As soon as we saw the first pictures that were leaked of the new CODE 11.59 by Audemars Piguet collection, we decided to respectfully wait until we saw the watches in the metal before we could pass any judgement. While our first impressions based on those pictures were not positive, the right thing to do for WCL was to wait for the dust to settle and not comment on anything until we had perused the new watches long enough to provide an unbiased point of view and our honest impressions.
Even though the name seemed a little gimmicky at first —with the use of an acronym and a set of numbers following it— and not very typical of a brand like Audemars Piguet, that is not a major pitfall. Per Audemars Piguet CODE stands for Challenge, Own, Dare and Evolve. In the words of Jasmine Audemars, Chairwoman of Audemars Piguet’s Board of Directors: “At Audemars Piguet, we constantly challenge ourselves to push the limits of craftsmanship. Endowed with a strong spirit of independence, we proudly own our roots and territory, daring to combine precision and creativity. Faithful to our legacy, we continue to evolve by preserving and rewriting traditions. 11.59 is ahead of the game, constantly on the brink of tomorrow.”
The Overall Design
Perhaps our biggest issue here is that while the intricate design and AP finishes are present, these got blurred by the strong resemblance —at least when looking at the front of the watch and the side of the lugs— of the CODE 11.59 to the Montblanc Timewalker. Additionally, the Arabic numerals on the dial of the Date model are somewhat similar to those on the IWC Ingenieur.
Now, when you look at the case construction that’s where you see the amount of work that went into designing this watch and the main reason why the collection was so ‘over-hyped’ by AP during the ‘teaser’ period. The expectations where set so high that the first images made the product fell short. The octagonal middle case is simply gorgeous but very hard to appreciate unless you are holding the watch and looking straight at the case band.
Unless the light is right, it is very hard to perceive the sharp angles of the octagonal middle case and the contrast between the polished and satin brushed areas. The crown and clasp are really nice and in those details is where you get to feel the AP DNA unmolested.
Now, once you get to see the watches in the metal and you hold them, that’s when you feel the AP vibe, regardless of the similarities to other watches. After perusing the whole collection including the Openworked Tourbillon and the Supersonnerie, we feel that the the date model and the chronograph fall short in comparison. As far as the chronograph goes, we don’t like the layout and positioning of the chrono registers, not to mention that we also dislike the font chosen. Unfortunately the dial of the chronograph feels super busy, cluttered and not very refined. This layout is something we would’ve never expected from AP considering their long history making amazing chronographs.
Now, don’t get us wrong, the dials are extremely well finished and the applied Audemars Piguet logo is a work of art in its own as it was made of thin layers of gold using a chemical process similar to 3-D printing called ‘galvanic growth’; sadly, those processes that can’t be perceived by the naked eye get lost in the overall design of the date and the chronograph models. Lastly, while the domed sapphire crystals play nicely with the design of the CODE 11.59, we feel that they should’ve been coated on both sides with anti-reflective treatment as it is nearly impossible to avoid having glare on them and readability is always compromised.
This is where you see the prowess of Audemars Piguet all the way. All watches in the new CODE 11.59 collection are fitted with display case backs with the exception of the Supersonnerie —a separate hands-on feature on the watch to follow— and all we can say is that the movements are a real treat for the eyes. Not only from a movement architecture standpoint but the finishes are simply superb, perhaps even better than on some previous movements developed from AP from scratch.
Four calibres were designed from scratch for this new collection including the long awaited in-house chronograph the automatic Calibre 4401 which features an instant-jump date indication and integrated column wheel chronograph with flyback function. Calibre 2950 is an automatic movement where for the very first time at AP, the movement features a central rotor and a flying tourbillon. Calibre 4302 a brand new automatic movement with a 70-hour power reserve and a 32 mm diameter —more reliable and accurate— that is now also the beating heart of the new Royal Oak ref. 15500. Calibre 2948 is an in-house manual wound fully openworked tourbillon movement with grey galvanic treatment and 18K pink gold accents. Calibre 5134 was optimized as this automatic movement was already in use by the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar family. Calibre 2953, a manual wound movement with incredible acoustic properties and utilized to power the CODE 11.59 Supersonnerie.
On the Wrist & Overall Point of View
Overall, the watches wear nicely on the wrist, true to their 41 mm case size and very comfortably. While all the watches in the new collection are very well crafted and in-line with what’s expected for the price point and for timepieces coming from Audemars Piguet, the Date model and the Chronograph are the least appealing. After perusing the new watches on two different days with AP, we can tell you that the major complications within the CODE 11.59 lineup are extremely well executed and that’s where AP shows their mastery once again.
The Flying Tourbillon, the Openworked Tourbillon, the Supersonnerie and the Perpetual Calendar with its aventurine dial are our favorite watches in the new collection and totally worth the money. Now, if we could change one thing about these four watches we liked, it would be that the sapphire crystals on them had anti-reflective treatment on both sides.
While we applaud Audemars Piguet for breaking the rules and coming out with a whole new collection for the SIHH 2019, we feel that the brand should’ve been more careful at analyzing existing watch designs from entry level brands and avoid any similarities at all cost for the final product in this new collection. Additionally, from a marketing standpoint, the teaser campaign alluded to something much more groundbreaking and not necessarily what the leaked photos conveyed. It’s all about expectations they say.
What could’ve been the best way to say goodbye to the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie —as it was AP’s last appearance at it—, ended up being somewhat of a bittersweet goodbye that allowed for other less stellar creations to take the center stage at the SIHH 2019.
Lastly, regardless of our opinion on the new CODE 11.59 by Audemars Piguet, these are the kind of watches that need to be seen in person before you make your mind up about them. Go see them in person and then pass judgement on them, never before that.
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