Timing Is Everything

05.09.2011

STYLE

LeBron James is the youngest man to ever to be named the NBA’s most valuable player consecutively. At 26, he’s arguably the most dominant figure in basketball and a global superstar who has graced the covers of Sports Illustrated, GQ, Forbes, and Vogue, and along with the Miami Heat, is in hot pursuit of his first national title. James is also Audemars Piguet’s newest ambassador.

Announcing the relationship is Philippe Merk, AP’s global CEO, who sits next to James and North American President Francois-Henri Bennahmias high atop Miami’s Soho Beach House, just hours before the three will welcome 250 of their friends, most important clients, customers, and partners to a pool-side soiree celebrating the union. The connection between AP and LeBron James is not an obvious one – but a conversation with these three men reveals a relationship that is shockingly authentic, one less about selling watches and more about unified mission to inspire while helping the underprivileged – and if a few watches are sold in the process, then all the better.

Life + TImes: Of all the potential ambassadors in the world, why LeBron James?
Philippe Merk
: The first characteristic we look for is a love of our brand. Each ambassador we have owns several AP watches before any relationship is started. We look for a real friendship, and to have a passion for our brand helps. Next, we look for the absolute best performer in his or her field – think [F1 racing driver] Michael Schumacher and [FC Barcelona soccer player] Lionel Messi, and now of course, LeBron James. But, most importantly, we look for people that go outside their fields to offer more to the world. LeBron is honest, hardworking, and cares about others. That is most important to us.

L+T: LeBron, are you a watch guy? How did you first hear of Audemars Piguet?
LeBron James
: When I was a kid I had always worn a watch, it was just part of the outfit back then. I wanted two things when I grew up: nice cars and nice watches. And now I’ve got both! But I didn’t know what a good watch was, so the way I was introduced to AP was actually through JAY Z. He didn’t tell me what was what, I just liked the way they looked. Later he told me all about the brand and said I should talk to Francois, so I did.
Francois-Henri Bennahmias
: It’s true. Jay brought LeBron to me about six years ago, when he was 19, and I could tell back then he was special. He was straightforward, humble, and he was someone that eventually we hoped to team up with, because he was our kind of person. He is an important person worldwide, and it was a natural choice to have him as an ambassador. And like with our work Jay, Arnold [Schwarzenegger], and all our ambassadors, the focus of this relationship will be helping others.

L+T: It seems like AP is forging into the world of Hip-Hop. What is behind that move?
FHB
: It’s not about hip-hop, AP is not hip-hop. Our partnership with Jay was about him as a person, we wanted to celebrate him. He already had 14 or 15 of our watches, he had mentioned AP in some of his songs, and so we made the watch and raised money for his foundation, not necessarily as a representative of hip-hop. But, I think of hip-hop like jazz of the 1920s. It started with the African-American community and then went global. When I pitched the relationship to Switzerland, they knew of JAY Z as only a rapper. I showed them pictures of Jay with Prince Charles and P.Diddy with William Lauder. And I said we could be the first, in a very audacious way, and I think it is good for the brand. Of course, some people didn’t like it, but a lot of younger people came to AP. This appeal to a younger audience came from that relationship, and that’s why I think that it was a good move for us. When we compare our buyers with that of our competitors, we have a younger demographic and it is because of this relationship that we are here today with LeBron.

L+T: LeBron, what do you think your fans will think of this relationship and what can we expect to see?
LJ
: I think some of my fans will be surprised, but they’ll all respect the partnership. The relationship is about prestige, and my main goal here is to raise money for underprivileged kids. The money we raise will go to [The LeBron James Foundation] which promotes healthy lives for kids living in adversity. In terms of the watch itself, I want my watch with AP to be a reflection of me. I’ve got some ideas already and working with the folks at AP, I think we’ll come up with something good.
PM
: Yes, LeBron’s watch will be his own. It is up to him to decide what he wants to create, and I think many people are expecting his watch to be part of the Offshore family, which may not be the case. LeBron likes and looks great in an elegant watch. But, we’ve got some time until you see LeBron’s watch, it won’t be released until 2013. We want to make sure it’s just right.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000139790546 Callie Bee Padgett

    Jay Z shame on you..obviously you know LaBron as a friend..but his character needs some assistance maybe just maybe you can assist him ..money don’t buy respect…it just buys —Cleveland Cav Fan

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=518511003 Malcolm Campbell

    I’ve always said you can tell how successful someone is by looking at two articles of clothing: their watch and their shoes. Lebron’s timing has been impeccable, now he can tell time impeccably too.

    - sincerely, Heat fan.

  • Anonymous

    whoa whoa whoa buddy…. [first paragraph] Miami won in ’05 – ’06… we’re in hot pursuit of our SECOND national title. Lebron will get his first in a couple weeks… bet

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JRNXV6P2VYIULEZUQOI4J2LPNU G-HOME

    LEBRON I FEEL YOU BRO DO YOUR THING, I RESPECT YOUR DECISIONS BECAUSE YOU CAME IN YOUNG AND YOU HOOKED UP WITH A GREAT WISE AND INTELLIGENT GUY IN JAY-Z AND SINCE DAY ONE YOU CONDUCTED YOUR SELF AS SOMEONE WHO WAS SMART HIMSELF AND SOMEONE WHO DEMANDS RESPECT BECAUSE OF THE WAY YOU CARRY YOUR SELF ON AND OFF THE COURT AND IN AND OUT OF THE PUBLIC EYE AND FOR THAT YOU WILL ALWAYS HAVE MY RESPECT AND YOU WILL ALWAYS BE MY FAVORITE PLAYER REGARDLESS OF WHAT THE HATERS SAY

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charlotte-Allen/1414884973 Charlotte Allen

    As a Clevelander, do I feel any animosity toward Lebron? Hell No! I love you still. I’m just not going to post this on Facebook, my friends might egg my car. LOL! Congratulations!

