It is a bit of a curious departure for the brand. Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet boasts an abstract, futuristic looking logo, with letters and numbers spliced and suspended in space. Is this the face of what is to come?
The newly-launched Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet makes no apologies for being different, and it does so with style and grace. It is the epitome of the trendsetter comfortable in its own skin, in a brave new world where the only thing constant is change.
“Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet represents a new journey we are embarking upon, one that completes us as a brand. We have pushed every aspect of the craft as far as we could. It truly captures who we are and what we do. We want to create our own destiny and write our own history, all while looking to the future. This collection has been a long time coming,” muses Audemars Piguet chief executive officer Francois-Henry Bennahmias.
He is, of course, referring to both the new collection’s long conception period, as well as the no-holds-barred approach to its design and the crafting of its indomitable spirit.
We are at an interview at Le Brassus in the picturesque Vallee de Joux, Switzerland, the place that Audemars Piguet calls home. Here, ahead of the collection’s grand unveiling at the Salon Internationale de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) 2019 in Geneva, Bennahmias shares that it took hundreds of iterations before that glorious eureka moment where they knew they had what they were looking for in their hands.
“No doubt, the early version was very nice, but it felt like it was inspired by yesterday. The difference between the earlier designs and this collection you see now, is like night and day. The Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet is bold and is not afraid to push the limits, it is classic by nature and unconventional by design. The collection demanded new tools, skills and techniques to reach an exceptional degree of technical and aesthetic complexity. This is a watch of tomorrow,” he states.
Bennahmias is known to be straight talking, but this sounds like a rather tall order, though not impossible, for the manufacture. After all, if there is one thing that Audemars Piguet has demonstrated in its 144 years of existence, is that it is not a follower of rules.
Take the game-changing iconic Royal Oak for instance. Officially launched in 1972, its radical design defied the watchmaking code of those times. It had a hexagonal bezel, exposed screws and looked like a cross between a sports watch and a dress watch.
This stainless steel newcomer, defiant in the face of conformity, shocked the world of watchmaking. Many predicted that it would lead to the brand’s demise, but against all odds it did not just survive, but thrive.
Can Audemars Piguet do it again? Does Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet live up to Bennahmias’s exuberant endorsement?
The answer for those on the same page would be a resounding yes, if you take the time and space for closer examination. He has no reservations with conceding that this is a collection that will not be done justice with a cursory glance.
“When you notice the intricacies and complexities in this collection, you start to develop an appreciation for what it stands for. This is the moment when the watch comes alive,” says Bennahmias.
Indeed, the collection does not just live up to scrutiny; it shines. Even before taking in the other design elements, one thing stands out immediately: the glass on the front of the watch.
The arched profile of the double curved sapphire crystal – shaped like a dome on the inside, and vertically curved from 6 to 12 o’clock on the outside – plays with depth, light and perspective for a viewing experience that feels almost surreal. Audemars Piguet fondly refers to it as the optical crystal experience…one that captures a magical sense of wonderment.
Designed for optimum legibility, the Code 11.59 by Audemar Piguet has a deceptively light and graceful look about it, despite its substantial measurements providing it with a fair bit of heft.
Commenting on the popularity of edge-to-edge displays on phones and other electronic devices, Bennahmias draws attention to the fact that the bezel on this timepiece has been shrunk to the minimum, and then some.
While this extra-thin bezel gives it a clean aesthetic, a challenge was posed when it came to the lugs.
“Most of the time, the lugs are screwed onto the case. With the thin bezel, however, there is no room for us to do that, so the lugs have to be soldered onto the case. This leads to other concerns like its strength, but we preserved and pushed ourselves for solutions,” he says.
The result? The upper part of the openworked lugs is welded to the bezel, while the lower part leans against the caseback in perfect alignment. It is the perfect complement to the round case, which has an octagonal middlecase seamlessly integrated within.
Another interesting detail is written in the Audemars Piguet signature, which is painstakingly crafted from thin layers of gold with a technique called galvanic growth. The letters are connected with fine links no thicker than a strand of hair. The logo is then carefully placed on the dial by hand, resting on tiny legs that are almost invisible to the naked eye.
“Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet stands out for many reasons. It is instantly recognisable, it is distinctive – yet it is all that in a subtle way. We are also moving away from categorising it as a watch for men or women; it is, quite simply, a watch,” says Bennahmias.
He is steadfast in his conviction that the design is one that would look flattering on most – if not all – wrists, thanks to its excellent ergonomics and well-rounded aesthetics.
Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet is a 13-piece collection that features six in-house movements, of which three are new: a selfwinding calibre with seconds and date indication, an integrated column wheel chronograph with flyback function and a selfwinding flying tourbillon.
The other three references are made up of a perpetual calendar, an openworked tourbillon and a minute repeater supersonnerie.
So what is the story behind the striking Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet name? Bennahmias sheds light on this, explaining that inspiration for the name was drawn from the present, with one eye set firmly on the horizon and the possibilities beyond. Is this the way of the young and the new?
“What is the language of the younger generation today?” he poses rhetorically. “They talk in code, they use emoticons and short words. We want this collection’s name to reflect that contemporary feel.”
He describes the unveiling of the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet at the SIHH 2019 in Geneva as “the most important launch” in the last two decades of the brand’s history. The collection represents a new pillar which the brand will build upon in coming years. It is all the more significant as this is Audemars Piguet’s last run with the watch fair.
Audemars Piguet, founded in 1875 by Jules Louis Audemar and Edward Auguste Piguet, is the oldest haute horlogerie brand that remains in the hands of its founding families. It goes without saying that the manufacture did not come this far by going with the flow. Now more than ever, it is determined to chart a new course for itself.
How fitting then, that the new Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet encapsulates the spirit of being one step ahead of the game, hovering on that fraction of a second before the dawn of a new day. It is another tick of the hands of the clock, before today gives way to tomorrow.
And Audemars Piguet is already there!
A movement in time
What makes a watch tick? In horology, a movement refers to the the inner workings of a watch – the hundreds of tiny parts that make up the mechanism inside the timepiece. Also known as a calibre, this is the tiny compact engine that powers your watch.
A manufacture that embarks on producing its own movements knows it is signing up for a long journey ahead. Each movement will have to be thoroughly tested and optimised for performance and reliability, so you can imagine the tweaking and fine-tuning that goes into perfecting this. It is no mean feat to produce a movement; even a simple mechanical watch has more than a hundred parts packed inside its case. This is truly the pinnacle of technical expertise, craftsmanship and innovation rolled into one.
Hardly surprising then, that there is a certain degree of prestige and exclusivity that comes with a company that has the skills and capability to develop its own movements.
For the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet, the manufacture has pulled out all the stops with six in-house calibres of the latest generation. Of these six, three are new movements:
Calibre 4302: A selfwinding movement with seconds and date indication, featuring a dedicated 22-carat gold oscillating weight and a 70h power reserve.
Calibre 4401: It has an instant-jump date indication, an integrated column wheel chronograph and flyback function that enables the restarting of the chronograph without stopping and resetting it first. Its 22-carat pink gold openworked oscillating weight is visible through the caseback, and the chronograph counters are circled by gold threads with polished V angles, which is a difficult finishing to achieve on a lacquered dial. Like the Calibre 4302, it boasts a 70h power reserve as well.
Calibre 2950: This is a selfwinding flying tourbillon, a milestone for Audemars Piguet as it is the first time that it has a selfwinding movement featuring a central rotor and a flying tourbillon. WIth a 65h power reserve, the movement is finished with Cotes de Geneve, snailing and hand-polished bevels on the caseback side, with a circular graining and circular satin-finishing on the dial side.