The ultra-masculine Royal Oak is not a watch that can be worn by everyone, though in the 47 years since its introduction it’s attracted many admirers. Thus, when Audemars Piguet came to create an entirely new family of watches for men and women, the Swiss manufacture’s designers started off with a clean slate — more or less.
The results of their labours have just been unveiled at SIHH — and in perhaps typical AP fashion, you’ll either love them or hate them. Whatever your emotional response to their appearance, however, you’ll also find it hard not to be impressed once you’ve seen them in the flesh.
Named Code 1159 (the name combines the first letters of the words “challenge”, “own”, “dare” and “evolve”, plus the the time one minute before midnight), the new line at launch comprises 13 models, six in-house calibres and five complications, ranging from an automatic three-hander with date window to a minute repeater, a tourbillon and a perpetual calendar. All are housed in what appears to be a round case but which, on closer inspection is revealed to be an octagonal middle section (referencing, of course, the Royal Oak) sandwiched between two circles.
At each end the lugs are open worked, rather like flying buttresses, though with the lower end merely resting on the case side, and each major metallic surface carries a different finish. The finishing on the calibres — even the time-and-date model features a solid-gold rotor that’s visible through a case-back crystal — is equally impressive, and in every way worthy of the Audemars Piguet name.
So, yes, the mechanism and the complex 41mm case — which is available either in white or rose gold — are indeed things of beauty, but what’s mostly divided enthusiasts is the dial design, which in spite of its exquisite lacquering and raised, applied-gold Arabic numerals, hour markers and logo, has been criticised for appearing too generically simple, as if its design language were borrowed form countless cheap quartz watches found in inflight catalogues.
The numerals, which apparently reference those of a mid-20th-century minute repeater, are perhaps the most controversial feature (myself, I’m least wild about the date window at 4:30), though on the chronograph only the “12” appears, while the perpetual calendar has no large numbers at all. The latter, incidentally, features a stunning aventurine dial and looks plain gorgeous.
Whatever you make of the Code 1159’s radically different design, however, it represents the future for Audemars Piguet. And I have more than a sneaking suspicion that, in spite of the storm of negativity its release has occasioned, it will be seen in increasingly large numbers in years to come, proudly worn by those very same enthusiasts who are decrying it now.