The History of Audemars Piguet, One of the World's Three Greatest Luxury Watch Makers

Audemars Piguet: Founding and family ownership

Audemars Piguet is considered one of the world's three largest luxury watch manufacturers, along with Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin, and its history dates back to 1875. Founded by Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet, the company is still a family-run watch manufacturer today.

The Vallée de Joux in the Swiss Jura Mountains has been famous for watchmaking since the 18th century. The farmers of this village turned to watchmaking during the long winters as a family tradition and cultural heritage. Both Jules Louis and Edouard were originally villagers who made watches in their own homes. Jules had a knack for tinkering with the mechanisms of complex pocket watches since he was a child, and until 1873 he held the high-ranking job of "finisher" in watchmaking. A finisher was responsible for the important finishing touches to chronograph escapements and calendar watches. In 1875, Jules Louis, who was 23 years old at the time, invited his childhood friend Edouard to work together to make a watch that combined a complex mechanism with precision. Thus was born "Audemars Piguet", but the two continued to share responsibilities even after the company was founded. Jules was in charge of production technology and made luxury watches, while Edouard was in charge of the business side of the company, focusing on sales management. This division of labor worked so well that the first branch opened in Geneva in 1889. With 70 employees, the factory became the largest in the region. Thanks to their talent and passion, the company continued to gain fame, and branches were opened in Berlin, London, Paris, New York, Buenos Aires, and other places, earning it worldwide fame and popularity.

Audemars Piguet: Inventions

From the beginning, their company has been praised for producing pocket watches of high quality and precision, and over the years, their adoption of innovative technologies has led to many inventions, including many "world firsts" in the history of watchmaking, such as the smallest five-minute repeater caliber and a pocket watch with a jumping second hand (a pocket watch in which the second hand jumps by one second instead of moving smoothly), as well as the world's thinnest watch and the world's first skeleton watch.

In 1882, Audemars Piguet began manufacturing complicated watches and won a medal at the 1889 World's Fair in Paris. In 1891, they created the world's smallest repeater movement (18mm in diameter), and a year later, they created the first wristwatch with a minute repeater, even though wristwatches had not yet become widespread in the world. In 1893, the company began full-scale production of wristwatches. In 1899, they also started working on super-complication pocket watches called "Grand Complications." These were highly innovative pocket watches packed with as many complicated mechanisms as possible, such as grande and petite sonnerie, minute repeater, perpetual calendar, deadbeat second, and chronograph with jump and split second hands. In 1915, they introduced the Grand Complication, which contained 400 parts, and created the world's smallest five-minute repeater movement.

Jules Louis died in 1918, followed by Edouard in 1919, but the company was taken over by his two sons. In 1920, the company produced a magnificent pocket watch with 16 complications, including a tourbillon, large and small chimes, a perpetual calendar, an equation of time display and a sidereal time display, and a blue enamel dial engraved with 315 stars to represent the London night sky. In 1925, Audemars Piguet introduced the world's thinnest pocket watch (1.32 mm), and in 1929, wristwatches were sold more than pocket watches for the first time.

Audemars Piguet: Hard Times

In 1929, the Great Depression began on Wall Street, and the company faced a crisis. The stock market crash forced the company to lay off most of its employees. However, sales gradually recovered from 1932, and the company continued to develop. In 1934, Audemars Piguet developed its first skeleton watch, with the movement of the caliber visible from under the dial.

The two world wars then caused the company to face difficult times. In 1933, Jacques-Louis Audemars, the founder's grandson, took over the company, but during the war only two watchmakers remained and only a few watches were made. From 1936 to 1953, new chronographs were produced, but sales slowed due to the Second World War. Nevertheless, the company continued to produce thin watches and traditional luxury watches, and in 1949 it exhibited at the Basel fair for the first time.

Audemars Piguet Post-War Development

After the Second World War, Audemars Piguet made a comeback by producing ultra-thin chronograph models. In 1946, the company succeeded in developing the world's thinnest mechanical caliber (1.64 mm), and in 1955, it introduced the world's first perpetual calendar wristwatch with leap year display.

Up until around 1970, the company went through a period of prosperity and innovation, enjoying great success among its international clientele. In 1967, it developed the Calibre 2120, the world's thinnest (2.45 mm) automatic movement with a central gold rotor. When the Swiss watchmaking industry faced the quartz crisis in the 1970s, the company realized it needed a revolutionary change and decided to introduce a new product. This is how the Royal Oak, a wristwatch that is still very famous today, was born.

Since the 1970s, the company has released various "industry firsts" such as ultra-thin perpetual calendar watches, ultra-thin automatic tourbillons, and automatic grand complications. In 1986, it invented the first ultra-thin automatic watch with a second time zone. The tourbillon carriage at this time was the smallest ever. The company also launched a rectangular watch with a minute repeater and jumping hours consisting of 412 parts, and a women's watch with a minute repeater and carillon. In 2000, it launched the "Tradition d'Excellence" collection, a complication-equipped collection that combines tradition and innovation.

