One year ago, Audemars Piguet launched what is probably its most important watch in the last 25 years: the two other major launches were the 1972 Royal Oak and the 1993 Royal Oak Offshore. An entirely new collection, a watch that we described as “the discreet Audemars Piguet, made for accomplished collectors” in our review, a watch with important new movements… and a watch that also generated frenzied discussions! Maybe Code 11.59 wasn’t bold enough. Maybe it was too discreet. Certainly, it has been misunderstood. A week ago, Audemars Piguet revealed a spiced-up, bolder take on the watch with new smoked lacquered dials and two-tone cases.
While we’ve already introduced this new sub-collection of no fewer than 10 references, we had the opportunity to have a hands-on session with most of the models. As you know, press images rarely do justice to a watch and there is nothing better than seeing a timepiece in the metal, to see how it plays with the ambient light, to see how it looks in real life. So, are these new dials and material combinations doing anything good to the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet? Let’s find out.
The Smoked Lacquered Dials
One of the major complaints concerning the early versions of Code 11.59 regarded the dial. But let’s not rehash the whole story again or report some of the absurd comments we’ve seen here and on social media (let’s be honest, most of the time addressed by people who haven’t even seen the watch in the metal)…
One thing cannot be denied: the dials of Code 11.59 are absolutely exquisitely executed. Their surface is obtained with up to eight layers of glossy lacquer and polished to a high shine. The result is lively, reflects the ambient light and flawless, even though the process is extremely complex. The same can be said about the hands, the indexes, the applied Audemars Piguet logo and the metallic frames around the sub-counters (on the chronograph). Everything is highly detailed and impressively executed. But that’s something you can only see when handling the watch.
What could be argued is the relative discretion of these dials, especially the time-and-date models. The simple display combined with a uniform colour was, according to some, too “flat” or lacking some personality – something that is rarely the case with Audemars Piguet. But we’re now in 2020 and the brand has introduced some new versions with smoked, lacquered, sunray-brushed dials – and that is certainly is a game-changing element.
Among the five new colour schemes introduced by Audemars Piguet, three of them are applied to mono-metal watches with bright coloured dials. Burgundy, ocean blue and dark purple have been chosen here and a gradient pattern applied to the colour to enliven these watches.
On all three versions, the dial is bright and vivid in the centre and darkens towards the periphery – in fact, the inner flange with 60-minute track or tachymeter scale is now lacquered in pitch-black. Another novelty concerns the surface of the dial itself. Previously flat and glossy, the dials are now finished with a sunray-brushed pattern that enhanced the reflections of the ambient light, making these watches more lively, more playful. And that is exactly what was needed in this context, to bring more appeal and personality to Code 11.59.
Of the three colours available, we had the chance to see the burgundy chronograph, which is cased in 18k white gold and features white gold applied indexes and hands. The result is relatively discreet – let’s say well-dosed – and the contrast between the warm dark red dial and the cold metal is particularly appealing. A matching strap completes the package.
The second dial we’ve been able to see in the metal is the ocean blue model, either in time-and-date or chronograph, which is cased in 18k pink gold with matching hands and indexes. The central colour is bright while the black periphery tones down the look. A dark blue strap completes the package making this blue-and-gold model a classic with a twist.
The two-tone iterations
The most impressive part of Code 11.59 lies in its complex case. While the case appears round at first, it is actually one of the most elaborate designs we’ve seen recently. If you look at the side of the watch, you’ll see how the lugs are floating and form part of the bezel module – not attached to the rest of the case. They are also hollowed and feature thin polished bevels, even on the internal surfaces. The most recognizable element is, of course, the central container that pays a discreet tribute to the iconic octagon, a shape dear to Audemars Piguet. This central case is not only shaped but also features a combination of brushed and polished surfaces.
With this complex architecture, Audemars Piguet had the possibility to play with materials, colours and contrast. Tested first in a unique piece for Only Watch – a bi-colour Openworked Tourbillon – the two-tone cases are now used in the permanent collection, combining 18k white gold for the bezel, lugs and caseback, with a central case in 18k pink gold. The crown and pushers are also 18k white gold.
This combination of colours is again relatively discreet at first sight and requires a closer look to reveal its beauty. Once again, the idea with Code 11.59 isn’t the same as with a Royal Oak Offshore. The inclusion of a warm gold central case into a discreet cold metal is well dosed and adds some charm to the piece.
The two-tone cases are available on the time-and-date and chronograph models, with two possible dial options. The first one is an elegant dark grey and black dial with rose gold applied indexes and hands. Worn on a black alligator strap, the result is charming, warm and brings a luxurious touch to the watch.
The second two-tone version of Code 11.59 certainly is the boldest of this 2020 collection, with its silver-brushed (not smoked) dial, its pink gold accents, its case that is mostly silver coloured and, in the present case, a tone-on-tone light grey strap. This specific version will certainly generate debate and won’t be to everyone’s taste – which certainly has a lot to do with this original light grey strap. The result should be quite different on a dark grey or black strap.
There’s no denying the work done by Audemars Piguet to add charm and life to its Code 11.59 collection. The colourful dials bring a discreet dose of boldness without making the collection too daring and without removing the natural elegance of the design. It simply adds the touch of contemporary design we were somehow expecting from Audemars Piguet, the spices to make the recipe more striking.
The same can be said about the two-tone models, particularly the dark grey dial versions that are, unanimously here at MONOCHROME, the most achieved models of the entire Code 11.59 collection. Elegant, lively, warm and detailed, the bi-colour case suits perfectly the design of this watch.
What doesn’t change is the impressive quality of the watch and of its in-house movements – the new calibre 4300 and 4400, the latter being explained in more details in this article.
Price and availability
Like the rest of the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet collection, these new smoked and two-tone models are boutique exclusive. The prices remain the same as the monochromatic version introduced in 2019, meaning USD 26,800 or CHF 27,000 for all time-and-date models and USD 42,400 or CHF 42,600 for all chronograph models. They are now available in stores.
More details at www.audemarspiguet.com.