Show-Stoppers To Open 2019 Part I: The Independents
Hallelujah! For the last time in 10 years, core industry players would kick off a new year in Geneva en masse. In 2020, I will reclaim a festive holiday without work. You will still discover new releases during SIHH, but not in the way as you know it.
Audemars Piguet and Richard Mille, the two major independent brands, are departing the show that will be reverted to a Spring schedule. Yes boys, Baselworld and SIHH used to overlap in April.
That makes it all the more special to kick off 2019 with a few show-stoppers by the Independents. While a lot of worthy creations have already been covered, I would like to shed a different light from my discovery.
Code 11.59 Minute Repeater Supersonnerie
Those of you who are watch enthusiasts must have picked up the social media outcry over the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet. Not playing devil’s advocate, I am actually quite fond of the design and development concept.
It helped that we had a private presentation not by their PR or commercial people, who often induce scepticism. Breaking down all the engineering and creative marvels of Code 11.59 was our inside contact at AP, who was for many years a key watchmaker for the master Philippe Dufour, and trained at WOSTEP (the world’s most prestigious accreditation of Swiss watchmaking) with the likes of Kari Voutilainen and Peter Speake-Marin, who are recognised as some of the best watchmakers out there. With his fine watchmaking credentials, we guarantee you insider low-down minus the marketing BS.
Instantly, out of the full line-up, what caught my eye was the one with a smoked-blue enamel dial. I was quickly informed that it was the Code 11.59 Minute Repeater Supersonnerie by Audermars Piguet. Uh oh, I do have expensive tastes.
This deceptively simple-looking watch actually costs more than double the tourbillons in the range. The price reflects their in-house patented supersonnerie technology that has been on the market, in their concept Jules Audemars and Royal Oak Concept since 2016, and delivers the world’s most amplified crisp chimes in a minute repeater.
Here this dial is even cleaner than the original. Just 12, 3, and 9 Arabic hour markers, baton markers in between and for the subsidiary seconds dial at 6 o’clock. I love how modern and fresh it looks, which is in line with major luxury houses’ tastemaking direction, but that is subjective and the most controversial in public opinions. We are all entitled to our preferences without judgement.
What AP offers in the new collection is less “in-your-face”, so to speak, unless you know where to look. The devil is all in the detail. First off, the double domed sapphire crystal is curved in specific ways to optically project a clearer and wider view on the dial. When you turn the watch around, the new case design reveals an elegant and complex three-part construction. The lugs extend out of the thin bezel in one solid piece of the case top, carved in precious metals, which required entirely new production processes to build.
Above: Audemars Piguet sold this unique platinum minute repeater wristwatch in 1945 with a contemporary design language consistent throughout the range and this specific case form housing other mechanisms during the 1940s.
A seemingly round watch, with a silhouette akin to certain AP cases produced during their post-war boom years (see additional information at the end of this article), retains the iconic octagon with its case middle. The bottom parts of the lugs look as if they are attached to the case back, but actually just skim the edge of the case by a paper-thin gap. This construction allows the case to house a variety of mechanisms, as seen in the current line-up, and the use of combinations of materials in the future. The engineering and concept in this design are masterful.
Most sentiments may indicate a disconnect from the watch community. Our AP insider revealed that they had actually listened to the market, who came to AP wanting not the Royal Oak but a round watch and ended up with other brand choices. With Code 11.59, they can welcome back those customers and capture a new demographic in years to come.
Is AP breaking the mould to lead a clever strategic move, or have they got it all wrong? As we are in the business of time, we know time will tell.
For now, we must move along to my other picks, which shall come in Part II.
More information about Audemars Piguet can be found here.
Additional Information: AP Design Reference 1945
During the post World War II boom years of the late 1940s – 1960s, Audemars Piguet entered a “Golden Age” of creative and technical watch design. Just as the War came to an end in 1945, Audemars Piguet sold this unique platinum minute repeater wristwatch with a contemporary design language consistent throughout.
The effect is created by a few key elements that complement one another. The bezel is incredibly thin, almost becoming invisible. The subtlety of the bezel was created to showcase the stunning silvered dial with applied alternating Arabic numerals and hour-markers that are precisely set at specific angles. The distinct lugs are proportionally large for the case and designed with strong geometric facets, creating a complex polygonal design. This specific case form housed other mechanisms during the 1940s, yet this was the only minute repeater produced in the style.