Audemars Piguet broadens the spectrum for understanding of contemporary fine watch–making techniques.
“To Break the Rules, You Must First Master Them.”
An intrepid statement, indeed, and few makers have earned their right to express it more comprehensively than the family-owned watchmaking titan to whom this trademark message belongs: one founded by childhood friends Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet in the Vallée de Joux in 1875.
Since the pair united more than a century-and-a-quarter ago – the latter armed with 10,000 francs, the former with eighteen self-devised mechanical movements – Audemars Piguet has chalked up a wealth of game-changing innovations. They designed the world’s first wristwatch with a minute repeater (which rings out the time through a series of chimes), the Louis Brandt model in 18-carat red gold in 1892. The house also came up with the “Grand Complication” pocket-watch featuring an alarm, a perpetual calendar, deadbeat seconds, and a chronograph; new iterations of this model are still released to this day. In 1934, Audemars Piguet unveiled the first skeletonized pocket-watch, and in 1946 the thinnest ever wristwatch (packing exceptional complications into the most slender of cases remains a forte of a brand that made the world’s thinnest self-winding perpetual calendar in 1978). In 1972, the company took the bold step, partly in response to the quartz crisis, of moving into more avant-garde design territory (sporty, but with a luxury pedigree) with the Royal Oak, designed by the legendary Gerald Genta.
Now the oldest fine watchmaker to remain under the stewardship of its founding families has taken a giant leap into a new horological frontier with Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet, a collection that, according to the house’s historian, Michael Friedman, marks “the beginning of an entirely new chapter for [the house].”
As anyone who has ever set eyes on a Royal Oak is aware, Audemars Piguet has a history when it comes to witty geometrical juxtaposition. Continuing that tradition, Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet creates eye-catching tension with the audacious placement of an octagonal middle case within a round case. The behavior of an unclasped watch in the hands, as determined by articulation between case and strap, is a key factor in its overall aesthetics, and here the upper part of the open-worked lugs is welded to that ultra-thin bezel, with the lower part leaning, in perfect alignment, against the case-back (soldering the lugs to such a thin surface took no little new R&D, according to the house). Meanwhile, the bezel, lugs, and case have been subjected to the kind of satin-brushing, beveling, and polishing you’d usually expect to be applied only to calibers. If this doesn’t offer some rigid integrity to the often-spineless term “attention to detail,” it’s not clear what would.
Borderline-obsessive dissatisfaction with a seemingly acceptable status quo can be a fierce wind in an R&D department’s creative sails, and the work the house has done to improve legibility with the Code 11.59 is very much of the “wasn’t broken, still fixed it” variety. The sapphire crystal, encircled by a polished chamfer, has a dome-shaped internal surface whose external surface is vertically curved between 6 and 12 o’clock. In true Audemar Piguet fashion, the design dabbles with depth, perspective, and light, enhancing the wearer’s enjoyment of the detailed work on the dial.