About a week ago, Audemars Piguet introduced a very surprising watch. Designed as the first watch in a new collection inspired by the brand’s rich past, the [Re]master01 watch is a remastering of a beautiful historic model. Based on a 1943 two-tone chronograph with Art Deco design, this rare and handsome watch had a hand-wound movement with “teardrop” lugs. Audemars Piguet’s idea was to offer a taste of the past in a contemporary package. Despite the complex situation, we were able to get our hands on this beautiful piece and to see what it really looks like in the metal… And yes, it really deserves to be seen on the wrist.
Judging a piece on press images, often 3D renders or ultra-photoshopped images, can be misleading. Besides the obvious lack of proportions and feeling on the wrist, these images don’t always do justice to the watch. The way the ambient light plays with a watch is important, creating reflections, changing the colour of a dial… The first images of the Audemars Piguet [Re]master01 Selfwinding Chronograph gave a relatively bold image of the watch, with bright gold tones. But let’s get straight to the point; the new [Re]master01 is far more subtle in real life, far more elegant and is truly an impressive piece. It was a very pleasant surprise, which we’ll at look in detail now.
Inspired by The 1943 “teardrop” Chronograph
The 1972 Royal Oak marked an immense step in the history of Audemars Piguet, being the watch that kickstarted the trend of the luxury sports watch. It is also a watch that drastically altered the face of the company, changing from elegant dress watches manufactured on request to the production of bolder sports watches – still Haute Horlogerie, but with a different vocation. Few might know that, until 1951, every watch manufactured by Audemars Piguet was unique – there were models produced in multiple examples, but all differed with a special dial, a special combination of materials…
If we look back at what Audemars Piguet was before the Royal Oak, we have to remember that the brand (part of the Holy Trinity of watchmaking) manufactured some of the finest chronographs and perpetual calendars. These wrist chronographs by Audemars Piguet are very rare. According to the brand, only 307 examples were made between the 1930s through the 1950s – an era we know as the golden age of fine chronographs, with hand-wound movements, original designs and splendid dials. In this period, Audemars Piguet was manufacturing refined, precious dress chronographs. One of the best examples being the pre-model 1533 (editor’s note: back in the days, reference numbers didn’t exist yet, so the watch is here catalogued as “Photograph 1533”). Back then, the chronograph wasn’t yet the sports watch we know today (this would occur in the late 1950s and early 1960s).
The Audemars Piguet 1943 “Teardrop” is the perfect example of a high-end 1940s chronograph. First of all, it has a 36mm case, and surprisingly, this case could be ordered in a combination of stainless steel and pink gold, like the present example. Second, it featured attractive teardrop lugs, reminiscent of the Art Deco era, along with the stylized 12 on the dial. Also relatively rare for the era, this was a 3-counter chronograph. The dial of the vintage model that served as the inspiration was made in a unique rose-champagne colour with blued chronograph hands.
Regarding scarcity, according to Phillips Watches, “only three stainless steel and gold chronograph wristwatches with the present case design were manufactured in 1941 and later sold in 1943, and the example offered here is the only one with such a (…) dial.” The dial also features a tachymeter scale as well as a nice detail; the number “45” is printed in red above the 15-minute mark inside the 30-minute register – to allow the wearer to record up to 45 minutes.
This Audemars Piguet Chronograph was powered by a hand-wound movement, the well-known calibre 13VZAH with 22 jewels – manufactured by Valjoux – a classic column-wheel and horizontal clutch movement. The present piece has appeared at least twice on the auction circuit. First in 2013 with Sotheby’s and sold for CHF 115,000 and then again in 2015 with Phillips and sold for CHF 305,000. This very watch, now in the hands of the Audemars Piguet Heritage Collection, has been “remastered” in a modern package to become the [Re]master01 Selfwinding Chronograph.
the [Re]master Concept
Let’s start with what the Audemars Piguet [Re]master01 is not. It is not a faithful vintage re-edition of an existing watch. Nothing wrong with that since the brand itself is very open in saying this. This watch is not meant to be a 1-to-1 copy. So what is it then? According to Michael Friedman, the man in charge of Complications at Audemars Piguet, who’s also advising on Heritage, this watch is meant to be a 21st-century incarnation of a glorious vintage watch with multiple elements to make it a technically contemporary piece – hence the name [Re]master. By introducing the brand’s latest technology, the comfort of an automatic movement and contemporary proportions into a watch that evokes the rich heritage of the brand, the original has been ‘remastered’.
