Spotlight on India’s luxury watches

Audemars Piguet cracks the code

Michael Friedman, Head of Complications at Audemars Piguet, on pushing design boundaries with two new timepieces

Since its inception in 1875, Audemars Piguet (AP) has been associated with many firsts. The Swiss watch brand developed the world’s first wristwatch minute-repeater movement, the first perpetual calendar watch with leap year display, and the first luxury sports watch in stainless steel.

Now, to contemporarise its oeuvre, AP has launched Code 11.59. Over five years in the making, the six-model family of watches was introduced earlier this year at Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva. Available at its stand-alone boutiques globally, this collection combines AP’s artistry with contemporary design and new technologies. Interestingly, the brand uses the name as an acronym to present the watch: Challenge, Own, Dare, Evolve. The numbers represent the last minute of each day.

Audemars Piguet cracks the code

Complex equation

The watch has the familiar octagonal case, embedded within a round one. The double-curved crystal is an optical play on light and depth. A chemical process called galvanic growth, similar to 3D printing, has been used to create the AP signature, then placed by hand on the dial. “This collection has brought an entirely new audience to Audemars Piguet while offering existing clients a powerful alternative to our existing collections. We have seen immense energy from younger clients and those that are young at heart,” says Michael Friedman, Head of Complications at Audemars Piguet. He adds that only a handful of people in the company are currently qualified for the hand-finishing of the case and the construction of the bezel with the attached openwork lugs.

What women want

This complexity is also visible in Sapphire Orbe, the latest addition to the brand’s high jewellery collection. Studded with diamonds and sapphires in six graded shades of blue and orange, the watch is named after the river that crosses Le Brassus, AP’s home in the Vallée de Joux, Switzerland. Previously, the region’s winter landscape had inspired the edgy Diamond trilogy collection.

Audemars Piguet cracks the code

The made-to-order Sapphire Orbe features 12,103 stones, “each rigorously selected, individually cut and set by hand”. It took roughly 1,050 hours to gem-set the piece, he adds. The design includes five petal-shaped rings and a sapphire-set globe in the centre. When inverted, it reveals a watch that houses a tiny quartz calibre. “Due to the 2cm spherical case that holds the secret watch, we needed an extremely small calibre with great reliability, hence the choice of a quartz calibre,” informs Friedman.

Women have emerged as a sizeable chunk in the watch buying segment. Same holds true for AP. “We have seen growth of women buyers throughout our markets as well as increased engagement with women at our events and cultural activations. In some markets, 30% of our sales are to women,” he adds. Trends also indicate a growing interest among women for complicated, mechanical watches. Friedman asserts that the brand has been producing mechanical watches with and without complications for women since its origin. He adds, “We definitely amplified this in Code 11.59, which has been designed to fit comfortably and ergonomically on both men and women.” Last year, it also introduced the first Royal Oak Concept model (featuring flying tourbillon) for women since the collection’s origin in 2002.

Audemars Piguet cracks the code

The India connect

Though it hasn’t set up a stand-alone store in India yet, Friedman sees the country as a growing market for the brand. “The watch aficionados and collector’s community from India is great. There are some amazing vintage and classic Audemars Piguet watches in India. Our presence there is important mainly because of the passion and the interest of Indians in the brand,” he says. Today, AP remains one of the few independent family-owned businesses. This has many advantages, says Friedman. “The culture of the company and the relationships we create are an expression of the family spirit. We create watches that are exclusive and often hard to acquire, however, the spirit and energy of the company is inclusive.”

Audemars Piguet watches are approximately ₹11.5 lakhs and upwards

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 3:10:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/luxury/audemars-piguet-cracks-the-code/article27931297.ece

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