“Don’t worry, Be Happy”: The Hotel Byblos in St. Tropez partners with Audemars-Piguet

Byblos is not only a forgotten Italian fashion brand which rocked the 80’s but it’s also the reigning St. Tropez hotel which just celebrated its 50th anniversary unleashing a string of collaborations with the crème de la crème of luxury brands

While being part of the fashion industry for nearly two decades and understanding how it works, we still marvel sometimes who buys all these expensive clothes, accessories and watches which make billion Euro turnovers for the top brands. But spending a short weekend in St. Tropez, the ritzy but nonetheless lavishly spoilt by nature Côte d’Azur resort village makes things oh so much clearer. Money is of no object here as rich Americans, Brits, Russians, Germans and French mingle to have a good time and get a tan. And, of course, spend their money on luxury. The village is a mini version of Avenue Montaigne in Paris with every brand who matters running a store; we even spotted a Giambattista Valli boutique. Plus 10,000 Euro price tags are normal and a can of Coke at a kiosk comes at 7 Euros. Are we clear?

Helicopters are the preferred means of transportation on the Côte d’Azur

The Hotel Byblos is the number one hotel in St. Tropez and owner Antoine Chevanne sought out François-Henry Bennahmias the CEO of Audemars-Piguet to do a limited edition watch for his celebration. But not enough, he also asked the Missoni clan to decorate a suite, Goyard to make a beach bag, Dom Pérignon to create five pop champagnes bottles, 50.000 Euros each and to top it all, Rolls Royce to make a car. For the big celebration dinner and party, they even flew in Sister Sledge.

Please note, Audemars-Piguet is the only family-owned watchmaker with Patek Philippe who beats the downward turnover spiral in the luxury watch segment. So all the more reason for us to pay attention.

(left) Antoine Chevanne who dreams of Dolce & Gabbana next; (right) Of course, Mr. Chevanne wears AP

The Byblos cooperation began two years ago when capo Antoine Chevanne met François-Henry Bennahmias at the Audemars-Piguet HQ in Le Brassus, Switzerland. He presented the Byblos Exclusive Series concept to him and discussed a potential partnership. Bennahmias immediately liked the idea and decided to rename it “BAP” or in Frenglish “Be Appy” for “Byblos Audemars-Piguet”.

Bennahmias is a much-admired person in the top-notch watchmaking establishment. Why? Well, he simply knows how to engage his customers to keep on shelling out very high five digit price tags for Audemars-Piguet watches while the luxury watch industry has been badly hurting. A brash, unconventional leader who seems to have no problem to make his mark in this alpha male industry, he explains the secret of his success to Achtung Digital: “ We never rest on our laurels. We never pad ourselves on the back for a past success. We always, yes, always think about the next project. How we can innovate our watchmaking, our DNA, our presentations, our communications. I am here today in St. Tropez but my thoughts are already on our next projects. We really stay sharp, or better I make sure we all do. From managing 80 people in America when I started with the company nearly 20 years ago to now orchestrating 1500 employees, I push everyone to think about tomorrow. And for me to stay sharp, I just look at everything. Even the way groceries are displayed on a market can have an impact on our watchmaking world. We are a serious brand, but we never take ourselves too seriously.“ Ok, that is clear.

(left) Francois-Henry Bennahmias defies luxury CEO expectations even in the way he dresses; (right) 32 brilliant cut diamonds on the boat for the women’s version

But now really, what about the Byblos hotel?
The history starts with its Lebanese founder, Jean-Prosper Gay-Para who asked Philippe Siccardon, one of the original architects, to commission Jean Derval and Roger Capron, two ceramicists from Vallauris to create works of art to decorate the hotel which led to the iconic logo, inspired by a second century AD mosaic discovered in a Roman Villa at the seaside town of Byblos in Lebanon. Needless to say, this iconic script now graces the back of the watches rendering them iconic for the devoted guests.

The Byblos story has always been intertwined with its guests. Mick Jagger married Bianca in St. Tropez and celebrated at the hotel. Since then, all the stars who visit St. Tropez stop by, often during the Cannes Film Festival in May which draws the A-list from Hollywood.

(left) Lunch at Club 55, check out the straw hat on the left, courtesy of Audemars Piguet; (right) Recognize the chef at the Byblos talking to Mr. Chevanne? 33 Michelin stars, one man show Alain Ducasse

In the rarefied world of top watches, these kinds of collaborations are generally frowned upon. Exclusivity is de rigueur. But as the Byblos boss and the Audemars-Piguet CEO hit it off, the project came together. Clearly, personal relationships are stronger and more important than business objectives.

To make it short: Audemars-Piguet used one of its classic Royal Oak Offshore models to realize the Byblos version for women and men. And do we need to say it, the limited edition at nearly 50,000 Euros is on its way to be sold out.

Byblos beauty up close