Every year at SIHH, it seems the attending watch media comes in with the same two nagging questions about Audemars Piguet: Is the brand ever going to expand its scope beyond its mega-popular and emblematic Royal Oak collections (and accept that its Millenary and Jules Audemars are niche products at best)? And is it ever going to debut a watch with a fully in-house-manufactured, integrated chronograph caliber? Well, this year (coincidentally or not, its last year for the foreseeable future as an exhibiting brand at SIHH) AP answered both of those questions in the affirmative with the much-discussed launch of an entirely new collection, called Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet.
Reactions, you may have heard, were mixed. It seemed every watch industry analyst and tastemaker had a strong opinion on the new family and many were not shy about expressing it online and across social media. Here at WatchTime, we like to let our readers — the most knowledgeable in the world, in our humble collective opinion — make their own judgements, and if we’re doing our jobs as reporters those judgements will be as well-informed as possible. Without further ado, here’s a comprehensive look at Code 11.59, ascending in complexity from your basic three-hand to a haute-de-gamme minute repeater.
Code 11.59 takes its name from the minute before midnight, an allusion to the anticipation of a new day, and by extension an embrace of the future. With this collection, Audemars Piguet chose to embrace that future at least partly by channeling the most successful design innovation of its past, namely the octagonal shaped bezel that has defined the Royal Oak collection since its debut in 1972. Here the octagon is used for the case middle, while round shapes are used for the bezel and caseback. The other defining aesthetic feature of the Code 11:59 case are the new open-design lugs, the upper segments of which are welded to the round bezel, while the lower segments lean into the caseback.
The sapphire crystals over the dials are also noteworthy, featuring a new, “double curved” profile: the internal surface is dome shaped, while the external surface is curved vertically from 6 to 12 o’clock — a concave/convex optical design that AP says will enhance the dial’s details. Extending from edge to edge of the very thin bezel, the crystals are finished off with polished chamfered edges. On the dials is another new feature: a raised 3D logo, made of thin layers of gold in a chemical process called galvanic growth, with each letter of the logo connected by a hair-thin link. No less than six in-house calibers, three of them new, are integrated into the 13 new models that make up the collection. We will likely take a deeper dive into most of these models in the coming weeks and months, but here is an overview of all 13.
The Code 11.59 Selfwinding (four references, two in rose gold, with either white or black lacquered dials; two in white gold with blue or black lacquered dials) is in a 41-mm-diameter case with a simple three-hand time display with a date window at 4:30. The curved Arabic hour numerals and indices are made of the same gold as the cases, and the dial is surrounded by an outer minutes/seconds scale with Arabic numerals at the 5-minute markers. This watch is powered by the automatic Caliber 4302, with 32 jewels, a 28,800-vph frequency, and a 70-hour power reserve.
The Selfwinding Chronograph features, for the first time in large-scale production, what so many AP fans have been waiting for: a fully in-house-made chronograph movement. (The very limited Royal Oak Concept Laptimer from 2015, in fact, hosted an AP in-house chronograph caliber, though only 221 of these were made.) Caliber 4401, equipped with a flyback function and an instantaneously jumping date mechanism and boasting the same 28,800-vph frequency and 70-hour power reserve as its little brother in the three-hand models. Its sapphire exhibition caseback reveals the movement and its new 22k gold openworked rotor. Four variations are also available here, each outfitted with a lacquered three-register dial with 12-hour counter at 3 o’clock, 30-minute counter at 9 o’clock, running seconds at 6 o’clock, and a 4:30 date window: two in rose gold with blue or black dial, two in white gold with blue or black dial. All the watches come on hand-stitched, color-coordinated alligator straps with a gold pin buckle to match the case material.
The Code 11.59 Perpetual Calendar, which AP describes as “an astronomical watch par excellence,” garners instant attention with its dark blue aventurine dial that channels the look of a starlit night sky. Its perpetual calendar displays are on prominent subdials at 9 o’clock (day), 12 o’clock (month and leap-year), and 3 o’clock (date), along with an astronomical moon-phase indication at 6 o’clock and, as a bonus, a week-of-the-year indication on a numbered 1-52 chapter ring surrounding the dial. Inside a 41-mm case of 18k rose gold beats the self-winding manufacture caliber 5134, the same movement that drives the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar introduced a few years back.
Two case materials, white gold and rose gold, and two dials, smoked blue and black grand feu enamel, are offered for the Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon model, equipped with the all-new Caliber 2950, which is the first movement made by AP that combines a central rotor with a flying tourbillon mechanism. Haute horlogerie decorations abound on the movement, including côtes de Genève, snailing, and hand-polished bevels, plus an openworked rotor made from the same gold as the case, which remains at the same relatively modest 41-mm dimensions as its less complicated brethren in the collection. This movement, as with the rest, on display through the clear caseback, beats at 21,600 vph and stores a 65-hour power reserve.
The other tourbillon timepiece in the 11.59 series, the Tourbillon Openworked, is also a skeleton and features the openworked, manual-wound Caliber 2948 housed in a 41-mm rose gold case. The new caliber’s notable attributes include its black-coated, skeletonized mainplate, gold-toned balance wheel, and 70 — 70! — hand-polished V-shaped angles for an eye-catching 3D effect. Stripped down to a relatively paltry 196 parts for such a complex mechanism, the movement stores 80 hours of power and comes in at an impressive thinness of just 4.97 mm.
Completing the collection at the pinnacle of high horology is the Minute Repeater Supersonnerie, in an 18k white gold case (you guessed it, still 41 mm in diameter) and a smoked blue enamel dial whose relative simplicity (just central hours and minutes and small seconds at 6 o’clock) belies its inner complexity. Inside is the manufacture Caliber 2953, which made its debut in the first Supersonnerie watch and which we explore in detail here. The movement’s painstakingly researched and exhaustively tested repeater mechanism (the result of eight years of R&D) uses gongs are attached to a purpose-built copper-alloy “sound board” plate, positioned between the movement and the mainplate, for an exceptionally clear chiming of the time.
Audemars Piguet has, as is obvious by the breadth and versatility of this lineup, put quite a bit of effort and staked quite a bit of cred on the release of the Code 11.59 collection later this year. As always, the market will determine its ultimate success. And it’s not like the Royal Oak wasn’t just a tad controversial back in its embryonic days as well, right? Feel free to share your own thoughts on the collection in the comments section below.