Audemars Piguet Millenary Quadriennium
Angus Davies reviews the Audemars Piguet Millenary Quadriennium, a watch equipped with an unusual complication. The date display on this timepiece requires adjustment only once every four years and provides a refreshing alternative to annual and perpetual calendar watches.
This detailed review of the Audemars Piguet Millenary Quadriennium includes live images and specification details.
Some years ago, I remember watching a film which told the story of a man and woman who were intimately involved for the briefest of moments. Despite an immediate love which transcended mere physical attraction, various factors conspired against them, preventing a long-term relationship developing.
The two star-crossed lovers agreed that every year they would meet at the same place, at the same time and set aside their usual lives for 24 hours of romantic escapism.
The narrative of the film showed how fate worked against them and the two seemed destined to spend their lives estranged.
I accept that I am no stranger to sentimentalism but, despite being happily married myself, the notion of this hapless romance has always appealed to me on some level.
Wearing the Audemars Piguet Millenary Quadriennium reminds me of this film. In this instance, there is a gap of four years between dates that the wearer and correction tool rendezvous and a moment of intimacy ensues.
Using the push piece at 2 o’clock, together with the two correctors positioned on the caseband, the wearer is required to adjust the date in order to make allowance for the leap year. It’s a brief encounter, but accords a special moment of interaction for those of mechanical persuasion.
A third way
By producing the Audemars Piguet Millenary Quadriennium, the Swiss watch brand from Le Brassus has produced an unusual complication.
Calendar watches typically fall into three categories, a simple calendar which makes no allowance for the length of the prevailing month, an annual calendar or a perpetual calendar. The latter two complications are more involved and justify greater explanation.
A timepiece equipped with an annual calendar complication displays a full or partial calendar, mechanically making an allowance for months containing 30 or 31 days and automatically adjusting to the correct date at the beginning of each month. Once per annum, the wearer has to adjust the date on the 1st of March, owing to February having fewer days.
A perpetual calendar automatically displays the date taking into account months of differing lengths, including February. Moreover, the complication also compensates for leap years. The wearer only has to correct the date in 2100, 2200, 2300 etc. as century years are not leap years.
The Audemars Piguet Millenary Quadriennium offers a third way. It makes an allowance for months of differing length, including February, in exactly the same way as a perpetual calendar, with one distinct exception. Each leap year, the wearer has to use a correction tool, in conjunction with the correctors on the left hand flank of the case and the pushpiece at 2 o’clock. The process is simple, required only once every four years, and therefore not too taxing to the wearer.
In common with the Millenary 4101, the Audemars Piguet Millenary Quadriennium presents the hours and minutes off-centre on an asymmetrically designed dial. In this instance the dial is presented in ‘gold white enamel’. Open-worked blackened gold hands impart the hours and minutes. Black Roman numerals encircle the dial, denoting the hours.
Positioned above noon is a small rectangular aperture, revealing the month; below 6 o’clock is a day display, presented in similar form.
At the hub of the dial, a red T-shaped hand interfaces with a spherical date display. Interestingly, the colour of this hand is repeated on the first day of the month when the date is again boldly presented in red.
In the south-westerly portion of the dial, a small running seconds sits slightly lower than the main dial on a neat, distinct subdial which appears to almost float above the exposed mainplate beneath.
Both the main dial and the small seconds display are retained by golden, polished screws. Close examination reveals their slots and rims are expertly bevelled.
The eyes are inevitably drawn to the sight of the open-worked balance bridge which is orientated north to south and dominates the right hand side of the dial area. The finissage practised by the artisans at Audemars Piguet is truly breathtaking and leaves one speechless. The external and internal angles are bevelled to an exalted level, the outcome of hours of patient toil.
Below the balance, Côtes de Genève motif is pristinely presented on the underside of the mainplate, providing a fascinating backdrop for the other dial elements.
Finally, the twin barrels can be seen beneath the dial displays.
The 18-carat pink gold, oval-shaped case eschews conformity or, as this exemplar of haute horlogerie prefers to say, it ‘breaks the rules’. Its distinct profile proves comfortable to wear and measures 32.90mm x 37.90mm.
