Audemars Piguet is the only traditional Swiss watch manufacturer that is still family owned by the descendants of its founders after 145 years. The founding fathers, Jules-Louis Audemars and Edward-Auguste Piguet, both came from traditional watchmaking families that had lived for generations in Le Brassus, Vallée de Joux, Switzerland. Both trained as watchmakers and founded the family business in 1875. Mr. Audemars, who was inspired to create innovative movements, took over the technical design within the manufactory while Mr. Piguet devoted himself to commercial tasks and was instrumental in the brand being one of the first watchmakers to open sales branches in Europe and America.
1889 marked the first highlights in the young history of the brand as the “Grand Complication” was presented at the World Exhibition in Paris and won a special prize. For the first time, the pocket watch combined several complications including a chronograph, a perpetual calendar and a minute repeater. The small studio in Audemar’s parents’ house soon no longer met demand so a production facility had to be built in 1907. This factory is still the headquarters of the manufactory today.
As you know, the most iconic piece is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak which is known even beyond the circles of die-hard watch fans. But the Royal Oak was not a hit at first due to the extremely high price of a steel watch (3,650 Swiss francs) and the unusually large diameter of 38.8 millimeters. Sales were very low as it was the first stainless steel high-end watch in an era when luxury pieces were generally only gold.
But all that changed when celebrities such as Gianni Agnelli, member of the Fiat family dynasty who was once one of the wealthiest men in Italy, began wearing the Royal Oak on his wrist a few years later. The rest is history as the stainless steel watch with the octagonal bezel became a design icon. A list of celebrities who have not worn Royal Oak would probably be made faster than a list of famous Royal Oak owners.
The latest addition to the Royal Oak family is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Tourbillon Extra-Thin Ref. #26521BC which is limited to only 10 pieces worldwide. The watch combines AP’s flair for gemstones with their most iconic piece, the Royal Oak. The 18-carat white gold case comes together with a bezel set with 32 baguette-cut diamonds, as well as the black sunburst dial with AP’s legendary Tapisserie structure. The watch is 9mm thick and has a case diameter of 41mm. Easy to spot is the Tourbillon at the 6 o’clock index, which enhances precision by defying gravity.
AP did a great job again in terms of design and, since it’s limited to only 10 pieces, it’s so exclusive that you won’t likely see one of these beauties on the streets. Fortunately, there is Instagram and @gwatchg one of the very few owners. He is a great collector with fantastic watch taste and pieces that you don’t see every day. Enjoy the view gents.