Audemars Piguet Brand Review By Alexander – Founder and Owner of swissdiverswatches.com
In 1875, Audemars Piguet was founded in Le Brassus, Switzerland, by Jules Louis Audemars, and Edward Auguste Piguet. The two watchmakers decided to join each other in order to develop and manufacture watches with complex movements.
Audemars Piguet is the oldest watch manufacturer which hasn’t left the ownership of the founding families. Even today, Audemars Piguet is still independent.
Audemars Piguet is one of the finest and most celebrated luxury watchmakers ever. Audemars Piguet is a member of the “Holy Trinity” of watches – the three most luxurious, and prestigious luxury watch brands offered on the watch market today. The two other members of the “Holy Trinity” are Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe.
Not only is Audemars Piguet a member of the “Holy Trinity” – it’s a pioneer in watchmaking. The brand can boast with being the first in several fields:
- In 1892, the first minute repeater wristwatch was developed and produced.
- In 1915, the smallest five-minute repeater movement ever made, was developed. The diameter was a tiny 15.80mm.
- In 1921, the brand developed the first jumping-hour wristwatch.
- In 1925, the Swiss watchmaker produced the world’s thinnest pocket watch movement – 1.32 mm thick.
- In 1934, the first skeletonised pocket watch was developed.
- In 1946, the watch manufacturer developed the world’s thinnest wristwatch.
- In 1957, Audemars Piguet developed the first wristwatch equipped with a perpetual calendar.
- In 1967, the watchmaker developed the world’s thinnest selfwinding automatic movement with a thickness of 2.45 mm.
- In 1972, they developed the legendary Royal Oak Collection – the first collection of high-end sports watches made of steel.
- In 1978, the first ultra-thin automatic wristwatch with a perpetual calendar was released.
- In 1986, the brand developed the first ultra-thin automatic tourbillon wristwatch – merely 5.3 mm thick including the case – a feat in itself!
- In 1989, the smallest automatic watch equipped with a perpetual calendar, was invented.
- In 1996, Audemars Piguet developed the first automatic Grande complication watch.
- In 1997, the first Grande Sonnerie chiming watch equipped with a minute repeater with three gongs and three hammers, was introduced.
- In 2000, the first watch with an Equation of Time, perpetual calendar, sunrise and sunset times, was invented.
- In 2006, the first direct-impulse escapement was developed.
- In 2008, the first watch with a carbon case and carbon movement was developed.
- In 2009, Audemars Piguet developed a high-frequency chronometer, equipped with an escapement, and a double balance-spring.
The legendary Swiss watchmaker from Le Brassus, is defined by 6 main values that define the brand:
- Respect – the brand wants a bond based on trust and keeps its promises.
- Integrity – the brand stays true to its origins.
- Exlusivity – each timepiece and movement is crafted by hand, which means each timepiece gets an individual nature based on the talents of each and every watchmaker.
- Inspiration – the brand intends to create the most beautiful watches to create an impression on its customers.
- Sophistication – the brand values perfection of details.
- Passion – the brand takes pride in manufacturing their watches, perfecting the details and delivering quality.
32,000 watches are produced each year by Audemars Piguet. It means there are indeed very few of them.
Audemars Piguet is well known for several technical features such as the first jumping hour wristwatch, the first minute repeater wristwatch and among the thinnest watches in the world among tourbillon, automatic and pocket watch categories. The brand usually uses the most precious materials such as gold, platinum and diamond.
Audemars Piguet has also produced several watch models that feature complications such as perpetual calendar with leap years, split-second chronographs and moon phase.
How does a concept watch come into fruition at Audemars Piguet?
First of all, the brand starts off with a hand design, which later on becomes a computer based design which finally leads to a prototype. Watchmakers and 3D engineers spend on an average one month to create a fully finished prototype.
The components of the Audemars Piguet in-house movements are hand-crafted.
Openworking means that the movement is given transparency in order to enhance the aesthetic appeal.
Beveling means its a finish which adds to the beauty of the mainplate.
Perlage means a certain kind of decoration is added on dials, plates, recesses, bridges and bars.
Linear graining means that while the mainplate is held in place, a certain pattern is created onto the surface while moving a slate stick across it.
Audemars Piguet’s complications – that is unusually complicated movements, would involve the following categories:
- Time interval.
- Time keeping.
As far as astronomy is concerned, Audemars Piguet’s movement would involve complications such as sunrise and sunset, moon phases, day and date, equation of time, and dual time.
Audemars Piguet utilizes in-house made movements, which makes this manufacturer a member of a small and exclusive club of Swiss watchmakers.
- Audemars Piguet in-house automatic movement 2226/2840, with 54 jewels.
- Audemars Piguet in-house automatic movement 2326/2840, with 37 jewels, 21,600 vph, and a 40 hour power reserve.
- Audemars Piguet in-house automatic movement 2385, with 37 jewels, 21,600 vph, and a 40 hour power reserve.
