When I first got wind that Audemars Piguet was unveiling a new watch with just one hand, I was a little more than surprised. The launch of something completely new like the Code 11.59 was such a big ordeal, it felt like it was a bit too much for the company to release another brand new model to the market so soon after.
Unless, perhaps, it’s not new; was it an unknown model that the brand is bringing back?
Blast from the Past
As it turns out, I’m half right. There is a Philosophique model in Audemars Piguet’s archives, a hand-wound timepiece with a single hour hand that invited its wearers to question the very notion of passing time. The watch launched in 1982, following the Quartz Crisis that begun in the 70s and spurred watchmakers everywhere to find innovative solutions to refresh traditional watchmaking and draw attention back to its work benches and its workers in face of new and exciting technology.
We will recall the hoopla and the success that was the thinnest perpetual calendar mechanism Audemars Piguet produced in 1978. It was followed by the Philosophique, launched in 1982, a small and round yellow gold watch replete with a fastener decoration like the ones you’d commonly see on pocket watches at 12 o’clock. The watch was special because it only had one hand.
The Philosophique watch referred back to devices for time measurement before the 18th century, where a single hand was used not merely to tell time in a sentimental manner, but also to simplify energy transmission (moreover, because the margin of time-telling error in those days made minute hands unnecessary.) By today’s standards of course, the function retains only its sentimental proposition.
The Millenary Frosted Gold Philosophique
Audemars Piguet chose to bring back the function not in a Philosophique case – which would seem too common for a brand like AP, who prides itself over its non-round shapes — but the Millenary, a collection known for its elegant elliptical case that has since 2015 been reserved exclusively for women.
At first glance, the watch is deceptively simple, there’s really nothing more to add than that it has one single hand that tells only the hour. But remember, nothing Audemars Piguet does is simple.
The movement inside the watch is the new self-winding movement, calibre 3140, which features a patented mechanism that allows the hand around the dial to move in an elliptical trajectory to follow the curve of the case. The hour wheel directly corresponds to a transparent disc on the dial on which the single hand is mounted, making the Millenary Philosophique suddenly that more coherent and sophisticated.
Never Enough Frosted Gold
What really makes the Millenary Philosophique special is the finishing. The 18K pink gold or white gold case presents alternating satin brushing and Frosted Gold finishing, a technique AP has utilised frequently in its collections since jewellery designer Carolina Bucci first graced the Royal Oak with the Florentine treatment, micro-hammering of the bracelet and case to achieve a diamond-dust effect.
On the Millenary, the selected use of Frosted Gold brings about a lovely contrast between the shimmering metal and the hand-polished bevels that adorn the case and lugs.
The dial itself, in brown for the pink gold version and blue in the white gold version, has a hammered effect; a pattern of overlapping petals that can be found in tea pot ornamentation but less common in watches, and truly quite stunning to behold.
A see-through caseback reveals the calibre 3140 with its oscillating weight, coloured to match the blue or brown on the dials and engraved with Audemars Piguet’s signature emblem.
Not everything about time measurement had to be about precision, and it might be quaint, but the hour-only function turned out to be quite a delightful reminder that sometimes we need to slow down in life, and also that watch maisons don’t have to always take itself so seriously.
Also, I’ve often said that it was unnecessary to mark a watch a women’s watch by use of diamonds, and Audemars Piguet has really nailed it in the head. The subtle use of Frosted Gold here makes the watch less flashy and more graceful — proving that a little detail goes a long way.
There’s a lot of space on the elliptical dial for a relatively simple hour function and simple hour markers, and so the hammered-like dial really brings the whole watch together.
On the wrist, the 39.5mm x 35.4mm case is comfortable even on slender wrists, the elongated case shape feels neither heavy or bulky. The straps are satin-finished blue or brown alligator straps with a matching pin buckle.
Self-winding cal. 3140; hour hand; 3Hz; 50 hours power reserve
White or pink gold; 39.5 x 35.4 mm; hammered Frosted Gold finish
Blue or brown alligator strap with 18K white or pink gold pin buckle