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The Prince 
On November 4, 2002
In a small country influenced by France, Germany, and Italy, Audemars Piguet alone of the great houses of Swiss
It was there in December of 1881 that the collaboration of Jules Audemars, a maker of ebauches and complications, and his friend Edward
In the past, arguments of “Who is the King of Watchmaking?” would have been fought between Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe. Audemars Piguet stood alone beyond the contest between Geneva’s best — the eternal Dauphin of Switzerland. With Patek Philippe and A. Lange & Sohne now fighting for the crown, the Prince of watchmaking houses forges on to the beat of its own drum — as it has for well over a century.
This year AP celebrates this long history of audacious innovation and design with 125 unique watches — one for each year since the beginning of the collaboration between Audemars and Piguet in 1875: 125 ans
The validity of Audemars Piguet’s self-adopted title “Manufacture
Audemars Piguet’s status as a “manufacture” lies primarily upon its haute horlogerie models. The “in-house” movements designed by wholly-owned AP subsidiary Renaud et Papi include a Tourbillon Minute Repeater
Audemars Piguet may not be a “manufacture” to the extent that some would have it, but their choice of ebauches include some of the finest offerings of
The first of a trilogy designed by Gerald Genta, the Royal Oak was a gamble that paid off for a then
Unlike the standard Royal Oak, the oversized “Offshore” models do not use a monocoque case. Instead there are separate sets of screws for bezel and back. As always in AP’s “sportsman” watches, a number of different complications beyond the original chronograph are used throughout the line. A special edition in black with yellow numerals and a velcro strap was used by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the recent film End of Days.
The best news recently released by AP is the imminent return of the classic “Jumbo” Royal Oak. This wider, thinner version will be fitted with ultrathin calibre 2121, a variant of 2120 with date
The Royal Oaks presently form 45% of AP’s 15,000 watch (approx.) annual production.
Perhaps due to the background of its namesake, the Jules Audemars collection is one of the most interesting lines in any brand’s portfolio. While lacking the consciously implemented breadth of Blancpain’s
This series was also the first to see AP begin the transition from the earlier 21,600 vph 33 jewel calibre
First introduced in 1996, the Millenary collection is one of the youngest members of the Audemars Piguet family, and I think it shows the greatest Italian influence. The curvature of the case slightly
The limited edition (80 pieces) perpetual calendar shown above was created in 1998 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Classique Perpetual Calendar — the first ultrathin automatic perpetual calendar produced by AP. It displays a wonderful symmetry with its rarely-seen pointer moonphase
Like many brands with diverse offerings, AP has a few lines that are relatively unknown. The Edward Piguet collection, which as a counterpart to the Jules Audemars line is also named after one of the founders of AP, features watches in cambered rectangular cases. The offerings include everything from simple automatics to a unique handwound tourbilon (shown). Of particular interest is a rare perpetual calendar based on
Even less well known than the “Masterpiece” line of its Le Brassus neighbor, is AP’s small Classique collection. Based exclusively on ultrathin movements, they are the most elegant showcase for AP’s hand-wound calibre 2003 and automatic 2120 (shown above). Very simple, refined, and expensive. Like AP’s haute complicated watches, these best exemplify the spirit in which Audemars Piguet was founded.
Le Manufacture d’Haute Horlogerie Audemars Piguet will probably never be considered the greatest in the world, or even of Switzerland. Its vision is too unique and too little understood. Amongst wristwatch connoisseurs it is either loved or hated, and to the populace at large it is unknown. But for those of us who cherish daring design and technical innovation, there can be no substitute — even after 125 years.
Grande Complication and Jules Audemars Tourbillon by Rob Cook
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