Although you never need a reason, beyond the obvious, to buy an Audemars Piguet watch, it is good to know that when you do, you are helping to preserve the world’s rainforests. The Audemars Piguet Foundation was established out of the love of trees, a respect kindled in its own back yard.
The brand’s headquarters, the Manufacture des Forges, is surrounded by the Grand Risoux forest nestled in a valley of the Jura Mountains in the village of Le Brassus, the heart of the Swiss watchmaking industry. It is an old-world forest, with trees nearly as tall as the mountains, and thanks to the Audemars Piguet Foundation, it is well protected.
“We were pioneers at the time,” says Jasmine Audemars, AP’s chairwoman and the great granddaughter of company co-founder Jules Audemars. She now runs the Foundation, which was started by her father. “Forest conservation was an obvious concern for us,” she says. “Just by looking at the forests that surround us in the Vallée de Joux, one can understand their importance to us locals. The Foundation was born out of this love and respect for the Vallée de Joux, as a formal way to guard the forests that surround the region of its origins.”
The Foundation was launched in 1992, with the additional aim of commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Royal Oak model. Its primary goal remains forest conservation and reconstitution, however. It does not exist for the purpose of promoting the brand’s watches – on the other hand, several special editions have been introduced over the years primarily to support the Foundation.
Since its establishment, the AP Foundation has financed more than 80 projects in 40 countries as diverse as Senegal and Scotland, planting trees and shrubs in locales ranging from the foothills of the Himalayas to the Cerrado savannah in Brazil. Current initiatives include restoration of sustainable agriculture in Orissa, India, and biodiversity work at a nature park in Madagascar.
“There is great need around the world today for the replenishing of forests and restoration of the biodiversity of biotopes destroyed by natural disasters, over-use and climate changes,” says Audemars, who cites the Foundation’s ancillary goal as a mandate to raise awareness of conservation among young people – thereby preserving the notion itself of preservation.
“The Foundation supports projects in their initial stages based on requests that come from local authorities,” says Audemars. How do they choose? “We support the ones that have a good chance of becoming self-supporting in the long run.” She cites the “Selva Viva” as one such success story. This floating laboratory on the Ecuadorian Amazon, serves an are at risk of deforestation. “Other notable examples include a program in Nainital, in the North of India, to assist the return to traditional agriculture and symposiums on the forest in Miyazaki, Japan.”
Back at home, Audemars Piguet maintains its mandate to preserve of the Vallée de Joux by funding the Garden of Time, a public park that incorporates an historical walking tour, with educational stations and plantings that culminate in an exhibit of a fossil – a 16,000-year-old mold of a mammoth, found in 1969 in a nearby gravel pit. The park sits on the old, disused platforms of Le Brassus train station.
The Audemars Piguet Foundation is funded by a percentage of the proceeds of each timepiece sold. There have also been several small numbered limited editions relating to the establishment of the Foundation.