- Audemars Piguet in-house automatic movement 3120, with 40 jewels, 21600 vph, and a 60 hour power reserve.
- Audemars Piguet in-house automatic movement 3126/3840, with 59 jewels, 21,600 vph, and a 60 hour power reserve.
This is luxury of the highest order. Audemars Piguet is a member of the “The Holy Trinity of Watches” – Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, and Patek Philippe.
Audemars Piguet belongs to the top 3 luxury brands of the world!
The very fact that the Swiss brand is a member of this very exclusive club, means that you have opted for a brand which belongs at the very top of the Swiss Luxury Watch hierarchy. To my knowledge, as far as pricing and prestige are concerned, there is not a single brand that is beyond “The Holy Trinity”.
Audemars Piguet has a long history of watchmaking. The brand has existed since 1875, and has pioneered in quite many fields of watchmaking. Audemars Piguet is characterized by a technical brilliance and virtuosity that very few brands can match – maybe with the unique expections of the other two members of “The Holy Trinity” and Jaeger LeCoultre.
Audemars Piguet’s fame is attributed first and foremost to the Royal Oak Collection. It’s the Royal Oak Offshore Collection – a branch within Royal Oak, that offers Audemars Piguet’s divers watches.
Indeed, Audemars Piguet offers other collections as well such as the Audemars Piguet Edward Piguet, the Audemars Piguet Jules Audemars, and the Audemars Piguet Millenary. None of them however have made Audemars Piguet as famous as it is today, and none of them offers any divers watches. It’s the Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore that have made the brand truly famous. Audemars Piguet is sometimes referred to as “a one-model-brand” implying that Royal Oak is what makes the brand famous.
The story behind the Royal Oak Collection is quite interesting. Audemars Piguet suffered from financial difficulties back in the 1970s, and the manufacturer desperately tried to save itself from bankruptcy by introducing a new Collection.
Audemars Piguet hired a designer called Gerald Genta in 1972. This was sort of a gamble since Gerald Genta opted for a completely unorthodox octagonal case design. The collection however became a major success story, and ever since 1972, the Royal Oak Collection has been immensely appreciated, popular and successful. Audemars Piguet has been defined by this single collection ever since. Some people appreciate the somewhat unorthodox design and some people don’t.
The pricing, and the prestige of Audemars Piguet – and the other two “Holy Trinity” members, make other Swiss luxury brands look quite “common”. I say this ironically of course since there is absolutely nothing that is “common” about higher end Swiss luxury watches! However, being a member of “The Holy Trinity” does not mean that their movements are “better” or more accurate. It does not make the other brands any “worse”. Not at all.
Many less prestigious Swiss Luxury Watch brands such as Rolex, Tudor, Omega, Breitling, Panerai, IWC Schaffhausen, Zenith, and Jaeger LeCoultre – just to mention a few very prominent examples, can tell time as well as Audemars Piguet, and in fact very often exhibit and keep a higher time accuracy and higher water resistance than Audemars Piguet itself. Higher price and higher prestige do not in any shape, form or manner, equal higher time accuracy. This is a very common misperception.
So why is Audemars Piguet and the two other “Holy Trinity” members more costly? I can think of 3 main reasons for that:
- The movements are usually more costly, and could be, but do not have to be more complicated. The word “complicated” is used in the sense that these brands have added additional functions to them. Many Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watches are equipped with tourbillons. Very complicated movements can literally take half a year to manufacture! It’s not a joke.
- On top of that, the movements and the cases are usually richly and profusely decorated, and usually expensive case materials are used – such as gold, platinum and ceramic. You’ll find of course Audemars Piguet watches in stainless steel as well.
- Since Audemars Piguet manufactures and sells a very small volume of timepieces, it means it’s necessary to charge a premium price per each manufactured and sold timepiece, in order for the company to be profitable.
Since Audemars Piguet manufactures and sells a relatively small volume of watches per year – each one charged at a premium price, it’s very rare that you’ll find a local retailer that offers Audemars Piguet, and very rare that you’ll ever see a person wear Audemars Piguet on the street.
Celebrities that are known to have endorsed Audemars Piguet are Lebron James, Michael Schumacher, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
My ranking of Audemars Piguet: 3rd.
It’s debatable how you actually rank a brand, and a ranking is never objective, but the best way to turn a subjective ranking into an “objective” one is to rely on certain criteria. My ranking criteria of course are entirely subjective, and they aren’t set in stone.
I use 14 criteria in determining the ranking of a particular brand, such as (1) a long and respected history, (2) limited supply and large demand, (3) reputation/status/prestige, (4) whether the brand is independent or not, (5) pioneering spirit and innovations, (6) impact on watchmaking history and modern culture, (7) general in-house production, (8) whether the brand relies on in-house made movements or not, (9) whether or not the brand makes movement complications, (10) steel grade, (11) build quality, (12) price range, (13) good resale value, and (14) market presence.
Prices for Audemars Piguet Watches:
- The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore divers watches can be found in the $15,000 – $70,000 price range.