With the great history that dates back to 1875, Audemars Piguet is the oldest watchmaker still owned by the founding family. Besides its enormous popularity and the fact that it is often classified among the top five watch brands in the world, this luxury Swiss manufacturer has never left good traditional values of the hand-made production.
The Audemars Piguet watch group has 1,100 employees, 14 distribution subsidiaries and 19 boutiques all around the globe, as well as three production sites: Le Brassus (SA de la Manufacture d’Horlogerie Audemars Piguet & Cie), LeLocle (Audemars Piguet: Renaud et Papi SA) and Meyrin (Center SA), producing more than 25,000 timepieces per year.
Having the reputation of the status symbols, Audemars Piguet watches find their place in the world of glamour. It has become the favorite choice of many celebrities and the world’s top athletes, many of whom are the brand’s ambassadors. The world’s leading tennis player, Novak Djokovic, Formula One legend, Michael Schumacher, the best footballer on the planet, Lionel Messi, and a basketball star, LeBron James are just some of the members of the Audemars Piguet family. Among those who got a special and limited edition of AP timepieces are Arnold Schwarzenegger, Shaquille O’Neal, Sachin Tendulkar, Rubens Barrichello, Jarno Trulli, Quincy Jones, and Jay-Z.
The story about this exclusive Swiss brand began more than 235 years ago, in Vallée de Joux, the region famous as the cradle of prestige watchmaking, when 23 year old Edward Piguet and 21 year old Jules Audemars started working together as the suppliers for established companies. Soon after, the talented watchmakers decided to go for their dreams founding the Audemars, Piguet & Cie Company, in order to manufacture and market complicated in-house timepieces.
Audemars Piguet trademark was registered in 1882, but the company was officially established seven years later. During this period, the Swiss manufacturer hired an impressive number of workers, producing over 1,200 watches. Thanks to the highest standards, set by Audemars and Piguet, which allowed that only the most quality products went on market, this brand earned a great reputation very quickly.
Till the end of the 19th century, the manufacturer specialized in making wonderful pocket-watches and wristwatches with minute repeaters. In 1915, the artistry of creating these grand complications was brought to the level that has never been reached again. Audemars Piguet presented the smallest five-minute repeater movement in the world, with the diameter of just 15.8 millimeters.
Jules Audemars and Edward Piguet died in 1918 and 1919 respectively, but that did not slow down the company’s growth. In 1921, AP launched the first jumping-hour wristwatch that also featured a barometer, a quarter repeater, an independent second hand and a date/day indicator. Four years later, the Swiss manufacturer presented another masterpiece – the world’s thinnest pocket watch measuring just 1.32 millimeters. The first skeletonized pocket watch in the world waited to be presented in 1928.
The years of great depression had a huge effect on the company’s development and Audemars Piguet waited for the entire decade for the new rise. During the World War II, it returned to the market with an ultra-thin chronograph, powered by a Calibre 2003. In 1946, Audemars Piguet created the world’s thinnest hand-wound mechanism for a wrist watch. The first wrist watch equipped with a perpetual calendar mechanism was launched in 1955 and ten years later, the ultra-thin skeleton wrist watch came.
The real revolution came with theRoyal Oak, the first high-end sports watch made of steel. The very firstRoyal Oak, presented in 1972, featured a guilloch dial, an octagonal bezel secured with eight hexagonal screws, and an integrated bracelet, which are the same characteristics that can be found on the latest edition of these luxury sports watches. Designed by Gerald Genta, theRoyal Oakbecame one of the brand’s trademarks.
In the 1980’s, Audemars Piguet continued with the superb innovations. First, it presented the first ultra-thin automatic tourbillon timepiece (calibre 2870), with the smallest tourbillon carriage that has been ever made. In 1989, the Swiss watchmaker produced the Dual Time, the watch that was first capable to track time in two time zones with a single movement. Two years later, the world was amazed with the Star Wheel that featured a sector hour display on three sapphire discs.
In 1993, the Prestige Sport Collection was enlarged with a Royal Oak Offshore that reached instant worldwide popularity, presenting the special design for extreme sports and a robust 44 mm case. Exactly 10 years later, a Hollywood star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, worn the Royal Oak Offshore T3 chronograph in the movie Terminator 3.
Highly successful 1990’s were completed with the first hand-wound movement with grand and small strike and a quarter repeater sounding on two gongs (calibre 2868). Since 1999, Audemars Piguet has been working on the renowned Tradition of Excellence Collection, consisting of eight Limited Editions of high end watches, each of them limited to 20 pieces. The first one, named after Jules Audemars, features the minute repeater, tourbillon and a split-second chronograph complication.
In 2002, in order to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Royal Oak, Audemars Piguet revealed the Royal Oak Concept, a futuristic hand-winding timepiece, made of titanium and 602 alacrite, with a dynamograph, a tourbillon, a linear power reserve indicator and a functional selector.
The first timepiece in the world with a plate in moss agate (a natural semi-translucent mineral), named Edward Piguet Moss Agate Tourbillon was presented in 2005. In the same year, the Swiss manufacturer released the advanced Calibre 3120 self-winding movement with a direct-drive second hand, providing greater durability and precision, thanks to the cross-through balance wheel bridge.
The partnership between Audemars Piguet and the famous Italian automobile manufacturer, Maserati, inspired the Swiss watchmaker to produce several high luxury timepieces to be a part of the Millenary Collection. With the new escapement that brought much higher efficiency and shock-resistance to AP mechanisms, the Swiss watchmaker was able to create several breakthrough timepieces, such as a Cabinet No.5 for the Tradition of Excellence Collection, a Millenary Deadbeat Seconds watch from 2007 and a Jeles Audemars Chronometer from 2009 that beats at an extraordinary frequency of 43,200 vibrations per hour.
Today, Audemars Piguet has three main collections for men, as well as for ladies. The Prestige Sport Collection featuresRoyal Oakand Royal Oak Offshore lines. The Classic Collection consists of Jules Audemars, Classics and Edward Piguet lines, while the third Contemporary Collection presents Millenary watch series.
Audemars Piguet has supported various charity and other not-for-profit organizations, making special watches to be sold for noble causes. It also strongly supports the environmental protection, sustainable development and various awareness-raising activities.
Furthermore, this Swiss manufacturer is proud on its partnerships with the institutions and persons from the world of art, such as the Bolshoi Theatre and a famous musical director and producer, Quincy Jones.
Since 1999, AP has sponsored the Queen Elizabeth II Cup, a Group One Thoroughbred horse race, at Sha Tin Racecourse, in theNewTerritories,Hong Kong. It was also a sponsor of Team Alignhi, the winners of the yachting raceAmerica’s Cup in 2003. This partnership resulted in the production of several Alinghi limited editions. Today, AP supports the “Ladycat” team, composed of top-class yachtswomen.