Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon

The Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon was one of several new models unveiled by the Swiss brand at SIHH. Prior to the Genevan fair, the company’s new Code 11.59 collection was unfairly criticised on social media. Having worn this timepiece, Angus Davies points out a myriad of smile-inducing details and, more pertinently, explains why he adores this paragon of haute horlogerie.

This detailed review of the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon includes live images, specification details and pricing.

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon

Huge swathes of the population choose to share aspects of their lives on social media. Often, they make ‘friends’ with numerous people they have never met or barely know. In some cases, social media junkies border on exhibitionists or, conversely, voyeurs.

Users of social media have a tendency not to read text, choosing simply to glance at pictures. Some social media addicts don’t even look at the pictures, busily liking posts in the hope that this will boost their own popularity. It is not surprising that many of social media’s early adopters have closed their accounts, or simply left them abandoned in perpetuity.

There is also a darker side to social media. Images of self-harm have been attributed as the cause of some adolescent suicides. Personal data has been sold to third parties, possibly infringing legislation and certainly raising the issue of trust. Furthermore, it is alleged that social media may have been used to influence democracy or propagate so-called ‘fake news’.

It is because of the aforementioned reasons, to name but a few, that, in my opinion, the popularity of social media will wane in years to come. An increasing number of visitors to the World Wide Web will devote more of their time to other content.

Currently, I post content on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter, however, I am beginning to wonder whether this is a sensible use of my time.

Audemars Piguet, SIHH 2019 and the influence of social media

On Sunday 13th January, I arrived in Geneva, eager to see the numerous horological delights of SIHH 2019. The annual watch fair, second only in size to Baselworld, always yields a number of mouthwatering creations.

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon

While sitting in my hotel bedroom, I perused my Instagram feed and was shocked to see the plethora of posts berating a new collection of models from Audemars Piguet, the Code 11.59. Moreover, the design of these high-end timepieces was being likened to the design of two watches, both crafted by fashion brands. As the afternoon turned to evening, the insults kept coming.

I don’t pretend to like every watch bearing the AP name and logo but, in the main, I like the majority of its models. Certainly, I found it very difficult to believe that the Maison had not just produced one wayward reference with a dubious colour scheme, but a whole collection of models each imbued with problematic aesthetics.

On Monday 14th January, the fair opened and I attended various presentations and several meetings. At one point, I had a 10 minute window and felt compelled to visit Audemars Piguet’s exhibition stand and view the company’s new models at close quarters. On seeing the watches, I was left unsure what the fuss was about. To my eyes, the models did not appear ugly or cheap. However, from experience, I know the only way to truly appraise the merits of a watch is to hold it in one’s hands, examine its composition with a loupe and, lastly, affix it to the wrist.

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon

Still reeling from the the sight of the aforementioned onslaught meted out to AP, I met with a couple of the brand’s personnel on Wednesday 16th January. I listened attentively as staff showed me large-format 3D printed components and, more importantly, physical watches. Each model is festooned with a myriad of details which have to be seen and touched to fully appreciate. Personally, I was drawn to the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon, presented in an 18-carat white gold case with a smoked blue enamel dial. The brand also offers the model in an 18-carat pink gold case with a black enamel dial, but the tone of the blue dial option caught me in its gaze.

The dial

I confess that I have a predilection for grand feu enamel dials. They exhibit a unique lustre which will never fade with the passage of time.

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon

A fine enamel powder is dusted on the surface of a dial which is then placed in an oven, operating at a temperature in excess of 800°C. The temperature of the oven is determined by the desired hue. The artisan tasked with making the dial has to judge when the dial needs to be removed from the oven in order to achieve the desired shade. This is particularly challenging as the residual heat, once the dial is removed, will cause the tone of the dial to continue evolving until it has cooled sufficiently. The nature of making grand feu dials is fraught with risk. Often while dials are being made, they will crack or bubble, rendering them useless. Invariably, surplus dials are made in the pursuit of the desired number required.

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon

The dial fitted to the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon will have been particularly challenging to realise. The central area of the display is a gorgeous shade of blue which flows into a sea of blackness near the periphery of the dial. One problem with Audemars Piguet’s images is that they do not convey the becoming shade and texture of the dial epidermis. Furthermore, they fail to illustrate the fascinating transitional area where the blue and black shades merge into one other. Quite simply, you have to see this dial in the flesh to fully appreciate its magnificence.

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon

Each hour is denoted with either Arabic numerals or batons. The 18-carat white gold hour markers are curved, casting comely pockets of brilliance and shade. Positioned in between the hour markers, crisp white markings facilitate precise read-off. The 18-carat white gold hour and minute hands are supremely slender, yet highly legible. A circular plinth, marked with a 60-minute scale, frames the dial epidermis and sits close to the chamfered bezel.