Interestingly, despite its complexity, the watch has a thickness of 9.15mm. While I would concede this is not ‘ultra-thin’, it remains relatively shallow for a watch harnessing such mechanical complexity.
The case of the Audemars Piguet Millenary Quadriennium is populated with a profusion of satin-brushed surfaces, save for the bezel, caseback and some areas of the lugs which are highly polished. The elliptically formed pushpiece is again highly polished, standing out against the caseband and attracting the wearer to its form.
The crown steps slightly away from the caseband allowing fingers to grip it more easily. Moreover, the fluted motif encircling the crown aids adjustment, proving particularly user-friendly. This pattern extends to the vertical plane of the crown which defers to a highly polished circlet at its centre where the brand’s logo is presented in relief.
Audemars Piguet has equipped this timepiece with its iconic folding clasp ,where the letters ‘A’ and ‘P’ unite in conjunction with a ‘large square scale’ brown alligator strap to accord sublime levels of wearer comfort.
The hand-wound Manufacture Calibre 2905/B01 is visible via the exhibition caseback. However, the dorsal area of the watch does not reveal all of the inner thought processes of the movement as much is hidden from view. Nevertheless, those components which are exposed are delivered to the customary blemish free, peerless standard that is synonymous with AP.
This timepiece is equipped with the Audemars Piguet Escapement, an evolution of the Robin Escapement which effectively combines the benefits of a detent escapement with a Swiss lever escapement. The former is renown for its accuracy, whilst the latter is known for its reliability.
The design of the escapement basically means there is lower energy consumption, enhanced precision and no need for lubrication of the pallets.
The balance is equipped with a double hairspring. Each hairspring is effectively countering the positional errors of its counterpart located opposite. According to Audemars Piguet, this ensures the Millenary Quadriennium is ‘as precise as a tourbillon’.
By using the Audemars Piguet Escapement and equipping the movement with twin barrels, the timepiece has an impressive power reserve of 168 hours. The movement would continue to operate longer, but AP has equipped the Calibre 2905/B01 with a stop work system to prevent the movement functioning when there is insufficient torque to maintain the amplitude necessary for precise operation.
Clearly Audemars Piguet has a rich tradition of making complicated timepieces having produced numerous iterations of the perpetual calendar. Moreover, it has also produced watches which partner a perpetual calendar with an equation of time.
Therefore, I suspect AP did not choose to make the Audemars Piguet Millenary Quadriennium as a matter of expedience nor because of an inability to produce a more complicated movement. By producing this timepiece, the brand has delivered something a little different, a complication sold by few and I suspect that was the primary motivation behind the idea of making this particular watch.
While some wearers may lament the omission of the leap year adjustment conferred with a perpetual calendar, many collectors will appreciate the off-piste approach taken by the historical maison famed for its no-compromise, complicated timepieces.
To many die-hard watch fans, collecting different complications is part of the romance of haute horlogerie. Few will ever explore the full capabilities of every timepiece in their possession. Seldom would an owner of a perpetual calendar ever wear the same watch for four years, they will no doubt wish to wear another timepiece from time to time. I would liken this to individuals who possess a high performance car, they are seldom likely to drive it the vehicle in extremis but nevertheless derive satisfaction from the abilities it possesses.
While the wearer may only need to make a date with the correction tool every four years, many watch enthusiasts will relish this union.
- Model: Audemars Piguet Millenary Quadriennium
- Reference: 26149OR.OO.D803CR.01
- Case: 18-carat pink gold; dimensions 32.90mm x 37.90mm; height 9.15mm; water resistant to 2 bar (20 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; day; date; month, quadriennal calendar.
- Movement: Manufacture Calibre 2905/B01, hand-wound movement; frequency 21,600 vph (3 Hz); 38 jewels; power reserve 168 hours.
- Strap: Hand-stitched ‘large square scale’ brown leather strap supplied on a 18-carat pink gold AP folding clasp.