“This is not a historic reissue – it is a contemporary remastering” says Michael Friedman, Audemars Piguet’s Head of Complications.
Most of the vintage-inspired watches that we see on the market today are based on the 1950s and 1960s. The previous and following decades are somewhat underestimated and the concentration is on the desirable and early sports watches of the twenty years following WWII. Understandably, since these two decades have produced some of the nicest watches we can think of. It saw the birth of the dive watch, the rise of the sports chronograph, the civilian pilots’ watches and, in general, the era of the tool watch… However, the 1930s and 1940s also have their share of beauties. On the contrary to the tool watch era, the pre-WWII period was home for creativity and elegance, with multiple expressions of case form and dial design. And the [Re]master01 pays tribute to Audemars Piguet Art Deco watches.
The [Re]master01 Selfwinding Chronograph
It is time now to look at the watch in details. The case of the [Re]master01 Selfwinding Chronograph is clearly inspired by the shape of the 1533. The whole shape, a rounded pebble entirely polished with a high bezel, is true to the original. So are the lugs, short and shaped like teardrops – a rather unusual shape, which is somehow unique to the 1930s and 1940s and that gives this watch its identity. Looking at the side of the watch, we can see a combination of two materials, 18k rose gold for the bezel, the crown and the pushers, and stainless steel for the main case, the caseback and the lugs. Audemars Piguet decided to retain the typical “navette” pushers (if you want to know, this name has to do with a French pastry) and the oversized crown, yet with a slim profile – both being rather classic for vintage chronographs.
In terms of proportions, the case has been increased to a modern diameter at 40mm compared to the 36mm of the original watch. Yet, 40mm remains perfectly acceptable considering the 42mm or plus diameter of modern chronographs. Combined with short lugs, it makes for a compact case that sits well on the wrist. It has some presence, certainly, but still has classic proportions that fit with the overall concept of [Re]master01. The height of the case is substantial, at 14.6mm, due to the presence of a modern automatic movement. However, this somehow helps to retain the diameter/height ratio of the old pre-model 1533.
The combination of steel and rose gold feels rather unusual since it isn’t the kind of materials you would think of when creating a 1940s inspired watch. Full steel or full yellow gold would have been the easier choices, but this steel-and-gold combo (something that most of us see as a 1980s style) is a deliberate choice by Audemars Piguet. Not only does it echo the original watch but it is also a bold move to set the watch apart. Some would have certainly preferred a steel watch with a silver-toned dial… but at least Audemars makes a striking impression with this first [Re]master watch that sets it apart from the crowd.
The same can be said about the dial of the [Re]master01 Selfwinding Chronograph. It evokes the past but also integrates modern features required by the implementation of a modern movement. However, besides the obvious change of position for the sub-dials – their location is different and so is their position on the dial, since the two sub-dials are not exactly placed on the 3-9 axle but slightly above – the style of the vintage dial has been well protected. Hands, fonts, surfaces and colours are legitimate and defined and the smallest details have been beautifully reproduced.
The dial has a smooth vertically brushed surface, like the original, with a yellow gold colour (dark champagne…) here again, there’s a strong difference between the official images and the reality since the colour of the dial is far more subtle than it appeared at first sight. Depending on the ambient light and reflections, the dial changes from a light champagne colour to a dark, aged gold-tone (almost amber). To display the time, Audemars Piguet also retained the straight baton hands in polished yellow gold, which are surprisingly easy to read. The chronograph indications are all displayed thanks to blued steel hands, matching the blue tachymeter scale on the periphery of the dial. The execution of the dial is impressive, with neatly defined fonts and beautifully executed gold hands. And to stay true to the 1533, the brand decided not to add a date window.
