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'Still a Greensboro girl,' it's Ginny Wright's time to shine as a CEO for this deluxe watch brand
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'Still a Greensboro girl,' it's Ginny Wright's time to shine as a CEO for this deluxe watch brand

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GREENSBORO — Ginny Wright's wrist displays an Audemars Piguet 41-millimeter Code 11.59 chronograph. 

The price? We'll get to that.

Wright has worn it since January, when she became the chief executive officer of the Americas for the luxury watch brand.

From an office in midtown Manhattan, the Greensboro native oversees Audemars Piguet (pronounced O-duh-mar pee-gaý) in the Western Hemisphere and is focused on expanding the market for the company based in Switzerland.

She came to Audemars Piguet following a career in senior leadership roles with L’Oréal USA, the world's largest cosmetics company.

And at 48, she considers herself fortunate. 

"No day is ever the same," Wright said from New York, where she lives with her husband and their two children. "I get to meet new personalities, new clients and have fascinating conversations. It has required a lot of hard work, but it’s been good fun."

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She's a familiar face on American and Delta Airlines — if she can be recognized under the double masks she wears during the COVID-19 pandemic. That's because Wright spends part of her time traveling to Audemars Piguet boutiques that sell the luxury timepieces.

The watches range in price from $15,000 to over $250,000.

Her own watch sells for $47,600. But custom pieces can climb to $500,000 or more. Take a watch in the Royal Oak collection. It displays gemstones around the bezel — the ring surrounding the watch face.

Maybe you've seen the photographs that show tennis star and brand ambassador Serena Williams modeling an Audemars Piguet watch, nestled into a band with spikes of brilliant-cut and baguette-cut diamonds.

Rapper and record executive Jay-Z owns several Audemars Piguet watches. The company launched his namesake collection in 2005. 

Wright describes Audemars Piguet watches as "a brilliant mix of physics and art."

"When you look at the more complicated watches" — such as a minute repeater or perpetual calendar — "your appreciation for this art form grows exponentially," she said.

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Long before she was a globe-traveling CEO and an executive at L'Oréal, Ginny Wright grew up here as Ginny Moore.

Lots of relatives still live in the Triad. She calls her mother, always a working mom who lives in Greensboro, "my inspiration." Kathy Mazzoli, 73, co-owns Alloy Personal Training in Summerfield, which opened last year. 

"You wonder where I get this work ethic and this drive from?" Wright asked. "It is from her ... She does one-arm pushups and I can’t even do two-arm pushups."

Mazzoli, in turn, says that she's in awe of her daughter.

"She is a very focused woman," Mazzoli said. "There’s not a lot of frivolity. But she’s kind and empathetic."

Wright's parents, Kathy and Randy Moore, divorced when she was young. Four years later, her mother married attorney Henri Mazzoli. Wright calls Mazzoli, who died in 2017, "an amazing dad."

"My parents led by example," Wright said. "They both had an especially strong work ethic. They wanted me to be prepared to be an adult." 

She attended General Greene Elementary and Our Lady of Grace Catholic School. When her parents moved outside the city, she went to Southeast Guilford High. 

"My passions were more the study of economics, politics and history," she recalled. "But I also loved fashion and beauty. Did I think that was an actual career? Not at the time."

Mazzoli recalls her daughter reading Vogue magazine in the second grade. "I knew she was going to be in some sort of fashion or cosmetic industry," she recalled.

Wright's parents wanted to expose their daughter and her two older stepbrothers to a variety of opportunities "and just make sure that nothing limited our potential," Wright said. "But they also made sure that it wasn’t handed to you. You had to work for it."

Around age 12, Wright worked for two summers at her stepfather's downtown law office. For $1 an hour, she ran checks and files to the courthouse. 

She eventually earned her certification, and spent high school summers as a lifeguard at Southeast Swim Club and Forest Oaks Country Club. 

At UNC, she majored in economics and political science. But she kept up with fashion. 

"I was always trying to seek out these interesting brands that were never readily available to me and more than I could afford at the time," Wright said.

After college, she became a legislative aide to U.S. Rep. Fred Heineman, a one-term congressman from Raleigh. She then worked for public relations companies.

Wright finally moved into fashion, beauty and luxury. She spent a year in France, earning her MBA at ESSEC Business School with a focus on luxury goods.

In 2008, she followed a job offer from L'Oréal USA to New York.

Most recently, she served as president of Kiehl’s, the skin, hair and body care brand owned by the L’Oréal group.

Prior to that, Wright worked as global deputy general manager of Ralph Lauren Fragrances — also part of L'Oréal — and in roles overseeing national accounts and retail marketing for Lancôme.

Alejandra Thompson of Greensboro met Wright in New York, while Thompson worked for L'Oréal in marketing under the Lancôme brand. She was surprised to learn they both came from Greensboro.

"She was always incredibly dynamic, super energetic, super smart," Thompson said.

She also was impressed that Wright was ahead of the curve in empowering and mentoring other women.

The pandemic prompted Thompson to move back to Greensboro, where she works for her family's company, Thompson Traders.

When Audemars Piguet came calling, Wright answered.

"All my friends and I were cheering," Thompson said.  

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Audemars Piguet has been family-owned since its founding in 1875.

Wright reports to Yves Meylan, chief commercial officer, and Francois-Henry Bennahmias, global CEO, both based at Audemars Piguet headquarters in Le Brassus, Switzerland.

She replaced the watch on her wrist — a Seiko owned by her late stepfather that she wore in remembrance.

She turned her brand-building skills from beauty to watches and took a crash course in timepieces.

Audemars Piguet manufactures about 40,000 watches a year. That's significantly lower than the one million that some companies make annually.

But "the amount of attention to detail that goes into one of those watches — it was mind-blowing the first time I learned about it," Wright said. 

The demand for luxury timepieces has intensified during the pandemic as people stayed home and explored online shopping, she said.

Wright splits part of her time among New York, Miami (home to her Latin America office) and Clearwater, Fl. (where watchmakers and the client care team are based). 

She visits Audemars Piguet boutiques around the country in locations ranging from Manhattan to Chicago to Atlanta. 

In 2022, the company will open something called an AP House in New York's meatpacking district. An AP House looks like an elegant hotel lounge, with bar, dining room and living room. You can find them in London, Milan, Barcelona and Madrid.

Here, they talk casually with customers about their passion for fine watches, with the idea that a sale might result. 

"There’s a big difference between a $34 face cream and a $34,000 watch," Wright explained. "But still, there are similarities. In skin care, you have to gain someone’s trust. You have to understand what their needs are. What do they think about their skin? What are their insecurities?

"Not that we find that out with our clients at Audemars Piguet, but we do have more in-depth conversations about their life and their lifestyle."

In coming months, she will focus on building the brand on the West Coast and bringing in more young, diverse and female customers.

On weekends, she and her husband Walter Wright, a geopolitical analyst, focus on school-age children William and Katherine. 

She still visits her hometown, although not as frequently during the pandemic. Her mother hopes that they will return for Thanksgiving.

Her children have played in LeBauer Park. She  shops in Friendly Center.  

"I'm still a Greensboro girl," Wright said. 

Contact Dawn DeCwikiel-Kane at 336-373-5204 and follow @dawndkaneNR on Twitter.

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