Hands-On with the Audemars Piguet Millenary Frosted Gold Opal Dial
The Millenary wears its heart on its sleeve in the hypnotic company of opals and cool, frosted gold.
The Audemars Piguet Millenary Frosted Gold Opal Dial is my horological fantasy come true. Appealing on an aesthetic and technical level, the Millenary Frosted Gold Opal Dial wears its beating heart on its sleeve and plays with volume, texture, and light in a contemporary key. Feminine yet assertive, this Millenary model flies in the face of traditional women’s watches. As François-Henri Bennahmias, CEO of Audemars Piguet likes to say: “women’s watches shouldn’t be limited to shrinking, pinking and adding a few diamonds.” And, as you will see, there is absolutely nothing shrinky, pinky or diamondy about the Millenary Frosted Gold.
An elliptical case
Technically known as ‘elliptical’ – and not the kind you would find in a gym – the oval-shaped case of the Millenary has an organic and intrinsically feminine appeal. Elliptical or egg-shaped cases are not very common but do make the occasional appearance in the realm of high-end watchmaking, with examples like Ulysse Nardin’s Jade or Breguet’s Reine de Naples watch and Girard-Perregaux Cat’s Eye. Measuring 39.5mm in diameter, the pink gold case of the Millenary Frosted Gold might seem large on paper, but when worn, its elongated oval dimensions spread out horizontally on the wrist offering a generous window on the mesmerising dial.
Frosted Gold is cooler than diamonds
First used on the Royal Oak Frosted Gold collection of 2016, the technique was developed by AP in conjunction with Florentine jewellery designer Carolina Bucci. Even the name given to this gold hammering technique is seductive, but wait until you see and feel the effect it creates on a solid gold surface. Glistening with a subtle frosty sparkle, the gold seems to have been sitting in a freezer overnight. To ‘frost’ a piece of gold, a diamond-tipped instrument is applied to the surface to create tiny indentations that sparkle in the light.
At the AP stand this year, a watchmaker was on hand with his frosting tool and let me try it out on a piece of metal. What was surprising was the slightly gritty, sandy texture of the frosted gold. A tactile experience you do not usually encounter in watchmaking, this interesting texture lends the Audemars Piguet Millenary Frosted Gold Opal Dial a contemporary vibe.
A groovy stone dial
Described as the chameleon of gemstones, opals put on a show like no other gemstone on Earth. Renowned for their entrancing ‘play of colour’ precious opals emit flashing, iridescent colours depending on the light and angle of observation. The unique, hypnotic sparkle is caused by the diffraction of light on microscopic spheres of silica stacked in the interior of the stone. Marking the first time opal has been used in the Millenary collection – launched back in 1995 – both the off-centred hours and minutes and intersecting small seconds discs are crafted in white opal. Notoriously tricky to cut because of its innate fragility, two slivers of white opal work their magic 1970s groove on the dial.
The rest of the stage is given to AP’s hand-wound manufacture calibre 5201 offering a clear view of the steel bridges and balance wheel, held in place by a gold bridge with thick Côtes de Genève stripes. Positioned just to the left and below the elevated platform of the opal dials, the balance wheel is the same size as the small seconds counter.
An oval-shaped movement
The three-dimensional architecture of calibre 5201 forms an integral part of the aesthetics of the watch. The regulating organ – balance, pallet and escapement – is positioned on the dial side of the watch allowing the wearer to view the heart of the movement at a glance.
The oval shape of calibre 5201 was tailor-made by AP for the Millenary family. This manual-winding movement, with 157 parts, a 49-hour power reserve, has a frequency of 3Hz to keep the hours, minutes and small seconds in perfect synch. Decorated with Côtes de Genève stripes and perlage, the movement, like many AP movements, has a rugged, industrial appeal with exposed screws and a profusion of steel bridges.
A Polish mesh gold bracelet
In addition to the guy with the frosting wand, there was another AP craftsman on hand to demonstrate the technique behind a Polish mesh gold bracelet. Similar to Milanese bracelets, Polish bracelets are made from long coiling wires, in this case of pink gold. Unlike Milanese bracelets, in which the coiling wires are arranged in the same direction, a Polish bracelet weaves the wires in alternating directions creating a richer and more visually elaborate texture.
Wearing the watch is a sensory adventure: the weight of the gold on your wrist; the grainy texture of the frosted gold contrasting with the satin-finished smoothness of other case parts; the slinky polished Polish bracelet; and naturally, the visual spectacle of the movement in motion enhanced with the psychedelic opalescence of the dial.
The price of the Audemars Piguet Millenary Frosted Gold Opal Dial is EUR 54,300. More details on audemarspiguet.com.