When you think of Audemars Piguet, the first watches that probably come to mind are the Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore. Without a doubt, these models have carved out a prominent position for the venerable house in the sport category. The ROO took center stage this year with the Arnold Schwarzenegger The Legacy Chronograph, the crowning piece in the 10-year relationship between Audemars Piguet and the uber Hollywood star and politician. The proceeds of this piece will benefit “After School All-Stars,” the foundation Schwarzenegger founded to support underprivileged children.
However the brand is more than just the creator of the luxury sport watch genre when it introduced the stainless steel Royal Oak designed by Gerald Genta in 1972. The RO and ROO cast a big shadow, to be sure, but you’d be missing out if you didn’t spend some time with AP’s other creations, especially the new Millenary in the Contemporary collection introduced at SIHH 2011.
First released in 2006, the Millenary comes in a signature oval case. Most of the models in the line present the time through overlapping ovals on the dial, the inner one rimmed with a gradation of Roman numerals decreasing in size representing the hours, while the Arabic numerals on the outer rim increase in size to mark the minutes, making for a dynamic visual juxtaposition. While this arrangement provides a bold display with its blending of modern and classic elements, it’s also a composition that engenders a strong response. You either love it or find it too jarring of a statement.
This year Audemars Piguet refreshed the Millenary collection, keeping the oval of the case but revisiting the dial arrangement. A lot of the charm of a mechanical movement is seeing the moving parts, and with AP, the hand finishing that gives a lovely decorative glow. In the majority of cases, in order to appreciate the artisan craftsmanship bestowed on the movement, you need to take the watch off and flip it over. Instead of playing peek-a-boo with the movement hidden between the backside of the case and the wrist, the designers re-engineered the movement of the Millenary components to a topside view. And what a delightful picture it makes. Piaget also realized the allure of placing moving components on display and did so with the record setting Emperador Coussin Tourbillon Automatic.
One of the hallmarks of fine watchmaking is a movement aligning with the contours of the case, without a ring or plate to compensate for empty space. The newly developed Calibre 4101, whose shape fits snugly into the Millenary case, was obviously conceived hand in hand with the designers, making for a harmonious whole.
In this new conception, the dial provides a backdrop to view the escapement and balance wheel oscillating at 9 o’clock. The 12 bridges are not only an architecturally interesting landscape for the eye to wander, but also function to anchor the parts in place. In addition, the construction also showcases Audemars Piguet’s talents in the finishing department with horizontal Côtes de Genève, circular graining, snailing and bevelled and polished edges. Of course, the rear view isn’t to be ignored just because the front gets center stage. The back of the mainplate features circular Côtes de Genève, snailing and circular graining, as well as the swing of the 22-carat gold rotor.
The Millenary 4101 comes in two offerings: the movement of the steel version reflects a rich grey color from an anthracite galvanic treatment and comes with a black crocodile strap, while the pink gold version has rhodiumed and gilded plates and is finished off with a brown crocodile strap. With this novel interpretation of the Millenary, AP has hit the sweet spot, highlighting their technical skill and wrapping it up in an eye-catching package that’s sure to gain the line avid new fans.
Stainless Steel: $20,600
Pink Gold: $33,900
Stainless steel case
18-carat pink gold case
Proprietary selfwinding Calibre 4101
Overall dimensions: (width/length: 37.25 x 32.90 mm)
Casing diameter (width/length: 36.75 x 32 mm)
Thickness: 7.46 mm
Bidirectional winding 22-carat gold oscillating weight mounted on ceramic ball bearings
60-hour power reserve
Cadence of the balance: 28,800 vibrations per hour (4 Hz)
Variable-inertia balance with eight inertia-blocks and Breguet overcoil balance-spring
Screw-down mobile balance-spring stud-holder
Finishing: all parts decorated by hand; mainplate adorned with horizontal Côtes de Genève on the front and circular-grained on the back; bridges rhodiumed, bevelled, snailed and adorned with horizontal and circular Côtes de Genève and with circular graining: Diamond-polished jewel sinks; diamond-polished countersinks and bevelled wheel spokes; bevelled screw rims and slots.
AP monogram as well as Audemars and Piguet family crests engraved on the oscillating weight
Stainless steel or 18-carat pink gold
Dimensions (width/length: 47 x 42 mm)
Thickness: 13 mmSapphire crystal caseback
Water resistance: 20 m
Directly fixed to the bridges
Black and anthracite with applied pink gold Roman numerals
Pink gold hands
Hand-sewn black or brown crocodile leather with large square scales, secured by an AP folding clasp in stainless steel or 18-carat pink gold
Hours and minutes