Providing time is one of Audemars Piguet’s two businesses. The other is crafting timeless watches meant to last a lifetime.
The Swiss may utter many names to boast of its watchmaking culture, but few match the classiness and the rarity of an Audemars Piguet. Besides the hefty price tag—a single watch can cost $50,000—the firm maintains such high stature by being firm on its decision not to be swayed by the changing times. A watch worth having for the rest of one’s life is not something that should be rushed to keep up with a schedule, or the firm so believes. It should be done meticulously, and in all aspects including design and technology. The conscious effort exerted in a single timepiece justifies the cost, and rightly so.
Destined to make great watches
Many Swiss watchmakers have long histories behind them, Audemars Piguet among those ranks. It is not in any way the oldest, with its one and a half century considerably a short time compared to other labels, but even then, it has mastered the art that is a prerequisite to put forth a masterpiece. It also uses to its advantage the independence it has gained from being a firm chiefly managed within the Audemars and the Piguet families; they can be as thorough and bold as they want to be.
Keeping it within the family is a point of pride for the company as the obsession to make everything right is still respected by both sides. This might be because the founders, Vallée de Joux locals Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet also came from a long line of horologists themselves before forming Audemars Piguet together. The valley where the firm has its roots is also renowned for its rich watchmaking culture. Although watchmaking sprung out of necessity during the hard winters in order for locals to make a living, it has indisputably became a training ground for plenty of the country’s most coveted watch makers.
Audemars Piguet flagship store in Des Voeux Rd Central, Hongkong. Nadir Keklik
Exclusive timepieces, then and now
Audemars Piguet sees to it that every watch it releases fuses art and technical mastery, but before 1951, the process was more arduous as each item is unique and handcrafted. It was only during the latter half of the last century that timepieces were produced by following specific styles, but this does not take away the fact that each watch from Audemars Piguet is special. They are still made by hand, and are kept within designs that have not changed for decades. What’s more, production is limited to 36,000 pieces each year, or about 100 a day. To the firm, this “exclusivity” is a competitive edge that allows them to focus on quality and prize their relationships with clients. Producing more watches is not a priority nor is it true to the company spirit.
It only follows that the process of making a watch is time-consuming, with a specialist spending an hour on a single, tiny part alone. The servicing for a watch can last from one to two months, but the company asks for a client’s patience as they are investing on something to last many decades, if not a lifetime. The materials behind the watch is guaranteed to have a long shelf life as Audemars Piguet steers away from unreliable components.
You’ll realize that the firm really lives by its reputation of exclusivity when it maintains that its pieces should be bought in person, which means that you have to go to one of its boutiques. Despite most of the competition leveraging the connectivity and accessibility the Internet affords, Audemars Piguet does its selling the old-fashioned way with a promise of an exceptional customer experience.
Man wearing an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watch before Salvatore Ferragamo fashion show during Milan Fashion Week in September of 2016. andersphoto
The Royal among the already regal
Audemars Piguet may be a recognized luxury brand, but the mention of the name conjures to mind the Royal Oak—the very first steel luxury sports watch. Besides its premium design, the Royal Oak is well-known for being designed for Audemars Piguet by revered jewelry and watch designer, Gérald Genta.
The Royal Oak is distinct in its octagon shape, a feature that has remained even in the updates of the last three decades, with the Royal Oak Offshore in 1993 and the Royal Oak Offshore Diver in 2013. Genta was inspired by a diver wearing an old helmet that had eight screws on it while attached it to a suit. He drew the design right after and went to Audemars Piguet to present the idea, and the rest is history.
Genta may have lent his eye for design to other Swiss luxury brands, but the Royal Oak is arguably the most famous of his before he went on to start his own line of timepieces. It was a great win for Audemars Piguet too, establishing the brand as among the top collectible luxury watches.
Audemars Piguet – Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked
Ultimate goal: timelessness
Audemars Piguet may be the weird one out in a world where brands are trying to one up each other, but in some ways it is also the winner. Not only does it have complete control over the direction of the brand by keeping it within family, it also isn’t forced to compromise style for the sake of fleeting fashion. The company’s approach may not be preferable for all, but that is the point—Audemars Piguet is not for just anyone.
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A working clock made of flower beds created and designed by clockmaker Audemars Piguet gleaming in the sun in the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. Thomas Feige