Audemars Piguet: A Brand History
If watchmaking has an equivalent of Lennon and McCartney, it may be Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet.
The talented Swiss craftsmen from the Vallée de Joux were in their early twenties when they first met in 1874, founding their company a year later with the intention of creating watches equipped with complex mechanisms.
Audemars would produce the raw components for the timepieces, while Piguet was a repasseur (a master watchmaker who performs the final regulation on a watch). Like their rock ‘n’ roll counterparts, the pair had an independent streak and a desire to do things a little differently, which has led to numerous technical innovations over the past 138 years.
Based in the village of Le Brassus where their headquarters are still located, Audemars Piguet produced some of the world’s most complicated pieces before the dawn of the twentieth century, including many world firsts. In 1892, for example, they produced the first minute repeater wristwatch (a complication popular before artificial illumination that audibly ‘chimes’ the time down to the nearest minute at the press of a button).
In 1921 — at around the time they were producing luxury pieces rebranded for Tiffany & Co, Cartier, and Bvlgari — Audemars Piguet produced the first jumping hour watch (where the hour hand “jumps” to the next hour, rather than moving progressively). Four years later, they revealed the world’s thinnest pocket watch calibre, at just 1.32mm.
They developed the first skeleton watch in 1934, allowing all the intricate moving parts of the calibre to be seen beneath the dial. It’s a novelty that has been heavily imitated, but still mastered by AP today.
After producing the world’s thinnest watch in 1946 and their first wristwatch with a perpetual calendar in 1957, they launched one of the most iconic watch designs of all time in 1972: the Royal Oak.
Named after the tree that famously protected King Charles II from the Roundheads (and subsequently used as the name of eight separate Royal Navy Warships), the Royal Oak embodied AP’s independent mentality, as it was the first stainless steel high-end watch in an era when luxury pieces were generally only gold. Today, the collection is instantly recognisable, and aesthetically characterised by its Guilloché dial and octagonal bezel, secured with oversize screws.
In 1993, Audemars Piguet introduced a new sportier iteration of the collection, The Royal Oak Offshore. With a generous 42mm case, it was the world’s first oversized watch. It typically features up to 300m water resistance, anti-magnetic protection and rugged materials like carbon, rubber and scratch-resistant sapphire crystal glass.
Elsewhere, AP convey their timeless design flair and Haute Horlogorie roots with the Jules Audemars Collection. This elegant collection is distinguishable by beautiful round 18-carat rose gold cases, and complications such as day & date windows and power reserve indicators.
The Watch Gallery also offers Audemars Piguet’s captivating Millenary Collection, featuring neo-classical design, eye-catching oval-shaped cases and their superb self-winding calibre movement.
All collections are also available in ladies’ versions.
Whichever Audemars Piguet watch you choose, you can be assured it has been made by a small team, whose practises echo the values of their trailblazing founders. The lauded brand is still operated by members of the Audemars and Piguet families, making it one of very few manufactures to remain independent and family-run.
All watches are produced in-house using traditional old-fashioned hand-made techniques, meaning every piece is painstakingly created in a non-automated process.
If you seek a traditional Swiss watch from a traditional Swiss watchmaker, look no further than Audemars Piguet.