One important detail, the new [Re]master01 features the signature “Audemars Piguet & Co. Genève” on the dial, even though it is manufactured in Le Brassus like all AP watches. From around 1885 to the mid-1970s, Audemars Piguet had a workshop in Geneva to be closer to its clients and facilitate distribution within Europe and beyond. As a tribute to the original piece, the brand chose to keep this historic logo.
To power this [Re]master01, Audemars Piguet relies on its latest chronograph movement, inaugurated in Code 11.59, and that we explained in detail in this technical article. This modern automatic movement is technically impressive and features the most modern solutions. The large 32mm diameter Calibre 4409, features a column wheel and vertical clutch, the latter enabling precise starts and stops. Specific to this movement are the three twin hammers and hammer springs. The hammers are responsible for resetting the hands. The three hammer springs are almost identical and positioned one next to the other. Not only is the function smooth and complete but it is really cool to see these in action one next to the other, superbly highlighted by the architecture of the movement.
Also important to note is that Calibre 4409 is a flyback chronograph, which means it can be returned to zero and restarted instantly with a single push of the button. The power reserve is very comfortable, at 70 hours, and the movement runs at a modern frequency – 28,800 vibrations/hours or 4Hz. The decoration includes straight and circular satin brushing, Geneva stripes and perlage – on both sides of the bridges, even in the hidden areas. The bridges feature large chamfers, perfectly diamond polished. Engravings are gold toned. The 22K gold rotor is decorated with a guilloché pattern.
Although some purists will argue that this movement is far from the Valjoux ébauche found in the 1533, it does, however, befit the [Re]master01 concept. In addition to that, it allows for the balance of the dial with well-spaced sub-dials. A final word regarding the movement: it is large and entirely fills the case. There’s something very satisfying in seeing a large movement in a relatively small watch. Rare enough to be mentioned.
The [Re]master01 is worn on a casual light-brown leather strap, which once again adds to the charm of the watch – an additional brown alligator strap is also included in the presentation box, however, it might give the watch a too formal attire.
What to think of the [Re]master01?
It was obviously a necessity to see this watch in its habitat, on the wrist and in natural light. While the official images led some to point out that the two-tone case and the dial were too saturated, too contrasted, the reality is different. The [Re]master01 is indeed much more subtle, much more understated. It has an impressive elegance, some charm and is very lively. We can’t deny that it has some presence and some shine, but it is never blatant or excessive. The rose gold used for the bezel/crown/pushers is soft and contrasts with the cold colour of steel. It is never overwhelming and blends with the colour of the dial.
Audemars Piguet could have gone the easy way by making this watch in steel with a silver-toned dial. This would have been consensual but the choice of colours here is very interesting. Maybe some won’t like it, but considering that only 500 pieces will be made, this watch will sell out quickly.
Regarding the execution, the quality is undeniable. The dial is extremely detailed and perfectly manufactured. Same goes for the case and the Calibre 4409. Regarding the “remastering” concept, there will always be purists who would have prefered to see a 36mm case and a hand-wound movement. However, for us, Audemars Piguet has managed to introduce modernity without altering the original watch – which, in any case, would have been almost impossible to reproduce to a 100% level.
All in all, Audemars Piguet presents an accomplished, bold watch with its [Re]master01. A desirable statement to introduce this new concept.
PS. to François-Henry Bennahmias and Micheal Friedman… If you want to continue with remastered versions of the Streamline Jumping Hour, the 5516 Perpetual or some of these superb 1920s/1930s minute repeaters with cushion-shaped cases… We fully understand! Just saying.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
The Audemars Piguet [Re]master01 Selfwinding Chronograph (ref. 26595SR-OO-A032VE-01) will be limited to 500 pieces and its retail price will be CHF 53,400 (taxes incl.) More details at www.audemarspiguet.com.