Those who innovate

APRESDEMAIN: Rethinking watch communication

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April 2024

APRESDEMAIN: Rethinking watch communication

Using vintage to get new generations interested in watches isn’t as contradictory as it may seem, at least not for APRESDEMAIN. This specialist communications agency, set up by two young watch enthusiasts, develops unconventional and creative solutions with a good dose of offbeat humour.


orenzo Maillard and Maxime Couturier, watch expert and creative director respectively at APRESDEMAIN, came together over a shared vision of the watch industry, having arrived at their destination via different routes. Maxime was a hard-working student and basketball fan, unsure about what his next move would be. His studies took him to a marketing job, managing projects mainly for consumer goods which left him feeling unfulfilled. He was more interested in watches and, convinced brands’ communication still had a way to go, decided to delve further into the watch world.

As for Lorenzo Maillard, watchmaking has always been part of his life. Almost 100 years ago his family founded Europa Star, a publishing company that specialises in horology. Even so, he found his own way, browsing garage sales and flea markets for vintage finds and building up expert knowledge to become a trainer.

Lorenzo Maillard
Lorenzo Maillard

Maxime Couturier
Maxime Couturier

First encounters at the FHH

The two “partners in crime” met while on contract at the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) for the launch of Watches and Culture, the Foundation’s educational and cultural arm. Part of their remit was to blow the cobwebs off watch communication and make it more appealing to a younger audience.

“Our job was to develop a new approach for watchmaking, which tends to be more traditional in its communication,” says Lorenzo Maillard. “The FHH gave us carte blanche to think up new angles. We took ideas from fashion, design and architecture. The foundation was delighted with the result. The brands were a little more reticent but now they’re onboard.”

“It was great that we could finally let loose our creativity,” says Maxime Couturier, “but we both still felt that same frustration with certain brands’ inflexibility. This would be the trigger for our magazine. We wanted to shake up the industry. Start something fresh and creative, with nothing off-limits and no jargon. This is when heist-out began to take shape.”

“Issue 0” of the magazine, which came out in 2023, carries the flag for Couturier’s and Maillard’s vision. Its pages are full of watches and vintage references, but that’s not all there is. There is also fashion, photography, architecture and design, and in this respect its potential readership reaches beyond watch enthusiasts. More than anything, it conveys the spirit of the duo’s communications agency, APRESDEMAIN. Why this name (which means “the day after tomorrow”)? The two co-founders answer in unison: “As a reference to time, obviously, and to focus our aim on watchmaking, but also to take the project into the future and future possibilities.”

Humour me

What makes APRESDEMAIN different from the countless other agencies bidding for watch brands’ advertising dollars? Lorenzo Maillard answers in a shot: “The type of projects we work on. Brands that contact us have to be prepared to rethink the way they see and do things. Our visual conceptualisations are different. We treat themes in depth with extensive historical research. And we aren’t afraid to use humour.”

Isn’t that risky, in an industry with pre-established codes and conventions, and an often predictable discourse? “Marketing evolves along with brands’ sphere of influence,” Maillard insists. “Many brands are now selling experiences, opening hotels or restaurants, even developing media. A lot of our generation think the watch industry is too exclusive. We offer different products to make up for this lack of openness. You have to be bold if you want to change things. We know our magazine isn’t to everyone’s taste. Those who like it really want to do things differently. APRESDEMAIN was created for them.”

Anti-elitist approach

The disruptive duo got it right, judging by reactions to the magazine. Following publication of Issue 0, Sotheby’s contacted them to collaborate on an “unconventional” auction: providing them with the ideal opportunity to put their concept into practice. On April 11, 24 vintage watches – one for every hour of the day – will go under the hammer at the “Rough Diamonds” sale.

As well as being at least 30 years old, each of these vintage watches celebrates the creativity of designers who went against the grain of mainstream aesthetics. They stand out for their originality and personality with no compromise on craftsmanship or technical excellence. Communication takes an offbeat approach, “going underground” in search of these hidden gems.

The whole purpose of the sale, says Maillard, is to “offer a selection of watches rarely seen at auction, which are dominated by the usual suspects: Rolex, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet. These rough diamonds have huge potential in terms of the stories they tell, design and rarity. The concept is different and so is the visual identity.”

Brands onboard

Are watch brands buying in to this type of left-field content? The agency’s client list already includes industry heavyweights such as the FHH, TimeVallée, Girard-Perregaux and Alpina, and there are campaigns in the pipeline for others. Issue 1 of the magazine will come out in May with a print run of 5,000, instead of the 1,000 initially planned, and will carry adverts for numerous watch brands, many of which gave APRESDEMAIN free rein to design content in line with the magazine’s ethos.

How much of this success is down to the still hot vintage trend? Both brush off the question, while Maillard insists that “the vintage side is because that’s what we like. I’ve never bought a modern watch in my life. Vintage design is what fuels my love of watches.”

Maxime Couturier couldn’t agree more: “It’s what we both like. Vintage opens up angles which can interest brands as well as people who are just getting into watches and established collectors. We’ve had enough of the snobbishness surrounding watches. You don’t define a passion by price. You can get just as much pleasure from a vintage watch costing a couple of hundred francs, and that’s what we want to show. You don’t have to take out a bank loan to enjoy watches.”

Vintage as an antidote to “luxification”? Once again, APRESDEMAIN’s two founders are following a vision that goes off the beaten track.

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