To own a “complicated timepiece” is a joy and the sight of the Audemars Piguet Minute Repeater Tourbillon Chronograph is truly wonderful, imparting beauty from every angle.
I was no stranger to romance in my formative years. Like many, I have heard the immortal words, “It’s complicated”. The words would accompany the preamble, as I would learn of being passed over for another suitor waiting in the wings. The mantra would sit somewhere in close proximity to the other platitude for budding lonely hearts, “It’s not you, it’s me”.
Thankfully, I met my wife early in life, and the frequent diet of bitter pills is something rendered to sepia tinged memory.
“It’s complicated” is something I associate with disappointment. However, when it comes to haute horology, the reverse is true. To own a “complicated timepiece” is a joy. It is a moment of horological pleasure which surpasses mere delivery of hours and minutes.
There is one region of the world synonymous with complicated timepieces, the Jura. The hostile terrain of the Vallée de Joux, has provided a source for the most intricate and complex watch movements in existence.
Prolonged winters, with extended periods spent in small, snow clad ateliers, lead to fine movements being crafted by local artisans. Moreover, poor soil conditions encouraged local inhabitants to seek alternative income to the limited farming derived revenue available.
Whilst Geneva was associated with enamelling, guilloché and distilled watch assembly, the movements powering many of these horological delicacies originated in the Jura. Indeed, many inhabitants of the Vallée de Joux would travel to Geneva to sell their comely calibres.
In 1875, two local watchmakers, Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet, formed their own company. The company, based in Le Brassus, was named, “The Audemars Piguet & Co. watchmaking factory” and has continued in existence, remaining in the hands of the founding families to this day. The nomenclature has since been shortened to “Audemars Piguet”, however, the traditional craftsmanship remains.
Audemars Piguet have created many wonderful timepieces featuring complicated movements, including the recently launched Royal Oak Offshore Grande Complication. However, there was another timepiece, also launched at SIHH 2013, which again, respectfully captures the profound prowess of the brand from Le Brassus.
The Audemars Piguet Minute Repeater Tourbillon Chronograph combines a minute repeater, tourbillon and chronograph as the name attests. Moreover, it does not follow the octagonal theme of the iconic best sellers, the Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore, but embraces an alternative design language.
Close examination of the watch, whilst attending the aforementioned trade fair in Geneva, meant a watch review would ultimately ensue.
Available in two variants, a rose gold case with black dial or a titanium case with silvered opaline dial, it is the latter which appeals to me the most. The case material and dial ensemble provide a particularly restrained colour scheme. This provides a wonderful juxtaposition to the extrovert, demonstrative spectacle of the tourbillon cage located adjacent 6 o’clock.
The traditional persona of the case design is reinforced with sinuous hour and minute hands with open-worked tips. They are presented in pink gold, matching the stylised, applied Arabic numerals which indicate the hours. However, at 5 o’clock, 6 o’clock and 7 o’clock the numerals are omitted to make way for the previously mentioned tourbillon carriage.
The tourbillon bridge is beautifully presented. Numerous hours of patient polishing have been employed in its creation. Above the whirlwind, is a subsidiary seconds display.
At 3 o’clock a 30-minute chronograph counter features. A central chronograph hand, presented in black, records integers of 0.2 seconds with rapier like accuracy.
The chapter ring framing the dial is subtle. Some may argue too subtle. However, I think its hushed tone befits the persona of the watch. Five minute integers are shown on the chapter ring, presented in small Arabic numerals.
With a case diameter of 47mm, this is a large watch. Yet, somehow the profile of the case lessens the perception of size.
The lugs are short, encouraging the strap to embrace the wrist in comfortable union with the arm.
The titanium case, blends polished and satin-brushed surfaces magnificently. Octavio Garcia, Chief Artistic Officer of Audemars Piguet, and his talented team of designers have managed to use different finishes, angles and lines to devastatingly handsome effect. Moreover, the bezel whilst appearing to match the titanium case, is actually formed of 18-carat white gold. The noble metal is also used for the push pieces, crown and minute repeater slide.
Whilst examining the push pieces, crown and minute repeater slide, they nuzzle the caseband, without undue protrusion. This again makes the watch appear smaller than it really is.
In the past, I have voiced my frustration that Audemars Piguet hide much of the beauty imparted to the movements, however, I am pleased to report that this timepiece features a sapphire caseback. Indeed, the company seems to be fitting more exhibition casebacks to its models of late. This particular watch indulges my voyeuristic need to see the peerless craftsmanship within. This is something I have personally witnessed at the Manufacture in Le Brassus in 2012.
The Calibre 2874 is a manual-wind, Manufacture movement. The list of functions is impressive, with an inventory of indications to make any self-respecting fan of horology excited.
I particularly like being able to see the castlellated form of the column-wheel chronograph mechanism. This is typical of the best chronographs and never ceases to make me smile with its time consuming execution.
The minute repeater features two gongs which interface with the two hoops of melodious wire encircling the movement. There is something quite endearing, when observing a watchmaker, tuning fork in hand, seeking the optimum sound from the movement.
Invariably, I always end up lost in a sea of finishing heaven whenever I view the movement of an Audemars Piguet timepiece. The Minute Repeater Tourbillon Chronograph is no exception.
Côtes de Genève motif features on some of the bridges. Other components feature snailing, black polishing and perlage. There are few examples of haute horology which can usurp the adroit skill exampled by the artisans who work at AP.
There is much virtue in this timepiece. Some will argue that by their very nature, these watches are the preserve of the über-wealthy. But, I would counter that they help to maintain traditions and skills that have distinguished the region of the Vallée de Joux as the home of complicated timepieces.
It’s a complicated timepiece that is true. Nevertheless, the beauty and mechanical artistry housed within the case are simply stunning.
Angus is a self-confessed watch addict and is frequently asked to contribute to various printed magazines and websites around the globe. He also writes for individual watch companies on matters of horology and has appeared on television and radio as an industry expert.