Featuring a host of archival references from the 1940s, Audemars Piguet’s latest novelty, the [Re]master01 Selfwinding Chronograph, is the first remastering project that brings forward the manufacture’s creativity during the transitional World War II era.
Preceded by the Art Deco movement and the gradual discontinuation of the monopusher chronograph, watches of the 1940s were often born out of necessity as military supplies. With its utilitarian ability to measure time and speed, the chronograph became increasingly popular.
However, not all were created for the military. There were those that were created as a means of a spiritual escape. Audemars Piguet’s Ref 1533 from 1943, which the [Re]master01 Selfwinding Chronograph is based on, was one such rare example. Among the most sought after, the manufacture’s vintage chronographs are scarcely found, with only 307 units produced between the 1930s and 1950s. At the time, Audemars Piguet was not a series watch producer that it is presently. Prior to 1951, every watch sold was a unique piece, which explains why information on these watches is hard to come by. More often than not, it is accompanied by beguiling tales of past owners to add an incredible backstory to an otherwise little-known watch.
Details of these vintage Audemars Piguet chronographs are so scant that to learn more about them, enthusiasts have to wait for the rare references that sporadically appear at Phillips auction house. On 7 Nov 2015, a pink gold and stainless steel encased Ref 1533 made in 1941 with a rose champagne dial went under the hammer in Geneva for 305,000 Swiss francs (S$447,843). It is said that only three Ref 1533 pieces boasting such a stainless steel and gold case design were made in 1941 and subsequently sold in 1943. Only one had a rose champagne dial.
During World War II, when the Ref 1533 was made, chronograph wristwatches accounted for just under one-tenth of the manufacture’s total output volume. The 36mm dual-tone case was considered larger than average especially when its peers were measuring between 31mm and 34mm. Today, however, 36mm is deemed too small a diameter for chronographs.
“There were many inspiring watches within our heritage collection that could have been the basis for this remastering project. The entire team unanimously decided on this chronograph wristwatch because of the specific aesthetic and emotional connections we all felt for this echo of the past,” Michael Friedman, Audemars Piguet’s head of complications, reveals the collective decision to recapture the spirit of the Ref 1533.
Examining the Audemars Piguet [Re]master01 Selfwinding Chronograph’s exteriors, it is apparent that the DNA of the Ref 1533 is well preserved, despite it not being a “historic reissue”. Friedman asserts that the timepiece “is a contemporary remastering of one of our past creations”. The new flyback chronograph features a round case and teardrop- like lugs in stainless steel, enhanced by a bezel, olive-shaped pushers and chamfered crown in 18k pink gold, not unlike that of the Ref 1533. The hand-polished case is further complemented by a satin-brushed gold-toned dial (a departure from the aforementioned Ref 1533 with a rose champagne dial) enriched with black-transferred hour markers, pink gold hour, minute and seconds hands, blue chronograph hands and a blue-transferred tachymetre scale.
Furthermore, the new watch has inherited the Ref 1533’s 4/5 indication, which sits above the 15-minute marker inside the 30-minute counter at 9 o’clock, allowing the wearer to record up to 45 minutes. This indication can be attributed to Audemars Piguet’s third-generation family-founder Jacques-Louis Audemars (1910-2003), who was an ardent soccer fan, and the 45th minute points towards the sport’s half-time.
While the original dial design bearing the Art Deco-inspired fonts and the signature Audemars Piguet & Co Genève has been retained, the layout of the subdials has been altered and the case enlarged to 40mm for improved legibility, as well as to house an automatic in-house integrated chronograph movement with column wheel, flyback function and 70 hours of power reserve. The Ref 1533’s movement is decidedly manual-wound as the automatic chronograph movement wasn’t invented until 1969.
Unlike the Ref 1533, which has a closed caseback, the [Re]master01 Selfwinding Chronograph’s manufacture calibre 4409 is revealed through a transparent caseback. The movement is fitted with a 22k pink gold rotor with a Clous de Paris motif. Paired with a light brown hand-stitched calfskin strap to accentuate the elegant colours of the watch, the [Re]master01 Selfwinding Chronograph is also delivered with an additional dark brown alligator strap and limited to 500 pieces.