Tick tock on the runway: on Audemars Piguet and Ralph & Russo’s new collab

Love for craftsmanship underscores Audemars Piguet and Ralph & Russo’s new collab, with watch finishes that mimic embroidery and designs for smaller wrists

In a video titled Talent Stimulates Talent, Ralph & Russo’s creative director, Tamara Ralph, draws parallels between the British luxury fashion house’s creations and the timepieces by Swiss luxury watchmaker Audemars Piguet. For example, the new Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon watch’s frosted gold finish uses a modernised Florentine jewellery technique — creating tiny indentations with a diamond-tipped tool for sparkle effect — to create a finish “similar to our embroidery work”. This focus on craftsmanship, quality and design is the crux of their cross-disciplinary collaboration, unveiled virtually at Paris Fashion Week last month.

While timepieces may not be your typical runway accessory, Audemars Piguet’s latest Royal Oak watches complement Ralph & Russo’s Spring/Summer 2021 ready-to-wear collection. After all, fashion and watchmaking are all about the details. As CEO François-Henry Bennahmias recently told New York Post, “A watch movement can roughly contain between 250 and 500 tiny components, each meticulously hand-finished before being assembled by hand. [Similarly] a dress or a jacket is composed of tiny details often invisible to the eye, that took hours and hours to accomplish, from the shape of a shoulder to a button. These details directly impact the way the dress will look or fit.”

Francois Henry Bennahmias | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Made for smaller wrists, the new line of timepieces comes in stainless steel and 18 carat pink gold, powered by a new self-winding movement and featuring the collection’s trademark guilloché design.

Building on quality

Ralph, who sees watches as “an exquisite extension of an outfit” rather than a functional object, feels that such collaborations are an incredibly interesting part of their business. “Who we choose to partner with is very important to me,” says the designer, who has inked partnerships with luxury Italian intimates brand La Perla and eyewear label Linda Farrow too recently.

Collabs are also, undoubtedly, a great way to stay relevant and brave the pandemic, which has been particularly brutal for the luxury goods market (consulting firm Bain & Company stated a 20% to 35% contraction for 2020). While tourism, which always benefited their business, came to a grinding halt, Bennahmias says the brand saw a rise in local sales. “We’ve seen a steady demand in all markets, including India. The one thing Covid-19 has taught us is that no matter what, the quality and strength of the brand will depend on the quality of its relationship with its clients,” he shares. So, once shy of selling their watches online, Audemars Piguet sold 40 of the new [Re]master models — that reinterpret their vintage chronographs with the latest technology — to customers worldwide through emails, calls and virtual walkthroughs of the making process.

A watch from the collection  | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Beyond the pandemic

Ralph also embraced technological innovations during the pandemic. Such as creating an AI avatar, named Hauli — posing against digital backdrops of the seven wonders, including the Taj Mahal — to showcase some of the looks from their Autumn-Winter 2020/2021 couture collection.

A bow to India

  • Last month, Ralph & Russo supported Indian karigars through Vogue’s philanthropic initiative, To India, With Love (in association with the Natasha and Adar Poonawalla Foundation).
  • The brand pledged to donate 20% of all sales of a look from their autumn-winter line created in collaboration with Indian artisans. “We work closely with local artisans on all of our collections and I also have a deep and personal love for the country,” says Ralph.

While the brand had been engaging with clients through WhatsApp, FaceTime and Zoom even before the pandemic, today they’ve added options such as closing stores for private appointments, turning areas of some boutiques into private shopping experiences, and having “items delivered to or fitted at a client’s personal home [that] has really helped in keeping the retail experience alive”.

Tamara Ralph  | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The future of luxury retail experience, Ralph says, is “a marriage of all of the above — bringing the physical and digital together but with an incredibly personal touch. This speaks to both our Indian and wider global clientele”. In the works are plans to evolve the fashion house into a lifestyle label, with product launches in homeware and interior categories, push retail growth by opening brick-and-mortar stores in key markets, starting with New York next year, and conversations with Audemars Piguet with hopes “to continue and deepen our collaboration further in the future”.

The new latest Royal Oak models start from ₹16,26,000. Audemars Piguet watches are available at Kapoor Watch Company, DLF Emporio.

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