Audemars Piguet is a family business that is still owned by the descendants of its founding families. In 1875, Jules Louis Audemars (1851–1918) and Edward Auguste Piguet (1853–1919), both from watchmaking families, set up their business in Le Brassus, Switzerland. They started by producing and selling complicated movements to Geneva-based companies, but soon expanded to producing watches themselves. They assembled a highly specialized workforce with the necessary skills all under one roof.
When industrially machinery appeared, the two men decided to forego large volume production and stick with producing one-off complicated watches. They specialized in chiming mechanisms, chronographs, and astronomical indications, which are still manufactured by Audemars Piguet today. Between 1892, when the first minute repeater wristwatch sold, and 1965, a total of 550 complicated wristwatches were produced, which are highly sought after by collectors today.
1955 – Audemars Piguet produced the first perpetual calendar wristwatch with a leap-year indication.
1978 – The perpetual calendar, self-winding 2120/2800 caliber, was the thinnest in the world (3.95 mm).
1986 – The first-ever self-winding wristwatch with a tourbillon. It remains today the smallest tourbillon ever produced.
The Royal Oak
When the Quartz crisis hit in the 1970s, Audemars Piguet was one of the few brands that continued to produce complications. They did not content themselves with continuing business as usual but chose to innovate at such a precarious time for the watch industry. Of course, the most noteworthy milestone is the decision to invest in the development of the Royal Oak, which launched in 1972. The Royal Oak was designed by Gerald Genta, who was tasked with imagining a high-end sporty model for everyday use. The Royal Oak turned the industry on its head with its steel case, octagonal bezel and “Tapisserie” dial. At the time, stainless steel was an unconventional material in high-end watchmaking as it was much harder to work than gold. The Royal Oak is often considered the first high-end sports watch.
Now nearly 50 years later, it is difficult to imagine that this now infamous watch model was met with shock when it first came out. Since its introduction, The Royal Oak continues to evolve with the times, but its essence remains the same. Over the years, we have seen the Royal Oak in a wide range of materials, from platinum to ceramic, as well as gold. They have come in various sizes both for men and women and have included many complications.
A new interpretation, The Royal Oak Offshore, was introduced in 1993. A more robust version of the Royal Oak, with a case size of 42mm, credited for pioneering large wristwatches. The Royal Oak Concept, introduced in 2002, is a high-tech adaptation of the Royal Oak.
CODE 11.59 by Audemars Piguet
First introduced in 2019, Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet represents one of the most important launches in their history, with 13 references and five complications. Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet stands for the Manufacture’s genetic code:
Just one minute before midnight, 11.59 alludes to the brink of a new day, always staying ahead of the game.
Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet may look like a classic round watch at first. However, numerous evolutions and development of new tools and techniques were needed to overcome the technical and aesthetic complexity of this collection.
For the first time, Audemars Piguet has designed a 41mm case that works just as well for men and women, fitting perfectly on any wrist. Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet presents a complex architecture composed of an octagonal middle case and a round bezel and caseback. Only welded to the extra-thin bezel, while leaning flush against the caseback, the lugs pushed Audemars Piguet to develop new soldering techniques. Satin-brushed, bevelled and polished, the lugs, case, and bezel present refined finishing techniques usually found on calibers. The double-curved glare-proof sapphite crystal allows for optimal legibility. The Audemars Piguet logo is crafted with thin layers of 22-carat gold, a complex process known as galvanic growth similar to 3D printing. The collections feature six in-house calibers, of which three were specifically created: an integrated chronograph with column wheel and flyback function, a selfwinding caliber with seconds and date indication, and a selfwinding flying tourbillon caliber.
Audemars Piguet collaborated with Arnold Schwarzenegger on the design of the Royal Oak Offshore End of Days in 2003. The success of this project started a new trend at Audemars Piguet. Since then, the personalized watch has been thought after by many celebrities and athletes. The collection features a variety of models developed in association with F1 racing drivers Montoya, Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello or Jarno Trulli, rapper and producer Jay-Z, and basketball players Shaquille O’Neal and Lebron James, to quote a few.
The Royal Oak was named after the so-called “royal” oak that saved the life of King Charles II of England in 1651 in the Battle of Worcester, as well as the eponymous post-1664 British Navy warships with a steel-clad hull.