It’s hard to make something new. It’s especially hard to make something new when you’re breaking away from nearly forty years of reliance on one of the most iconic designs in the history of watchmaking. Such is the weight on the shoulders of Audemars Piguet, who just unveiled a massive new modern collection called Code 11.59 designed to do just that. With six original new models split into 13 references, including three new movements, Code is, in a word, ambitious. But is it the watch that everyone’s been waiting for, and is it enough to create a future where AP is known for more than just Genta’s stainless steel masterpiece?
We’ve already talked about each of the new models: the Minute Repeater here, the skeletonized Tourbillon here, the Perpetual Calendar here, and the Self-Winding Flying Tourbillon model here. But the stakes are arguably higher for the standard three-hand and chronograph variants (which are also both 41mm watches, just like the aforementioned models), which will likely be the cornerstones of the collection. With these two watches, It’s hard to decide which is a bigger deal here: the entirely new case and on-trend dial aesthetic, or the the newly developed calibres – one of which happens to be the new in-house integrated chronograph movement that AP fans have long been begging for.
These days, it’s pretty rare when a new collection comes along that doesn’t reference either the competition, or a brand’s historical models. But the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 watches aren’t really either – for better and for worse. At best, the dial on the new three-hander is sleek and modern, with smooth lacquer punctuated by gold baton indices, applied 12-3-6-9 Arabic numerals – which look vaguely like those used on last year’s JLC Polaris we saw hands-on here – and a date aperture at 4:30. The chronograph is understandably busier, but feels as though it’s the most faithful to Audemars Piguet DNA, with modern numerals throughout, gold surrounds for the registers, and a sporty tachometer in lieu of the 60-minute chapter ring on the three-hand variant. At worst, neither dial design really challenges the viewer – they feel safe and trendy, and not the type of disruptive stuff that solidified AP in the pantheon of modern luxury watchmaking.
As mentioned, both watches are fitted with brand new movements: Calibre 4302 is deployed in the three-hand variant, which is a 4Hz movement with 70 hours of power reserve. That movement is actually in the same family as the real star of the show here: the new automatic Calibre 4401, which is the fully integrated, in-house manufactured chronograph that AP fans have long wished to be brought to the Royal Oak family. This column wheel-actuated flyback chronograph movement bears the same chronometric numbers as the 3-hand version (4Hz, 70 hours of reserve, instant date jump), but also has a skeletonized gold rotor granting the viewer a more expansive look at the movement.
Brand: Audemars Piguet
Model: Code 11.59 Self-Winding, Code 11.59 Self-Winding Chronograph
Dimensions: Both 41mm wide
Water Resistance: Not yet confirmed
Case Material: Red gold or white gold
Movement: Self-Winding: caliber 4302, Self-Winding Chronograph: caliber 4401
Frequency: Both 4Hz
Power Reserve: Both 70 hours
We weren’t alone in shying from the opinion that AP’s showings at SIHH for the last several years haven’t exactly been wildly original. Even Audemars Piguet themselves haven’t been afraid to admit that the brand must be recognized for more than just the Royal Oak. But what we didn’t know, was that Le Brassus has long been hard at work on a collection designed to prove to its fans and customers that it was more than a one-hit wonder.
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