Audemars Piguet’s New C.E.O. Wasn’t an Obvious Choice

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Until she took charge at Audemars Piguet last year, Ilaria Resta had spent her career in fragrance and beauty.

A little more than a year ago, when Ilaria Resta was interviewing for the role of chief executive at the Swiss watchmaker Audemars Piguet, she and her family spent a few days in the Vallée de Joux, the area in the Jura Mountains known as the cradle of Swiss watchmaking.

“It was a way for me to immerse myself where it all started,” Ms. Resta, 50, said on a video call last month from the brand’s boutique in Geneva.

“I walked around the lake,” she said, referring to the Lac de Joux, a five-minute drive from the brand’s headquarters in the village of Le Brassus. “You see this view, this calm. All of a sudden, the notion of time is changing. And that was a moment for me. I said, ‘OK, I feel I belong here.’”

Ms. Resta, who joined the brand in August, now commutes to Le Brassus from her home in Geneva, where she lives with her husband and their 16-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son. The 50-minute trip north, which she called “a meditation drive” because the poor reception prevents her from making phone calls, places her amid both the literal and metaphorical peaks of Swiss watchmaking.

Since its founding in Le Brassus in 1875, Audemars Piguet has been at the prestige end of the watchmaking spectrum. Regarded by watch insiders as one of the industry’s “Big Four” brands, along with Rolex, Patek Philippe and Richard Mille, the family-owned company had an estimated 2023 turnover of 2.35 billion Swiss francs ($2.6 billion), according to Morgan Stanley. That report, issued in February, ranked it fourth by sales, behind Rolex, Cartier and Omega.

With no experience in the watch industry, Ms. Resta, was not an obvious choice for the chief executive role. Introduced to the brand by a recruiter, she had been working since 2020 as president of a global division at Firmenich, a family-owned fragrance company in Geneva. She also spent 23 years at Procter & Gamble, most recently as senior vice president of its North American hair care division, based in Cincinnati. She is a native of Naples, Italy, with a bachelor’s degree in economics and marketing and a master’s in financial mathematics from the University of Naples Federico II.

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