An Echo of the Past: With its [Re]master01 Selfwinding Chronograph, Audemars Piguet takes a look back into the past – and simultaneously allows for more freedom in the future.
The Russian-French world chess champion Alexander Aljechin (1892-1946) is credited with having said: “With the help of chess, I shaped my character. The game of chess teaches you to be objective. You can only become a grand master if you become aware of your mistakes and failings – isn’t that just like in life?”
That said, one thing is for sure: in the watch world, Aljechin’s highly valued objectivity does not always apply. Audemars Piguet is a brand that experienced this for itself last year when presenting its Code 11.59 collection, which, well, was not particularly well-received. Rather, it caused a fair amount of controversy, and emotions ran high.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Audemars Piguet CEO François-Henry Bennahmias is a self-assured strategist, who is well aware that his brand has been dominated by the vast Royal Oak line for quite a while now. It was for this reason that he resolved to extend the horology house’s range of timepieces. Looking for an Audemars Piguet watch with round case has long proved difficult. This brings us to the introduction of the brand’s latest model: the new, limited edition automatic chronograph [Re]master01.
The new Audemars Piguet [Re]master01 has an unmistakable air of self-assuredness and confidence and is inspired by model 1533 from 1943. However, Audemars Piguet had no intention of simply copying and reproducing it. Naturally, the brand is aware that vintage-style models are enjoying a wave of popularity at the moment, but at the same time, using the likes of faux patina can lead to criticism. Moreover, it tends to leave the model stuck in the past.
And that is something that never proved a success for any brand, including within the tradition-orientated watchmaking industry. Instead, the likeness between the [Re]master01 and the model 1533, with its short, ‘tear-shaped’ lugs, is unmistakable, and yet in many ways it is a new Audemars Piguet, a watch for the 21st century. Not a re-edition, but a re-mastering.
The Audemars Piguet Way
Audemars Piguet could easily have played it safe when designing the watch in Le Brassus: create a vintage-style chronograph in stainless steel or white gold – it would have been a crowd-pleaser, even for ardent Royal Oak fans.
Instead, the Audemars Piguet [Re]master01 Selfwinding Chronograph Ref. 26595SR.OO.A032VE.01 seems to have literally been made to polarize people. Limiting it to 500 pieces means the model will be rare, and emphasises that it isn’t there to be liked by everyone. Just take a look at the unusual case made in both stainless-steel and rose gold – it stays true to its historical role model, and the combination of the two colours is very well executed. Despite this, bicolour is not something that people associate with watches from the 1940s. However, in reality they existed even before the 1940s.
Using the word ‘blame’ in reference to an outstandingly successful model such as the Royal Oak would undoubtedly be unfair, but the popularity of the Royal Oak, in all its variants, naturally contributes to the fact that the great history of Audemars Piguet before 1972 – when the model was first presented – is somewhat pushed into the background.
The first 100 years of history in timekeeping and chronographs from the first half of the 20th century is something that probably only the most avid fans of Audemars Piguet remember. This is not surprising, bearing in mind that according to the manufacture, only 307 pieces were produced between the 1930s and the 1950s – of which not a single one is identical to another. Model 1533, for example, was very similar to two other models, but its exact configuration, featuring a rose champagne dial, can only be found in Audemars Piguet’s heritage collection.
There are several crucial differences between the inspiration model 1533 and the contemporary [Re]master01. Firstly, the case diameter has been increased from 36 to 40 millimetres – which, compared to most other chronographs currently on the market, is still quite dainty. Yet, 39 to 40 millimetres is considered the perfect size for men and women alike.
Furthermore, the height of the watch has been increased to 14.6 millimetres due to the second major difference: instead of a manual-wound movement, the [Re]master01 is powered by the new in-house automatic chronograph calibre 4409 with a column wheel and flyback function that offers a power reserve of 70 hours. That said, the chronograph of the Code 11.59 series – equipped with a near-identical calibre as well as a date function – is still two millimetres narrower.
Nevertheless, the round, pebble-like surface feel and proportions of the Audemars Piguet [Re]master01 Selfwinding Chronograph are extremely well done. Last but not least, one should not forget to note the [Re]master01’s differently positioned subdials.
There is something in particular that draws attention to the extraordinary quality of this new, historically appealing Audemars Piguet watch: the perfection with which they executed this model, by using horological elements from the 21st century.
Instead of awkwardly pretending that this watch is centuries old, it showcases traditional colours in a very modern fashion. The dial is certainly worth taking a closer look at in person – as is often the case with highly sophisticated timepieces, images struggle to relay the real magic and charm of the design. The colour of the Audemars Piguet [Re]master01 dial lies (depending on the lighting) somewhere between vintage champagne and a fresh bottle of rosé. Meanwhile, the blued hands appear little garish and the bicolour more 1980s then Art Déco on some press images, however in reality, the colour combination achieves perfect harmony.
Another charming aspect inspired by the model 1533 is the historical typography used for the lettering of ‘Audemars Piguet & Co. Genève’. The manufacture itself has always been based in Le Brassus, but it used to have an additional atelier in Geneva, as in those days, the city was considered an important international hotspot for manufactures and collectors alike.
Equally aesthetically appealing is the view through the crystal glass from the caseback into the watch: the calibre 4409’s measurements perfectly fits the 40 mm case. Flaunting a semi-matt brushed oscillating weight with Clous de Paris finishing and Geneva stripes, the movement is as eye-catching as the watch itself. Checkmate for the watch’s competition?
When playing the game of being one of the most prestigious manufactures in the world, it is important to keep competition in sight: what are competitors up to, and what are they offering? Fortunately, the Audemars Piguet [Re]master01 Selfwinding Chronograph undoubtedly offers something entirely new. The 1815 chronograph by A. Lange & Söhne, priced at 53,600 euros, has a detailed, hand-finished and manually wound movement that has received high praise, but its design is decidedly rooted in the past.
The Historiques Cornes de Vache 1955, priced at 57,500 euros from Vacheron Constantin, might well look back into the past, yet it has a manually wound chronograph movement. Meanwhile, the Patek Philippe Reference 5172, costing 66,320 euros, is also manually wound. The latter isn’t shy to pick up historic design codes, however in its overall appearance, it is a completely new, modern, independent Patek – and still a world away from Audemars Piguet’s own design concept. With its automatic movement and different design approach, the limited [Re]master01, at 53,500 euros, remains quite unique.
Audemars Piguet has without doubt created an impressive, one-of-a-kind watch. The name of it might seem a little too factual, but the ‘01’ implies that the brand plans to continue down the ‘remastering’ path and consider different executions in the future. In an industry that is often somewhat too cautious when creating detailed re-editions, Audemars Piguet has proven its confidence and faith in the here and now.
The model constituting a potential [Re]Master collection serves as a reminder that Audemars Piguet has been making watches in Le Brassus since 1875 and has an impressive history. Die-hard vintage collectors might not want to get familiar with this model simply because it is so new. However, others will understand the [Re]master01 is a statement and piece of art at the same time. As a timepiece that simultaneously demonstrates Audemars Piguet’s heritage as well as its horological ability in 2020, many will fall for this watch, which is only vintage-looking at first glance, but, in reality, has much more depth.
The 500 “Boutique Exclusive” pieces of this rare chronograph reinterpretation will likely sell fast. As popular as originals might be, art of all kinds – music, films, even paintings – are sometimes surpassed by new interpretations.
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