In 2006, Audemars Piguet presents the AP escapement, which does not require lubrication and has a frequency of 43,200 bph (6 Hz). Combining the reliability of the traditional Swiss lever escapement with the efficiency of the direct impulse escapement, this escapement offers optimal energy transfer and a longer power reserve. The escapement is adjusted by two balance springs, one above the other, offset by 180° in opposite directions. This arrangement optimizes mechanical precision by automatically compensating for possible imperfections in the counterbalance. It also allows for better adjustment by allowing the exchange of terminal curves, which is very difficult with a single spring.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak

The Royal Oak is Audemars Piguet's signature model. It is no exaggeration to say that this model has helped the company overcome its crisis and continue to maintain its glory.

The 1970s were a difficult time for the Swiss watch industry. The rise of quartz watches, which quickly gained popularity, forced traditional watch producers to quickly come up with innovative ideas. At the time, watchmakers did not have a collection of sports watches, and steel cases were considered taboo, but Audemars Piguet broke that taboo and introduced the Royal Oak, a luxury watch with a steel case and a sporty design. It is said that this watch was created in just one day. In April 1972, the director of Audemars Piguet, who was to exhibit at a watch fair in Basel, Switzerland, asked famous watch designer Gerald Genta to create an "unprecedented steel watch" the day before the fair. The Royal Oak was then announced the next day. The watch was said to have been inspired by a diver's helmet that Genta saw on the shores of Lake Geneva, and featured an octagonal bezel fixed with eight white gold screws, a visible water-resistant gasket, and a dial with guilloched engraving. The case was only 7mm thick, but was large for its time, with a diameter of 39mm. It was fitted with a very complicated stainless steel bracelet. The movement was the beautifully finished automatic caliber 2121, which beats at 19,800 vibrations per hour, was only 3.05mm thick, and had an anti-shock system, making it ideal for a sports watch. It is still used in the current Royal Oak. This unprecedented steel watch was more expensive than a gold Patek Philippe watch, and its initial price (3,650 Swiss francs) was more than 10 times that of the Rolex Submariner in 1973, making it a luxury sports watch. Due to its price and unique design, sales were slow at first, but the Royal Oak was accepted by collectors and trendsetters and became a success. Initially limited to 1,000 pieces, it achieved sales of 100,000 by 2000.

The model with the perpetual calendar, calibre 2120/2800, was designed in 1981 and is the world's thinnest wristwatch. It also accommodates calendar changes such as leap years and will not require manual adjustment until the year 2100.

The Royal Oak has had many variations, but the most successful was the Royal Oak Offshore, created in 1992 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Royal Oak. It was designed by Emmanuel Gueyt, who was only 22 years old, for sports enthusiasts and young people. The concept of this model was an "exploded" approach that revealed how the watch was constructed, and the 42mm case, which was shockingly large at the time, earned it the nickname "The Beast". Introduced at the Basel fair in 1993, the Offshore initially disappointed many purists, but like the Royal Oak, it has since become a huge success. In 1999 and 2003, Arnold Schwarzenegger wore it in his film, and in 2009, an Offshore with an automatic chronograph was released, and in 2013, an Offshore with a grand complication was released.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary, the Royal Oak Concept was created. This model featured a dynamograph, tourbillon, power reserve indicator, and more. The bezel was made of titanium, and the case was made of Aralite 602, a superalloy borrowed for the first time from the aviation industry. Only 150 pieces were sold.

In addition to the Royal Oak, Audemars Piguet has released a variety of models, including the "Jules Audemars" and "Edouard Piguet" models named after the company's founders, as well as the "Millenary" model with an oval case and automatic movement. Audemars Piguet continues to take on new challenges with the motto of "harmony between tradition and innovation" that has been in place since the company's founding.

<Brief biography>

1899: The Grand Complication pocket watch is born

1915: Creation of the world's smallest five-minute repeater movement

1921: Produces a wristwatch with a "jumping hour" function that displays the time in Arabic numerals in a small window on the dial.

1946: Developed the world's thinnest (1.64mm) hand-wound wristwatch movement.

1955: The first wristwatch with a perpetual calendar was released

1972: Launch of the Royal Oak (Caliber 2121), the first luxury sports watch designed by Gerald Genta.

1986: Produced the world's first ultra-thin automatic tourbillon wristwatch (Caliber 2870)

1989: First dual-time wristwatch showing two time zones with a single automatic movement (caliber 2229/2845)

1992: Release of the automatic "Triple Complication" watch with minute repeater, chronograph and perpetual calendar functions.

In 1993, the company released the Royal Oak Offshore, which boasted a large 44mm case and water resistance of up to 100m, and became a huge hit.

1994: The first wristwatch (caliber 2868) was launched, integrating a pocket watch mechanism into a wristwatch and featuring a grande sonnerie, petite sonnerie and quarter repeater.

1995: Launch of the first automatic "Grand Complication" wristwatch, adding a split-second chronograph to the triple complication

2000: To commemorate the 125th anniversary of the company's founding, the Jules Audemars Dynamograph, which displays the torque of the mainspring, is added to the collection.

2002: To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Royal Oak, the Royal Oak Concept was launched, using titanium and Aralite 602.

2004: A Royal Oak with a manual winding tourbillon chronograph and platinum case back and band is released in a limited edition of 20 pieces.

2005: Released the Edouard Piguet Moss Agate Tourbillon, the world's first watch to use moss agate in its movement.

2006: Released a platinum model equipped with an AP escapement that is shock-resistant and does not require lubrication

2012: Launch of a new series to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Royal Oak