I am on the cusp of being a grumpy old man. I can see it is on the horizon. My future is laid out in front of me. I now think it is my failing hearing that is the cause. Apparently as you become older the hairs in your ears, which resemble bearded barley, begin to break or become entwined.
My failing hearing manifests itself in missing elements of conversations. I seem to momentarily find myself with a daft grin on my face as my brain computes the gaps in the sentences I have only partially heard. Some refer to this as “Cocktail Party Syndrome”, an inability to differentiate a sound from background noise.
Recently I heard about the “Mosquito” sonic deterrent. It is a high pitched sound which apparently is inaudible to those above 25 years of age but is highly irritating to youths. I must admit the thought of dispersing the middle-class kids who congregate outside my local convenience store saying, “Innit”, in faux ghetto prose, seems like karma.
Presbycusis may mean I am unable to hear higher frequencies but that does not mean I can’t admire a high frequency timepiece.
The latest horological trend is to launch movements with increasingly higher frequencies. However, I am sceptical that some of these actually add value. A chronograph with a hand that whizzes around the dial at break-neck speed may be a show-stopper at parties but the time required to compute pressing the chrono pushers negates the benefit of measuring infinitesimally small integers. Moreover, do these watches stand the independent scrutiny of COSC when it comes to rate keeping?
A few years ago, before the headline grabbing antics of some brands commenced, Audemars Piguet revealed the Jules Audemars Chronometer with AP Escapement. The balance wheel, oscillating at 43,200 vph or 6 Hertz, back in 2010, was ground breaking. At the time there was no other watch movement that came close to operating at this elevated frequency.
Audemars Piguet was breaking the rules again, but in the virtuous pursuit of better rate keeping. There was merit in their aim and value in the resultant work.
A fresh perspective to movement design created a lubrication free movement at a time when they were relatively unknown. The watch continues to feature in the current range and I think it is worth a second look.
A conventional dial would not do justice to a watch harnessing such incredible watchmaking prowess.
This particular watch is offered in two variants, pink gold and platinum. However, the latter is my preferred choice.
An enamel dial located at the northerly aspect of the dial features Roman numerals and blued hands. The two hands impart hours and minutes with traditional delivery, reminiscent of a pocket watch. But, this is no traditional watch.
A second dial, located in the lower half of the watch, is used for subsidiary seconds. The dial is white gold and in collaboration with a slim blued hand cleanly indicates time.
The palette of colours is judiciously limited to black, white enamel, white gold, blue and red.
The main plate is white gold and beautifully decorated with barleycorn guilloché motif. The pattern affords a luxurious texture which cavorts with light.
At 8 o’clock a power reserve indicator is located. A satin brushed boundary circle frames the power reserve indicator. It is delicately marked with diamond shaped black markers to indicate the energy stored within the twin barrels. Red diamond shaped markers inform the wearer when the mainsprings are near exhaustion.
The mechanical wonders of the timepiece are presented to wearer in glorious detail. There are numerous finishes which distinguish the movement as something to savour, a lesson in finissage.
The case diameter of 46 mm aids legibility, especially appreciated by those who suffer the onset of middle-aged short sightedness.
Platinum compliments the white gold main plate and provides pleasing contrast with the gold screwed balance wheel, dials and vivid rubies.
The hand stitched crocodile leather strap is presented in regal blue, reinforcing the esteemed office of this horological nobleman. A platinum AP branded folding clasp completes the aristocratic offering.
A sapphire caseback allows the wearer to see the beauty within the case and admire the artisan’s craft.
The Calibre 2908 is a manufacture movement featuring the AP escapement.
Unlike a Swiss Lever escapement, the AP escapement delivers energy directly to the balance. This reduces the loss of energy.
The pallet stones on a Swiss Lever escapement typically slide 0.4 mm on the escape-wheel, however, with AP escapement the slide is reduced to 0.05 mm. The reduced slide means no need for lubricant and by default less maintenance.
A new guard pin system developed for the watch enhances shock resistance. This reduces the risk of accidental displacement of the pallet fork.
The high frequency of the movement has a significant thirst for energy. Audemars Piguet have equipped the movement with twin barrels affording the watch a power reserve of 90 hours. I particularly like the view of the spring barrels, visible from both the front and back of the watch.
The movement includes two balance springs placed head to tail on the balance wheel. This system avoids rating inaccuracies caused when the watch is held in a vertical position.
The result of the “blue sky thinking” from the intellectual minds of Le Brassus is a movement with enhanced reliability, superior rate keeping and reduced maintenance requirement. But, to focus purely on the specification, would be to overlook the outstanding finishing of the Calibre 2908.
The hand finished bridges and main plate are exemplary and demonstrate the full array of the watchmaker’s craft.
The circular-grained wheels of the spring barrels are visible on the dial side. The fine lines enhance the radiance of the upper surface of the wheels.
The bridges adjacent the spring barrels feature satin brushed and specular polishing. The interior angles of the bridges are the result of skilled hand bevelling.
As you look at the balance cock you will notice the brushed finish and two Cheese-head screws, perfectly polished with beautifully defined slots.
The reverse of the watch repeats the virtuoso performance of the Audemars Piguet watchmaker. The barleycorn motif is repeated on the main plate with bridges and the wheels finished to a matchless standard.
I may be accused of being a laggard in not embracing all the latest high frequency offerings to be shown at Baselworld. However, I would counter that there are some models with high frequencies that I do like and I have written about these before.
COSC certification provides independent validation of the rate keeping of a timepiece. The chronometry of the Audemars Piguet Jules Audemars Chronometer meets the requirements of COSC comfortably and is accompanied with the appropriate certification.
The Calibre 2908 proffers enhanced reliability and reduced maintenance thanks to its lubricant free direct impulse escapement. But, I must admit, the greatest accolade for this watch has to be the beauty of the timepiece and the way it indulges the wearer with sublime finissage.
All aspects of the design language coalesce in pleasing harmony. They demonstrate the rarefied heights of watchmaking which few will see, but, thankfully, I have been able to observe at close quarters.
This is one high frequency example I have been able to appreciate.
• Model: Audemars Piguet Jules Audemars Chronometer in platinum with Audemars Piguet Escapement
• Reference: 26153PT.OO.D028CR.01
• Case: Platinum case; diameter 46.00 mm; Height 12.70 mm, Water resistant to 2 bar (20 m); sapphire crystal to front and case back.
• Functions: Hours; minutes; subsidiary seconds and power reserve indicator.
• Movement: Calibre 2908 Manufacture, manual wind; frequency 43,200 vph (6 Hz); 33 jewels; power reserve 90 hours.
• Strap: Blue crocodile hand-stitched leather strap on platinum AP folding deployant.