Today, Audemars Piguet broke the internet with their new release for all the wrong reasons. The video posted by Hodinkee is an interview with Audemars Piguet CEO François-Henry Bennahmias who described this as a piece which he hoped would contribute up to 20-25% of future sales volume for the brand. Judging by what I have seen since this announcement, he’s got his work cut out for him.
My personal opinion is that this piece is not getting immediate love because it is simply not an embodiment of what people generally associate with AP. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it is just different; people rarely have a warm reaction to things (or people!) which are different. Contrast this with the Rolex GMT Master II release at Baselworld 2018 – this was the same watch people are used to seeing, just slightly updated from previous versions in terms of colours and metals. It was a raging success, and is now impossible to buy with waitlists up to 3 years long, commanding premiums over 100% in the resale market.
So I really feel inclined to commend AP on their appetite for risk. I for one don’t think they are getting credit for taking a leap of faith and trying something new. The watches aren’t unattractive as standalone pieces… they simply aren’t ‘traditional AP designs’ and that’s alright! There are many schools of thought on this topic, sure. Concepts like ‘brand identity’ and ‘heritage’ get thrown around… but I’d like to take a moment to appreciate the magnitude of this step by AP.
Right now, perhaps its all bad publicity and this all may lead to the watches being discontinued in the near future… but guess what, that’s actually a good reason to buy one! The Rolex Paul Newman Daytona which sold for $17.75 million dollars in 2017 happens to be a good piece of evidence to support my argument.
This Rolex Daytona was actually a slow moving product when it was released… difficult to sell and perceived to be unattractive at the time. As a result of this, very few were eventually produced, making it a rare piece today – and as the laws of supply and demand would dictate, it is now extremely valuable, and collectible. It is also perceived to be a highly attractive piece by most people… not sure if that is because it is so valuable, or because they genuinely think so… What drives our perceptions is another topic on its own.
I will end with this – I think the Code 11.59 is a superb release, backed by years of research and development that went into the new innovations suck as the double-curved crystal – AP should be proud of this piece, and whilst time will tell (no pun intended), I think this would be a good purchase either way… two things can happen: 1) it will be a flop, and they will stop making this design or 2) it will catch on, and become as famous as the Royal Oak… at which point you will be a pioneer of a new design era for AP. Since this initial run is only for 2000 pieces across all the variations, it isn’t exactly going to be a ‘common’ piece anyway…
What do you think? I shared the full Hodinkee article below for reference.
Introducing CODE 11.59 By Audemars Piguet
Meet CODE 11.59 by Audemars Piguet, an entirely new family of watches from the Le Brassus manufacture. This isn’t just the introduction of an evolution on previous models or even of a genuine novelty or two – no, it’s the addition of a whole new collection to AP’s line-up that will sit alongside the Royal Oak, Offshore, and Millenary collections (and others) for years to come. CODE 11.59 has been in the works for more than half a decade at this point, between movement R&D, case and dial design, and strategic decision-making, and represents a big step in terms of how Audemars Piguet sees its own future and the future of its customers.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of this launch for AP. The brand is most often associated with the longstanding Royal Oak and slightly-less-longstanding (but no less iconic) Offshore collections, and current leadership, under the direction of CEO François-Henry Bennahmias, felt it was important for Audemars Piguet to continue looking forward and thinking about what it’s next pillar could be. The result of this plan is CODE 11.59, a collection of 13 references across six models that are explicitly contemporary and focused on showing off what modern AP is capable of, while quietly nodding to important ideas and traditions from the company’s past. Bennahmias himself calls this “the biggest launch since 1972,” the year AP unveiled the first Royal Oak.
Alright, let’s get into it.
A Different Design Language
The CODE 11.59 watches utilize a genuinely new case architecture that really is unlike anything I’ve seen before. Looking at the watches from the front you might think, “What do you mean, they’re round?” – but turn them at an angle and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. The mid-case is an octagon, with a mix of brushed and polished finishes, and the open lugs are actually attached to the slim bezel that holds down the crystal. At the bottom, the lugs just rest against the case rather than being affixed. The result is a sense of tension and a look that reminds me of something like an avant garde suspension bridge. For the time being, these cases are only being made in precious metals (rose and white gold), though AP says that other materials are not out of the question for future releases.
Despite the mix of complications in the collection, all of the watches measure in at 41mm in diameter. Part of the idea here is that the watches are neither “men’s” watches or “women’s” watches, but rather watches that can be worn by anyone. Having tried on a few of the different configurations, I’d say that they wear close to a pretty true 41mm despite the oversized dials and are comfortable on the wrist.
Another key design trait is the unusual crystal. Because of the extremely thin bezel, the crystal is expansive and it’s also curved on two different radiuses. The first is a curve on the top of the crystal that goes from 12 o’clock to six o’clock. You can easily see this with the naked eye. The second is a bit harder to perceive, but it’s a slight doming curve underneath the crystal. If you want to see exactly what I’m talking about, go to around 3:36 in the video above. The resulting effect is that the entire dial is always clear and legible. You don’t exactly get a magnifying effect, but you do get a sharpness and clarity that’s immediately noticeable.
