A while back, while we were in Switzerland, we had the opportunity to visit the Audemars Piguet Museum in Le Brassus, a lifetime experience for any Audemars Piguet watchlifestyler.
Our appointment at the museum was scheduled for 1:30pm on a gloomy Friday. Considering that we were staying in Zürich and the drive to Le Brassus is almost three hours long, we knew we had to be on the road by 10 o'clock in order to be there on time. Here's a picture while we were getting ready to go pick up our car, right before breakfast time. This classic Hermès belt has been worn along with several Audemars Piguet Jumbos in the collection since the 90s.
At 9:00am, we picked up our car and got ready for the experience of a lifetime. The excitement was building as we were entering the destination information into the navigation system. We even set our Royal Oak Offshore Diver to 10:10 just for the memorable picture. Our bags were ready in the backseat and our gorgeous Jumbo 5402SA was on the wrist for this special trip. As a side note, only 951 Royal Oak Jumbos in stainless steel and yellow gold were ever produced. At 9:25am we took off from the car rental agency. The vehicle —shown below— was a pristine black BMW 320i.
At around 11:00am, we switched watches in order to send Audemars Piguet a tweet, just as we promised earlier in the morning. At the time we took this picture we were only 147 kilometers away from Le Brassus. This time on the wrist, a Royal Oak Offshore 25721ST from the first batch of 500 ever made.
Time for another tweet to Audemars Piguet. We were at the 72 kilometer marker, which made us remember the year the Royal Oak was launched back in 1972. This time, a picture of a 15300ST honoring the first Royal Oak. At 11:33am we knew we would get to Le Brassus in the Vallée de Joux, right on time.
Finally, we took the exit ramp towards the Vallée de Joux. As we headed into a two-way narrow road, the landscape seemed very familiar. The conifers were welcoming and resembled those in the pictures on Audemars Piguet's website. As we came out of a steep turn, the landscape surprised us with a magnificent lake and valley in the distance. In front of our eyes, we contemplated the beauty of Lac Brenet and the Vallée de Joux. Time for another memorable picture. As we exited the car, the smell of conifers and wood fire got engrained in our hearts and minds. We will never forget the view and what we felt.
As we reached the valley, we couldn't focus on anything else other than getting to the the iconic Audemars Piguet manufacture. We wondered what it would be like to stand right in front of that beautiful 'Maison' and go through its doors. So much history, so many watches, so many dreams. As we went down the valley, we drove around Le Pont, a small village by the Lac de Joux. What a beautiful and picturesque place! Of course our hearts skipped a beat as we were driving by.
Finally, after another ten to fifteen minutes of driving through the small villages of L'Abbaye, Les Bioux and L'Orient, we arrived at the manufacture. A lifetime dream came true, but with the best yet to come. After parking our car in the Audemars Piguet visitor parking lot, we took some pictures at the front and headed to the reception area.
We were half an hour ahead of our appointment and we were greeted by the friendliest receptionists. We were offered some water and Halter caramels. Fifteen minutes later, our guide from Audemars Piguet's Hospitality department greeted us and walked us next door to start our visit at the museum. Standing in front of the museum, there are two doors. As we entered the building through the door located on the left side, we knew it was time to put the camera away. For security reasons, photography is not allowed inside the museum.
This is the building where Jules Louis Audemars lived and worked back in 1875 when the manufacture was founded by him and Edward Auguste Piguet. This building is considered a temple of horology and we couldn't wait any longer to start admiring what's kept inside.
As we walked around the different rooms, our guide provided us with the most amazing lecture on horology and Audemars Piguet's history. As we headed into the room where the Royal Oak collection was displayed, we couldn't do anything else but focus our attention on the 5402ST Royal Oak Jumbo at the center of the room. Surprisingly, the watch features what appears to be a replacement dial with 'Swiss Made' and also the original box that came with it. The main piece is surrounded by displays containing
other iconic Royal Oak references including a gorgeous Tantalum and Stainless Steel piece, the limited edition Royal Oak Pride of China, the Grand Prix Limited Edition, the first Royal Oak Offshore —just like ours—, the Shaquille O'Neal, the Offshore T3, the Survivor, the Royal Oak Concept and a Royal Oak Offshore Perpetual Calendar amongst others. After almost thirty minutes admiring these Royal Oaks, we left the room in awe.
During four and a half hours —the length of our visit— we were able to see some of the most fascinating pieces in the history of Audemars Piguet. From Grande Sonneries to Tourbillons, to Minute Repeaters, Equations of Time, Perpetual Calendars, Pocket Watches and everything in between. We also had an opportunity to see the actual black metal sign that used to be outside the manufacture.
As we completed our tour of the museum in the company of our friendly savvy guide, we were offered a cup of coffee. As we headed downstairs to a fascinating room with the most unique Audemars Piguet paraphernalia, we were honored to meet, Audemars Piguet's Heritage & Museum Director as well as other very friendly and kind employees. As we sipped our coffee, we engaged in one of the most fascinating conversations in our watch collecting life. After another hour or so, we finally left this temple of horology with nothing but big smiles and full hearts. As we got into the car, we just couldn't believe all that we had seen and experienced. After this visit, our taste in Audemars Piguet watches now calls for complications such as minute repeaters, grande sonneries and perpetual calendars. Who would've thought —after so many years of exclusively collecting Royal Oaks— that this visit would change our taste so drastically.
Below you will find some of the images that were provided by Audemars Piguet.
First Row from left to right: Royal Oak Jumbo 5402ST, Royal Oak Alinghi Commemorative Edition America’s Cup 2003, Royal Oak Concept and Royal Oak Date Day Moonphase.
Second Row from left to right: Royal Oak Offshore T3, Royal Oak Offshore Grand Prix Limited Edition, Rectangular Tourbillon —the smallest and lightest ever made— and Annual Calendar circa 1951.
Third row from left to right: Lépine Pocket Watch circa 1941 —featuring day, date, month and moonphase—, Lépine Pocket Watch circa 1891 —unnumbered, unmarked and engraved Brevet No. 235—, Ladies Jewelry Wristwatch circa 1924 and Coin watch circa 1915 —a push-button hidden on the edge opens the cover.
Big kudos and thanks to Audemars Piguet and their museum employees for making this visit an unforgettable lifetime experience. Also, thank you for the images you provided for our use.
The Audemars Piguet Museum is very private and visits are by appointment only.
Musée Audemars Piguet
1348 Le Brassus
Tél : +41 021 642 39 00
Fax: +41 021 642 34 01
Mo-Fr : 8.00-12.00, 13.30-16.00
For more info on Audemars Piguet click here.