Audemars Piguet is regarded as one of three great dames of watchmaking, justly sitting alongside Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin. Its capacity to craft its own high-end movements, enriched with meticulous finishing is legendary. In this instance, a large aperture at the base of the dial grants the wearer sight of the regulating organ in motion. Furthermore, the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon, as its name implies, is fitted with a flying tourbillon which eschews the upper bridge, heightening visibility of the pallet lever chatting with the escape wheel. It would be a very stony heart that did not succumb to the seductive charms of this gleaming whirlwind.

The case

The dial sits beneath a dual-curved sapphire crystal. The design of the crystal, which is thicker in depth near its centre, augments the clarity of the dial display. It is one of several subtle details which must be viewed at close quarters to be fully appreciated.

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon

Audemars Piguet has chosen to make the bezel very slim and, in so doing, created greater room for the dial indications. Furthermore, by adopting this style, the bezel assumes a gentle character and seemly subtlety.

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon

While the bezel and caseback are round, the caseband upholds the brand’s liking for octagonal forms, first seen with the Royal Oak in 1972. In this instance, the upper bezel is conjoined with the open-worked lugs. The main case section, housing the movement and dial, features eight vertical flanks which form the previously mentioned octagonal shape. The skeleton-like lugs infuse the case ensemble with an appealing lightness of touch.

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon

The upper and lower edges of the main case section are bevelled and gleam beautifully against the adjacent brushed surfaces.

The Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon measures 41mm in diameter. Personally, I found it afforded an incredibly comfortable fit. The watch is supplied with a sumptuous blue alligator strap, paired with an 18-carat white gold deployant.

The movement

The Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon is equipped with the Calibre 2950, the company’s first automatic movement to feature a central rotor and flying tourbillon. The movement is wholly new, yet it retains the peerless finishing for which the Swiss brand is known.

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon

The bridges are adorned with pristine Côtes de Genève motif. Each of these Genevan stripes is broad and beautifully defined. On the dial-side of the movement, perlage abounds. ‘Hand-polished bevels feature on the movement’s caseback side’. This is particularly impressive on the tourbillon bridge and parts of the oscillating weight where numerous chamfered edges gleam resplendently. In addition, the Maison hasn’t skimped on internal angles. These edges, where two flanks meet on an inside corner, necessitate careful filing and polishing by hand. There are no mechanical shortcuts capable of delivering the same exalted level of finish.

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon

Another aspect which makes the chamfering of the oscillating weight even more impressive is that it is formed of 22-carat rhodiumed pink gold (white gold version). As the gold is exceptionally soft, it can be easily marked with a wayward screwdriver. Audemars Piguet has chosen not to make life easy for its skilled workforce.

The balance has a frequency of 21,600 VpH (3Hz) and the movement contains 270 parts, including 27 jewels. The power reserve is able to deliver at least 65 hours of autonomous operation.

Close examination of the movement reveals an elevated level of craftsmanship. Indeed, the Calibre 2950 perfectly illustrates why AP is considered a grand Maison and an exemplar of haute horlogerie.

Closing remarks

Prior to my hands-on encounter with the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon, I had no strong opinions about its appearance. When I saw the pictures of this watch for the first time, I did not think it was ugly or deserving of the aforementioned criticism. Likewise, I was not dazzled by its appearance in photographs. Quite simply, I was in a recumbent pose, atop the proverbial fence.

However, once I handled this watch, I was able to truly appreciate its brilliance. The dual-curve sapphire crystal, arcing hour markers, grand feu enamel dial and the octagonal central case section are just some of the subtle details which enrich this model’s appearance.

At the heart of the the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon is a beautiful movement harnessing peerless craftsmanship. The absence of an upper bridge affords spellbinding views of the tourbillon cage and the presence of an oscillating weight confers convenience.

Like many of my fellow horophiles, I have yearned for AP to create a new collection which emerges from the shadows cast by the Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore, playing to the brand’s strengths and showcasing its obvious brilliance. It has answered critics by unveiling an extensive array of models and, in my opinion, it should be applauded for taking this bold step.

When the revered Royal Oak was unveiled in 1972, it faced much criticism. However, with familiarity it has earned a reputation for being one of the finest sports watches of all time. I suspect that with the passage of time, the Code 11:59 will come to earn the respect it justly deserves. In my opinion, the criticism of this model is founded on baseless rumour, poor brand imagery and the unfortunate inertia of internet trolls jumping on a venomous bandwagon without ever wearing the watch.

I implore prospective purchasers to disregard the ‘fake news’, handle the watch, look at it closely and then form their own opinion. I suspect said individuals will discover the truth behind the headlines and understand why my perception of this high-end watch is unreservedly positive.

Further reading

Technical specifications

  • Model: Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon
  • Reference: 26396BC.OO.D321CR.01
  • Case: 18-carat white gold; diameter 41mm; water resistance 3ATM (30 metres); sapphire crystal to the front and caseback
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; flying tourbillon
  • Movement: Calibre 2950; self-winding movement; frequency 21,600 VpH (3Hz); 27 jewels; power reserve at least 65 hours; 270 components
  • Strap: Blue alligator strap, paired with an 18-carat white gold deployant
  • Price: CHF 129,000 excluding taxes (RRP as at 31.1.2019)

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