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Audemars Piguet is one of the most esteemed watch brands in the world, renowned for their mastery of horological complications and their endlessly inventive and finely crafted timepieces. The company’s adage is “To break the rules, you must first master them.” and indeed, the Audemars Piguet brand is where tradition and innovation meet in watchmaking.
The brand’s history is marked with innovations such as the first jumping hour wristwatch (1921) and the first skeleton wristwatch (1946), among other ingenious adaptations to the changing demands of the times. Their most famous creation is the world’s first luxury sports watch in steel, the Royal Oak, which paved the way for succeeding luxury sports watches, and presaged the way we wear watches today.
Today, the Audemars Piguet brand is sought after for its balanced offering of refined and sophisticated dress watches, and robust, avant garde sport watches that have graced the wrists of luminaries – from royalty to athletes. Explore our collection of Audemars Piguet timepieces at SwissWatchExpo.com.
Audemars Piguet is one of the few century-old watch brands that continues to be family owned.
The company was founded in 1875 by friends Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet, in the heart of Switzerland’s watchmaking region, La Vallée de Joux. Before coming together, both already had successful careers in watchmaking – Audemars as a designer of movements, and Piguet as a regulator.
Their approach to watchmaking was both of mastery and innovation. In 1892, the partners began working on the development of the first minute repeater wristwatch. The Grande Complication pocket watch was introduced in 1899 with 7 different complications, becoming the first salvo in a series of accomplishments.
When Audemars and Piguet passed away in 1918 and 1919 respectively, the company continued to grow, with members of both families leading its success. The early 20th century brought about additions to the company’s innovation list. They created the first jumping hour wristwatch in 1921, followed by the world’s first skeleton watch in 1934, and then the thinnest wristwatch of the era in 1946.
By the early 1970s, Audemars Piguet had become part of the highest tiers of horology through their mastery of complications and exquisite craftsmanship. However, much like the rest of the Swiss watch industry, it suffered financial losses due to the rise of quartz timepieces.
The company’s leaders knew that to keep the company afloat, they had to make a disruptive change in the industry. They tapped renowned watch designer Gerald Genta to create an unprecedented watch that has never been seen before. As the story goes, Genta turned in a design the very next day, of a fine watch using steel, instead of the usual platinum or gold. This timepiece, eventually called the Royal Oak, would become the first steel luxury sports watch, and paved the way for a new category of watches. Even with high-visibility projects like the Omega Constellation and the Patek Philippe Ellipse, the Royal Oak proved to be a departure for Genta, and is considered his magnum opus.
In the 1980s, designer Emmanuel Gueit created a more robust and masculine design of the Royal Oak named the Royal Oak Offshore, which today remains one of the key collections of the brand.
Audemars Piguet continued their development path. In the year 2000, to celebrate their 125th anniversary, they released the Equation of Time watch, featuring a perpetual calendar, lunar cycle, and sunrise and sunset times.
To this day, Audemars Piguet continues to make designs that push the boundaries of watchmaking, all while being meticulously handcrafted and designed by artisans.
Audemars Piguet played a pioneering role in the development of the wristwatch, through the brand’s experimentation in form and function. This reputation lives on with the three main families of watches that they offer today.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is an icon in watchmaking, and was the first luxury steel sports watch ever made. In the 1970s, the invention of quartz timepieces caused an upheaval in the traditional watchmaking industry. In an effort to maintain its relevance, Audemars Piguet commissioned renowned watch designer Gerald Genta to create a bold new watch. In 24 hours, he designed the Royal Oak.
The Royal Oak was revolutionary in many ways: from its use of finished stainless steel, instead of the usual gold or platinum, to the octagonal bezel design and the integrated bracelet that eschewed the usual lug-and-spring. It brought to life a whole new category of watches – the stainless steel luxury sports watch.
Over the years, the Royal Oak would expand to an entire line within Audemars Piguet’s portfolio. Today, it comes with various advanced complications such as perpetual calendars, minute repeaters, flying tourbillons and the double balance wheel. The Royal Oak line also comes in a variety of metals and finishes, from steel to 18k gold, to frosted gold and pave diamond designs.
The Royal Oak Offshore is the bolder, more masculine and decidedly sportier version of the classic Royal Oak. To bring in new audience for the brand, the company commissioned designer Emmanuel Gueit to create a robust and utilitarian design, which was gaining popularity at the time.
The Royal Oak Offshore made its debut in 1993. While it adopted the octagonal bezel and integrated bracelet of the original, it was given a super-sized and much thicker case, a magnetically shielded chronograph movement, and a depth rating of 100 meters.
The Royal Oak’s sporty aesthetics found favor with actors, athletes, rap artists and well-heeled watch collectors. The collection became a venue for the brand to experiment with high-tech materials such as carbon fiber and ceramic, and has grown to include diver, tourbillon, and grand complication models.
