year.

Traditional trade shows where labels band together under the same roof to meet with crowds of buyers and potential clients have been under siege in recent years as the speed and convenience of the Internet changes interaction with consumers.

Audemars Piguet this year launched its first major new line of watches in decades, the seemingly round-faced Code 11.59 but with an octogonal shaped-mid case — a reference to the brand’s popular Royal Oak model. The launch generated buzz for drawing the ire of opinionated watch enthusiasts on social networks, illustrating the potential pitfalls — and power — of digital commerce.

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