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, 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.
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. No less than six in-house calibers, three of them new, are integrated into the 13 new models that make up the collection.
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. We’ll let the readers make up their minds, but our pick of the collection is the Code 11.59 Perpetual Calendar, which AP describes as “an astronomical watch par excellence”.
The watch 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. This watch is a limited edition of 100 pieces and is priced at $74,500.