  • Anonymous

    D Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James, brought me back to the NBA. I love watching these guys play. I love it. Oh and Mike Miller great player. @ the Cav Fan No money doesn’t buy respect. You earn respect. LeBron has earned my respect. He lost yours due to him leaving the Cavs. thats not enough. He did want was right for him. He made a choice which is his right to do. I would have watch him play anywhere. Just glad he’s playing in my home state. GO HEAT!

  • Jamie Donnel

    Cleveland, you’re acting like a bitter ex, GET OVER IT! MOVE ON!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=697183961 Eleuterio Villegas

    Some of Cleveland still whining? Trust me, that says a lot more about your character than it does about LeBron’s. He stuck with that team longer than he needed to and you see what respect and thanks that got him from Cleveland and wannabe plantation head Dan Gilbert. Born in the Bronx and live in SF now, but I’ll be pulling for the big 3 and co. this year. Glad to see some brothers come together and try to do something special as opposed to letting owners, haters and knuckleheads dictate how they should live and do business.

  • http://twitter.com/RonnieBarnes2 Ronnie Barnes

    99% of Cavs fan were not before LBJ got there. So… just go back to being normal.

  • http://twitter.com/RonnieBarnes2 Ronnie Barnes

    99% of Cavs fan were not before LBJ got there. So… just go back to being normal.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1220677421 Mike Fields

    Keep Doing your Thing Young Man

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Latifah-Muhammad/541319834 Latifah Muhammad

    Do it, Do it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Latifah-Muhammad/541319834 Latifah Muhammad

    Do it, do it!

  • http://profiles.google.com/nypaperchaseer ariel martinez

    YEA! HE IS A WING I DUNNO WHY YOU WOULD EVEN POST THESE DUDES. HE DONT EVEN HAVE A RING…. JUST GIVING AN OPINION. LOOSING POINTS DUDE

  • http://profiles.google.com/nypaperchaseer ariel martinez

    YEA! i would def unpost the picc.

  • Jason Zhang

    I think Jay Z should consider some limited edition with Audemars Piguet it should definitely transition your vision and your empire to the next level.

  • http://twitter.com/angryblackmale angry black male

    this was a smart union for both “brands”. Lebron will be a champion. But what it really does, is cement AP in the minds of current and future professional athletes (who tend to buy several watches over the course of a career for themselves and as gifts). It was a great defensive stroke, as I’m sure Rolex would have come calling’. Speaking of Rolex..I hear (from an inside source) that it was deals like the AP/ Lebron and AP/ Jay-Z, that prompted Rolex to get its ass in gear and reach out to Tiger. The fact that they once had him (before all the majors) and placed him on the Tudor brand, has to be one of the great marketing/ endorsement mishaps of all time. It was not so much about signing Tiger, but more about keeping him from a brand like AP, which is making big gains in watch world. Could you have imagined? Jay-Z, Lebron and Tiger, all with AP. Whew!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Blck-Bdy/100000547816754 Blck Bdy

    what’s being sold/souled here/hear?

  • http://twitter.com/angryblackmale angry black male

    a broke (or close to broke) n^gga can still get a decent pair of shoes. so I don’t know if that rule (for shoes) holds true any longer. However, you see a dude in old jeans, flip-flops and a nice crisp t-shirt rockin’ an AP, or Richard Mille, or Patek Philippe, or A. Lange & Sohne, and it tells you everything you need to know.

  • Anonymous

    Calm down bloggers.. You act like any of you watched him play in high school or attended any of his games while he was still in Ohio. A lot of people from Cleveland did even though we don’t even associate with Akron. As an athlete I wouldn’t do what Lebron did. Who flocks to another team to play groupie to another man and hope to get a ring? Even Michael Jordan said he wouldn’t do it and he’s the best there is. Don’t sit here and talk down on Cleveland when besides South Beach, Miami looks like a dump. To top it off The Heat might win a ring with Lebron.. It’s Plausible, but not likely with plenty of other teams in the league that actually play like a team and have more then just a starting five plus 2-3 give or take what day of the week is. So why don’t you grown men stand up straight, pull your pants up, and stop playing b*tch to these male athletes. Thanks ;-)

  • Anonymous

    Calm down bloggers.. You act like any of you watched him play in high school or attended any of his games while he was still in Ohio. A lot of people from Cleveland did even though we don’t even associate with Akron. As an athlete I wouldn’t do what Lebron did. Who flocks to another team to play groupie to another man and hope to get a ring? Even Michael Jordan said he wouldn’t do it and he’s the best there is. Don’t sit here and talk down on Cleveland when besides South Beach, Miami looks like a dump. To top it off The Heat might win a ring with Lebron.. It’s Plausible, but not likely with plenty of other teams in the league that actually play like a team and have more then just a starting five plus 2-3 give or take what day of the week is. So why don’t you grown men stand up straight, pull your pants up, and stop playing b*tch to these male athletes. Thanks ;-)

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