The Audemars Piguet Millenary is a line of dress watches with striking dials. Its designs stand out with their elliptical case and off-center dial, giving the refined construction a 3D perspective. The offbeat collection stemmed from a vintage Audemars Piguet design from the 1950s, but was resurrected as the Millenary in 1995, in anticipation of the impending third millennium.
Current models feature skeletonized dials where, in order to showcase the movement better, the caliber has been reversed.
All watch manufacturers have different ways that they document their sale and manufacture. For Audemars Piguet, the watches can be identified using three codes: their movement number, case and serial number, and reference number.
Each Audemars Piguet timepiece has a movement number that is engraved next to the balance wheel. If the timepiece has a transparent caseback, it can be easy to see, but if it doesn’t, then one has to open the caseback to know the caliber number.
The case number, also known as the serial number, is engraved on the outside of the caseback.
On the serial number is a letter that refers to a particular manufacturing series, and which also helps us date Audemars Piguet watches produced from 1975 onwards. Below are the series letters:
A Series – 1972 to 1975
B Series – 1976 to 1979
C Series – 1980 to 1986
D Series – 1987 to 1994
E Series – 1994 to 2000
F Series – 2001 to 2007
G Series – 2008 to 2010
H Series – 2011 To 2012
I Series – 2013 to 2015
J Series – 2016 onwards
Audemars Piguet uses a randomized system for their reference numbers. The entire reference number is composed of 17 digits, but each model is usually referred to only by the first 7 codes, composed of a four- or five-digit number and two letters. AP used four-digit reference numbers up until the mid-1980s, then used five-digit numbers thereafter.
The letters that come after AP reference numbers (e.g. 15450ST) indicate the type of metal used on the watch case.
BA – Yellow Gold
BC – White Gold
ST – Steel
OR – Rose Gold
PT – Platinum
TI – Titanium
The rest of the reference number denotes a randomized set of numbers referring to their sequence in the production.
Audemars Piguet watches are sought after for their impeccable craftsmanship, and technical and aesthetic achievements. Here are some of the frequently asked questions about Audemars Piguet:
The use of high-tech, avant-garde materials, and flawless execution of concepts, has made Audemars Piguet synonymous with exceptional craftsmanship and uncompromising quality. If you see any marks of less-than-perfect manufacturing, then it is likely a fake piece.
The best way to avoid counterfeits is to buy only from a reputable watch dealer, who can provide a guarantee of authenticity on the timepiece.
The finest materials, extreme attention to detail, and centuries of superior technical know-how go into the making of each Audemars Piguet watch. Their watches can theoretically last a lifetime if properly maintained, thus commanding a higher price tag.
As with most timepieces, Audemars Piguet’s pricing is heavily influenced by supply and demand. The company only makes 40,000 watches a year, which compared to other luxury watch brands, is a small number. The rarer a watch is, the higher the cost.
Audemars Piguet recommends a maintenance service once a year, which includes checking your watch's chronometric performance, functions, as well as the state of water-resistance and magnetization. For mechanical watches, a complete service is recommended every 4 to 6 years, which involves disassembly of the watch, and cleaning and exchange of standard movement parts. These are general recommendations, but there can be signs that your watch needs maintenance sooner rather than later. Here are Signs It’s Time for Watch Maintenance.
Audemars Piguet watches are precision mechanisms that require routine maintenance. At SwissWatchExpo, we stand ready to provide loving care to your timepieces. We have a state-of-the-art center, where we offer a full range of services, from basic maintenance to major repairs and restorations, performed by master watchmakers from start to finish. Here’s more information about our comprehensive Repair Services.
At SwissWatchExpo, repair and maintenance estimates are always provided free of charge. The total cost of the service will depend on the model of your Audemars Piguet watch and its current condition. When you send us your timepiece, it will first be examined by our master watchmakers, who will create an estimate cost of the work to be done. Only when the cost is approved will the repair process commence.
Audemars Piguet watches are recognized as some of the finest and most upscale on the market. If you are looking to purchase one of their timepieces, but must consider your budget, or are looking for a rare piece, then it’s best to begin your search in the pre-owned market.
Audemars Piguet produces only about 40,000 watches a year, which is fairly low for the luxury watch industry. Searching for your watch in the pre-owned market allows for the opportunity to discover rare references, limited or special editions, or models that are no longer in production.
Owning a pre-owned Audemars Piguet also allows you to join a very exclusive club at a fraction of the price. While there are rare vintage watches whose value appreciates over time, the general rule is that a pre-owned watch can give you a significant discount versus buying a brand new piece.
If you want your watch to be as brand new as possible, pre-owned watches can definitely be bought in mint and excellent condition – many are even unworn and in their original packaging. Here at SwissWatchExpo, we commit to delivering the watches in “like new” condition. Our master watchmakers never let a single piece leave our workshop until it appears and runs like new.
When you’re ready for your Audemars Piguet watch, our trained and professional experts will happily help you find the right timepiece.