1875 - two young men, one shared vision. To create pocketwatches of supreme quality and complexity. Seven years passed before they registered their trademark name, and the calendar would turn seven more before they founded their company as a manufacture. Little did they realise that the innovational spirit which characterised their company in its early years would still be inherent more than a century later. Little did they know that their Minute Repeater Wristwatch, produced in 1892 would be merely the beginning of a staggering archive of World Firsts, and little could they have imagined that the business they founded would remain an integral part of both their families and in their control to this day. Their names were Edward Piguet and Jules Audemars, and in 2012 their watch company is one of the most respected in the business.
Audemars Piguet are perhaps best known for their Royal Oak models, commissioned by Georges Golay and penned by a youthful Gerald Génta - a steel watch uniquely placed within the high-end sportswatch sector. It has been an enduring and iconic part of the brand and this year it celebrates its 40th anniversary. However, connoisseurs will shun the Royal Oak despite of, or perhaps because of its popularity and instead focus their attention on the company's on-going devotion to technical advancements, particularly with regard to skinnying the calibre to a remarkable and almost unbelievable thinness.
As well as the Royal Oak and Offshore models, the Audemars Piguet portfolio also features the Millenary and Classic collections and entirely appropriately, a collection named in honour of each founder, the Edward Piguet models which feature rectangular cases and deliciously curved lugs and the Jules Audemars collection which features a classic rounded case - these are understated watches which belie their inner complexities. We focus on a piece unveiled earlier this year - the Jules Audemars Dragon Perpetual Calendar.
A reassuringly upward curve in the export of Swiss watches to China ensured that this, the Chinese "Year of the Dragon" would feature a selection of dragon-inspired timepieces, we reviewed two of the best - the Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute Dragon Majestic Beijing, a miniature masterpiece featuring a richly coloured scene of two dragons painted onto Grand Feu enamel, and also the Antoine Preziuso Dragon Scale Art of Tourbillon watch with a movement entirely and fastidiously decorated with the highly textured scales of the mythical creature......
... But for the Jules Audemars Dragon Perpetual Calendar, Audemars Piguet have an altogether quieter approach. This is not the only dragon-inspired watch unveiled by the Le Brassus-based Manufacture this year, but it is by far the most understated, and its Dragon, which appears only as a silhouette on its exquisite skeletonised rotor is positioned to be just about as elusive as possible.
The dragon's displacement offers up the entire dial space for symmetrical positioning of the compendium of indications - day, date, moonphase, months, leap year indicator, and the hours and minutes, all of which are displayed against a backdrop of white lacquer. Trim pink gold applied numerals complete this most refined of watch faces. Pink gold + pristine white dial are always a superb combination, and the 41mm rounded Jules Audemars case frames this one to perfection. Inside is the Calibre 2120/2802 Manufacture movement with meticulous hand finishing.
A Perpetual Calendar watch is a special addition to any watch collection, and if you have one in yours, then hats off from us. Using a marvellous mechanical memory, this complication quite literally counts 1,461 days or four years and will take into account the variations of the days in each month, as well as leap years needing no intervention or adjustment by the wearer. A Perpetual Calendar watch will however need to be adjusted on March 1st 2100, as this is a secular year, and will not, as ruled by the Gregorian calendar be a leap year. A Perpetual Calendar complication is an extraordinary piece of micro-engineering. That Audemars Piguet manage to confine their 2120/2802 calibre to a thickness of just 4mm is all the more impressive considering the number of components required.
Naturally the Jules Audemars Perpetual Calendar watch features the fortuitous number 8, just 88 pieces will be made.