Now, underneath those crystals are the dials. There’s some variation here, but the general principles are the same across the collection. The dials are very open, with lots of negative space (QP aside, of course), and the Arabic numerals were drawn from a minute repeater in the company archives that dates to the 1940s. The time-and-date and chronograph models utilize glossy lacquer dials in white, black, and blue with large applied gold “Audemars Piguet” signatures at 12 o’clock. The flying tourbillon and Supersonnerie models feature enamel dials with enamel signatures and the perpetual calendar has an aventurine dial that really stands out from the others in the collection. Across the entire range, I’d describe the dials as bold and punchy, with an emphasis on clarity and simplicity.
Three New Calibers
With this new collection of watches comes a new collection of movements. And boy are they good, too. There are six total movements used across the 13 watches, and three of them are completely new and unique to CODE 11.59. Here’s a closer look at each.
Up first is the caliber 4302, an automatic time-and-date movement. The movement is relatively slim at 4.8mm top to bottom, comprised of 257 total components (including 32 jewels), runs at 4 Hz, and packs a 70-hour power reserve. It’s beautifully finished and has a solid gold winding rotor too. It will be interesting to see where else AP utilizes this movement and whether or not it starts to supplant the caliber 3120 in other collections over time.
Now this is the main event, people: an in-house, fully integrated, self-winding flyback chronograph movement with a column wheel and an instantaneously jumping date. The caliber 4401 is the movement that enthusiasts have been asking Audemars Piguet to make for years and it looks like the wait was worth it. In addition to the specs mentioned above, the movement has a 70-hour power reserve and an openworked gold rotor that lets you see the mechanism at work. I particularly love the way the levers line up at the top of the movement, all moving in sync when you actuate the chrono. It’s super cool in action.
Finally, rounding out the new movements, is the caliber 2950, an automatic flying tourbillon. The movement is comprised of 270 components (27 of which are jewels), has a 65-hour power reserve, and run at a beautiful 3 Hz (which looks much more elegant in a tourbillon than 4 Hz, in my opinion). Again, AP makes use of an openworked rotor that lets you admire the movement, though, as with most tourbillons, I think the front view is really what you want to enjoy most here.
Breaking Down The Collection
A few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to see a few of the CODE 11.59 models at the Audemars Piguet manufacture in Le Brassus, but not all of the final prototypes were ready. The live images you see here only represent part of the collection, so I thought it would be helpful to break the entire collection down, reference by reference, to make it a little easier to understand the breadth and depth of CODE 11.59 at launch.
Here is what the full 13-watch line-up looks like, complete with pricing:
Automatic With Red Gold Case And White Dial
Ref. 15210 OR.OO.A099CR.01
Automatic With Red Gold Case And Black Dial
Ref. 15210 OR.OO.A002CR.01
Automatic With White Gold Case And Blue Dial
Ref. 15210 BC.OO.A321CR.01
Automatic With Red Gold Case And Black Dial
Ref. 15210 BC.OO.A002CR.01
Selfwinding Chronograph With Red Gold Case And Blue Dial
Ref. 26393 OR.OO.A321CR.01
Selfwinding Chronograph With Red Gold Case And Black Dial
Ref. 26393 OR.OO.A002CR.01
Selfwinding Chronograph With White Gold Case And Blue Dial
Ref. 26393 BC.OO.A321CR.01
Selfwinding Chronograph With Red Gold Case And Black Dial
Ref. 26393 BC.OO.A002CR.01
Perpetual Calendar With Red Gold Case And Aventurine Dial
Ref. 26394 OR.OO.D321CR.01
Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon With White Gold Case And Smoked Blue Enamel Dial
Ref. 26396 BC.OO.D321CR.01
Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon With Red Gold Case And Black Enamel Dial
Ref. 26396 OR.OO.D002CR.01
Tourbillon Openworked With Red Gold Case
Ref. 26600 OR.OO.D002CR.01
Minute Repeater Supersonnerie With White Gold Case And Smoked Blue Enamel Dial
Ref. 26395 BC.OO.D321CR.01
Now, Audemars Piguet is only going to make 2,000 total pieces across these 13 references for the first year. The goal from there is to grow the portfolio and to scale up, with CODE 11.59 eventually representing 20% or more of AP’s total production if demand is there. That’s of course more than a few years away, but it’s an ambitious goal and shows how committed the brand is to its latest creation.
Here are a few more live photos of the automatic, chronograph, perpetual calendar, and flying tourbillon models:
Stay tuned for more coverage of CODE 11.59 by Audemars Piguet once SIHH gets fully under way, including in-depth looks at the models we have not yet seen in the metal.
For now, visit Audemars Piguet to learn more.
Here is a link to the original article.