Audemars Piguet’s most significant collection launch since the Royal Oak shares at least one trait with the 1972 milestone: it’s attracting a lot of controversy.
One wonders if it was to sneak past the watch community that had been almost feverish with anticipation, that Audemars Piguet chose to launch an all-new collection on a Saturday night, in glitzy event with a most tightly curated invite-list. Its most significant collection launch, some say, in 47 years since the 1972 launch of the Royal Oak, 2019’s CODE 11.59 is Audemars Piguet’s intent and ambition in the flesh, boasting long-awaited manufacture movements and unleashed in practically an armada of a dizzying 13 watches. Like its 1972 forebear though, for good reason or bad, its launch is also attracting a busload of controversy.
The watch community has had a few hours hyperventilating over the images released over the Web, and flexed its wit in a protracted sneeze. That done, let’s see if the ensuing quiet (cos the community needs to inhale) will allow us to hear better what Audemars Piguet is trying to say via CODE 11.59.
According to Audemars Piguet, CODE stands for Challenge, Own, Dare and Evolve; and 11.59 is that last minute before time flits to a new day. Jasmine Audemars, chairwoman of the company’s board of directors, explains, “At Audemars Piguet, we constantly challenge ourselves to push the limits of craftsmanship. Endowed with a strong spirit of independence, we proudly own our roots and territory, daring to combine precision and creativity. Faithful to our legacy, we continue to evolve by preserving and rewriting traditions. 11.59 is ahead of the game, constantly on the brink of tomorrow.”
Adds François-Henry Bennahmias, Audemars Piguet CEO, “Classic by nature and unconventional by design, Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet chooses it all. This collection demanded new tools, skills and techniques to reach an exceptional degree of technical and aesthetic complexity.”
The launch collection comprises 13 references, including five complications and six latest calibres from the company. By the company’s own admission, CODE 11.59 represents one of the most important launches for Audemars Piguet ever.
A circle within a rounded square makes a cushion; but for CODE 11.59 Audemars Piguet has combined an octagonal middlecase to a round case. Open-worked lugs are welded to the ultra-thin bezel of the 41mm case above, and the caseback below, with several finishes usually reserved for the movement, executed on the case profile as shown: satin-brush, bevelling and polish.
Box sapphire crystals are all the rage these days, in having stiff sapphire ape the sensuous curves of acrylic to a limited degree. Audemars Piguet has opted for something psychedelic with the 11.59… the sapphire crystal is not boxed like goggles, but arched: the internal is domed, while the external surface is vertically curved from ‘12’ to ‘6’, lending an added touch of depth and perspective.
It may take a while to notice but the applique brand signature is actually 24K gold fabricated layer by layer via galvanic growth, not unlike 3D printing. Borrowed from the micro-electronics industry, this process allows for much sharper resolution – each letter is joined to the other by links as fine as a hair, and the logo placed by hand to the dial on tiny legs near invisible to the eye. It’s the first time galvanic growth has been used with 24K gold.
No less than six in-house movements feature in the 11.59 launch, three of which are all-new, while the rest are of the latest generation. The new movements include an integrated column wheel chronograph with flyback function, a self-winding calibre with seconds and date, and a self-winding flying tourbillon.
Deep blue lacquered dial in 41mm white gold case with display caseback, curved gold indexes and Arabic numerals. Driven by the new self-winding calibre 4302 that features a 22K gold oscillating weight; large diameter of 32mm (14 lignes), a frequency of 4 Hz (28,800 vph), and power reserve of 70 hours. Also available in pink gold case.
Lacquered dial in pink gold or white gold 41mm case. New in-house calibre 4401 (14 lignes) column wheel chronograph with flyback function features instant-jump date indication, and 22K pink gold open-worked oscillating weight visible through the display caseback. Runs at 4Hz, with 70 hours of power reserve.
41mm pink gold case and speckled aventurine glass dial. Self-winding in-house calibre 5134 perpetual calendar featuring astronomical moon phase (accurate to 122 years) and week counter, with open-worked 22K gold oscillating weight visible through display caseback. Runs at 2.75 Hz, with 40 hours of power reserve.
Self-winding Flying Tourbillon
The gold dial here is covered with grand feu enamel. Calibre 2950 (14 lignes) is Audemars Piguet’s first self-winding movement to feature a central rotor and a flying tourbillon. At 3Hz, with 65 hours of power reserve. In pink or white gold 41mm case.
Hand-wound, open-worked calibre 2948 tourbillon movement fabricated with dark rhodium German silver mainplate and PVD bridges contrasts richly with the 18K pink gold case, boasting no less than 70 hand-polished V angles. Running at 3Hz, with 80 hours of power reserve.
Minute Repeater Supersonnerie
Built from Audemars Piguet’s supersonnerie technology launched in 2016, the company claims this watch packs the sonic power of a pocket watch, featuring patented gongs, case construction and striking regulator developed then. Gongs are not attached to the mainplate but a device that acts as a soundboard to improve sound transmission. The striking regulator – which sets the pace of the strikes – is fitted to a more flexible anchor system redesigned to absorb shocks and eliminate unwanted noise. The pause between hours and minutes where there is no quarter to strike has also been eliminated, while a security function prevents the user from altering the time display while the striking mechanism is in operation.
As Audemars Piguet’s most important launch in almost half a century, the arrival of CODE 11.59 is, in ecological terms, even more momentous than when a sea turtle lays an egg. The manic height of anticipation, plus how many would sell their hides to be cleverer than Audemars Piguet, means that the new collection is naturally going to attract quite a storm of expert opinion. But Audemars Piguet has put so much heart and detail into the collection, it is not something that can be fairly and thoroughly reviewed at a glance. With that in mind, look to Revolution.watch for more in-depth coverage of the collection soon; certainly after the dust and raw emotion of SIHH 2019 has had time to settle.