Audemars Piguet’s ground-breaking Universelle watch has 1,100 components and 40 functions

The Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Universelle took an army of designers, constructors, watchmakers and artisans seven years to develop. PHOTO: AUDEMARS PIGUET

GENEVA – Earlier this week, Audemars Piguet revealed to about 100 journalists and VIP clients a game-changing and ground-breaking timepiece at its sleek new high complications facility in Le Locle, Switzerland.

The Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Universelle took an army of designers, constructors, watchmakers and artisans seven years to develop. It has more than 1,100 components and 40 functions, including 23 complications and 17 special technical devices.

Despite its bounty of features, it is – unlike most grand complication watches – remarkably easy to read and handle.

The timepiece is just one of more than 20 new models and references that the luxury Swiss watchmaker rolled out at two locations – the Manufacture des Saignoles, its futuristic new manufacturing facility in the Swiss watchmaking cradle of Le Locle; and its headquarters in the picturesque village of Le Brassus in the Vallee de Joux.

The new releases – which include a sleek Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph made entirely from black ceramic and a white gold Royal Oak Jumbo Extra-Thin with a Tuscan dial – look set to further boost business for the brand, which reportedly earned more than two billion Swiss francs (S$2.9 billion) in revenue in 2022, up from about 1.6 billion Swiss francs in 2021.

Here are some of the red-hot pieces.

Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet UltraComplication Universelle

Audemars Piguet’s first ultra-complicated self-winding wristwatch, it boasts the Calibre 1000, a new creation which distils the brand’s horological savoir-faire into a single movement.

It is inspired by L’Universelle, the legendary ultra-complicated pocket watch the watchmaker unveiled in 1899.

A watch geek’s dream, it has a mind-boggling 23 complications – among them a Grande Sonnerie Supersonnerie, a minute repeater, a perpetual calendar and a flying tourbillon. Bent on striking the perfect balance between ergonomics and artistry, the team beavered away at designing functional correctors and crown-pushers so that navigating the functions is a cinch.

These features are placed on both sides of the 42mm case, which is 15.55mm thick. On the right side of the case, for instance, three crowns with coaxial pushers allow the wearer to wind the watch, set the time and date, and select the chiming mode (Grande Sonnerie, Petite Sonnerie or silence mode). Small discreetly carved symbols on the pushers and crowns indicate what their functions are.

The timepiece also has a “secret” gold caseback that amplifies the watch’s acoustic performance when worn and reveals the beauty of the mechanism – thanks to the new Supersonnerie sapphire soundboard – once it is opened.

Available in 18K white or pink gold, the Universelle comes in four variations – two of which feature an architectural dial showcasing the movement’s intricacies. The models are fitted with an alligator strap and come with an additional rubber-coated calfskin strap.

Price: On request

Royal Oak Concept Split-Seconds Chronograph GMT Large Date 

Royal Oak Concept Split-Seconds Chronograph GMT Large Date. PHOTO: Audemars Piguet

The Royal Oak was launched in 1972 and the Offshore in 1993 as an anniversary celebration. Then came the Royal Oak Concept in 2002, conceived as a platform for the brand to experiment with futuristic watchmaking.

The release of this self-winding split-seconds flyback chronograph signifies a new chapter for the Royal Oak Concept.

The three-dimensional and slightly curved 43mm case – which offers an intriguing study of texture and light, thanks to a combination of satin-brushed, polished and sandblasted surfaces – is fashioned from sandblasted titanium. The watch also comes with an interchangeable strap, a first in the collection.

Powering it is the cutting-edge Calibre 4407 with its intricate engineering – which combines flyback chronograph, split seconds, GMT function and large date – highlighted through the open-worked dial. It is fitted with a black and grey rubber strap with titanium Audemars Piguet folding clasp and comes with an additional black rubber strap.

Price: $243,800

Code 11.59 By Audemars Piguet In Stainless Steel

Code 11.59 In Stainless Steel. PHOTO: AUDEMARS PIGUET

When Audemars Piguet first launched the 11.59 collection four years ago, reactions were mixed, with many criticising the design as insipid. But thanks to artful tweaks, the model has grown on watch fans.

To make it an even more attractive proposition, the watchmaker has released six new 41mm models of the 11.59 in steel. Previous references were primarily in 18K white or pink gold.

Four of the new models – available either as a three-hander or chronograph – come entirely in steel, while the other two have a black ceramic case middle with a steel bezel, lugs and caseback.

The plain dial of previous references has given way to a new stamped dial – in blue, green or “smoked beige” – featuring concentric circles and a ripple pattern. The watchmaker collaborated with Swiss guilloche craftsman Yann von Kaenel on the motif. To make it even more striking, the blue and green dial is coloured by PVD (physical vapour deposition) and the beige one with a galvanic process.

The three-hander models are fitted with the Calibre 4302, and the chronos with the Calibre 4401. Both movements are equipped with a patented mechanism that provides stability and precision when setting the watch.

Price: $36,900 to $54,500

Royal Oak Self Winding 37mm Turquoise Dial

Royal Oak Self Winding 37mm Turquoise Dial. PHOTO: AUDEMARS PIGUET

This stunner features a beautiful turquoise dial, a throwback to the 1970s and 1980s when stone dials were not uncommon in Audemars Piguet watches. The blue-green stone comes from Mexico and each dial is cut, ground, sandblasted and polished to an overall thickness of just 0.75mm. Since the composition and texture of each stone is different, every dial is unique.

Encasing it with yellow gold – this is the first 37mm Royal Oak fashioned from the precious metal since 2018 – works like a charm, highlighting the stone’s brilliant hue. The watch is fitted with the latest self-winding Calibre 5900, which has a 60-hour power reserve and made its debut on several 37mm models in 2022.

Price: $89,600

Royal Oak Offshore Self Winding Chronograph In Black Ceramic

Royal Oak Offshore Self Winding Chronograph In Black Ceramic. PHOTO: AUDEMARS PIGUET

This is Audemars Piguet’s first Offshore model fashioned entirely from ceramic – from the case and bracelet to the crown and pusher. The 42mm watch is a dramatic piece, thanks to its striking monochromatic appearance. The only contrast comes from the eight white-gold screws on the case and bezel.

Like the original Offshore, the pitch-black dial is decorated with the Petite Tapisserie pattern, previously used only in self-winding chronograph models in gold or titanium. The watch – which is 15.4mm thick – is powered by the Calibre 4404, an integrated chronograph movement with a column wheel, flyback function and power reserve of 70 hours.

Price: $122,900

Royal Oak Jumbo Extra Thin

Royal Oak Jumbo Extra Thin. PHOTO: AUDEMARS PIGUET

One word kept cropping up when this watch was unveiled: Tuscan. It is a reference to the Tuscan dial with a hand-hammered finish and dark blue hue – which used to be a feature of some Royal Oaks 30 years ago.

The dial of this new 18K white-gold Royal Oak Jumbo Extra Thin is beautifully granular, boasting an alluring sparkling blue hue thanks to the PVD treatment.

The heart beating in this head-turner – with a diameter of 31mm and a height of 8.1mm – is the Cal 7121, which has a power reserve of 55 hours.

Price: $114,200

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