What do you do when you want to launch a new collection alongside a truly legendary range that once redefined what luxury watchmaking was? Do you tweak a design and pray it doesn’t get any banter because it looks too much like your precious icon? Or take off in a completely different direction altogether, to find new inspiration and break new grounds in terms of design? Either way, it’s a tough thing to do for sure, but Audemars Piguet took the gamble in 2019 when they introduced the Code 11.59 collection. Hugely different from the famous Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore, but somehow it didn’t capture the heart of collectors and enthusiasts. Was it really that bad? And is it still to this day, that bad? No, it wasn’t back then, and even less these days, which watches like the Code 11.59 Universelle have clearly proven. Through clever use of design, materials, colours and by now extremely complicated movements, the Code 11.59 has seriously matured. But somehow, it still gets quite a lot of hate online. Why is that? And is it justified? The short answer is no, but allow me to go a little deeper into why some prejudices towards this watch are just ridiculous and should end.
the online demeanour
Now, before I dive a little deeper into what I think about the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59, I want to get something else off my chest. It feels to me that the Code 11.59 is singled out and victimised, making it painfully obvious how negative the online demeanour of some people is. Instead of objectively looking at the Code 11.59, it gets ridiculed and bashed left, right and centre from day 1. Don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware that the loud minority pushes aside the silent vast majority, but still. It just baffles me. Luckily though, I feel the perception of the Code 11.59 is slowly changing and to me, it’s well deserved! And let me explain why I feel that way.
A shaky start
Admittedly, the start of the Code 11.59 was perhaps a bit so-so. It was hyped up as the next best thing since sliced bread, but in fact, it wasn’t. The somewhat generic dials took away most of the lustre of the objectively cool and brilliantly finished case construction. As such, people made a huge effort to explain why this was never going to be an iconic collection. It was boring, it was too simple, it lacked personality, etc…
By now though, Audemars Piguet has turned the Code 11.59 around from what it was once perceived to be, into something that deserves our attention for many reasons. It’s far from boring if you look at it closely, with a complex and fascinating case design, and attention to detail and decoration that is rarely seen. It’s also not that simple anymore, as we’ve literally seen an array of innovative and complex models come forth. Heck, it’s even spawned the most complex AP in history! The brand made it clear from day 1; the Code 11.59 was the collection to house all of Audemars’ expertise in Haute Horlogerie and advanced mechanics. Minute repeater, perpetual calendar, grande sonnerie, tourbillon chronograph and now a watch with no fewer than 23 complications. It was even used to bring back the emblematic StarWheel concept.
And about that lack of a personality that was once the main issue of the collection – mostly the dials of the time-and-date models – there’s no doubt to me that AP has addressed this problem. It gets boatloads of character from the range of interesting and contrasting colours and materials, or details such as the intricate new dials in the steel models. And speaking of the steel models, have you noticed the subtle differences between these, and the ones in precious metal? Have you seen how they have different markers and hands, a new date window, and a different inner flange? I bet most haven’t, especially the nay-sayers.
Blinded by the Royal Oak, but it shouldn’t
Whenever we share a story on any of the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet, one nonsensical comment is sure to pop up; “it’s not a Royal Oak.” Or something else along these lines, you get the idea. But think about this for a change. Before the Code 11.59 was introduced, we (the watch community as a whole, us included) were complaining that Audemars was a one-trick pony. There’s now a seriously impressive collection alongside the Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore, and people are simply ridiculing the brand saying the Code 11.59 fails to even stand in the shadows of the Royal Oak. To me, that’s just plain daft!
I’d say it’s time we embrace the Code 11.59 for what it is, a strong and very intriguing collection of mechanical watches! It’s time to look at the latest iterations with an open mind, without prejudice or negativity. It’s time to objectively weigh up the pros and cons, or even better, check it out in person, before passing judgement and spewing negativity around. If in the end, you don’t like it, that’s all fine. But there’s absolutely no need to trash it because you don’t feel a connection with it. And most often, not having seen the watch once in the metal…
Live, and let live, I’d say. Who’s with me?