Audemars Piguet's New Code 11.59 Collection Is A Game Changer
When Audemars Piguet settled on Taipei as the city to host the Asian debut of a revolutionary new collection of watches, it wasn’t a random choice. The Taiwanese capital is one of Asia’s hidden gems, a treasure trove of Chinese history and an eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary culture, fabulous food and so much more—a place where a new discovery is always just around the corner. So what better location to launch new collection Code 11.59, whose name conjures the minute before midnight, a moment anticipating the promise of the new day—and a new chapter for the luxury Swiss watchmaker?
A new era
The Code 11.59, designed for both men and women, has almost completely abandoned Audemars Piguet’s house codes in favour of a new, more modern direction. It’s a big, bold step and reveals the brand’s blueprint for its future. As well as the 11.59 reference, “Code” also captures the spirit of that future, being an acronym for “challenge, own, dare, evolve.”
“To produce a new collection, an entire new form of language, with six different movements, 13 different references… it was a huge undertaking and a big risk to come out so strong,” says Michael L Friedman, Audemars Piguet’s head of complications. And, inevitably, the Code 11.59’s launch has divided opinion, not unlike Gérald Genta’s Royal Oak when it was unveiled in 1971—which has since become an all-time classic that has inspired multiple variants, including its thicker-set sibling, the Royal Oak Offshore. The Royal Oak broke new ground with its octagonal shape and stainless steel case, gold being the favoured material of the day, and signalled a new age for the brand.
The Code 11.59 is another such game changer. It’s minimalist and clean, with a curved sapphire crystal secured by an ultra-thin bezel forming a dome over the sleek lacquered dial, making the round face remarkably big for a 41mm. An open case back reveals the 22K gold winding rotor and mesmerisingly intricate movement. “The sculpture of the lugs, too, calls to mind modern architecture,” says Friedman. “Our watches need to showcase the human touch—the work of the finishers, the polishers, all that incredible decoration. Today we only have 10 people in the entire company who can hand-finish the Code 11.59, and all of them are the very best experts we have.”
To set the scene, guests at the launch were taken on an immersive journey to the forests of Switzerland’s Vallée de Joux, the home of the brand, complete with Insta-ready neon light installations and live drummers. To highlight the elements of “challenge, own, dare, evolve” represented in the name, three Hong Kong-based influencers were in attendance—contemporary artist Michael Lau, Olympic swimmer Yvette Kong and award-winning chef May Chow—all of whom “epitomise the genetic code of the collection,” says Friedman, adding that the “Code 11.59 is without doubt the most comprehensive launch we’ve ever done.”
In addition to the Code 11.59 watches, seven unique pieces from the Audemars Piguet Museum were on display during the evening to showcase the watchmaker’s history of breaking design boundaries. They included a geometric jumping hour watch from 1929, an asymmetrical timepiece from 1961 and the first extra-thin tourbillon watch, from 1986.
Even as the brand evolves, “respecting where we [Audemars Piguet] have been is important for the future,” says Friedman. Heritage is one of “the benefits of being in the hands of the founding families,” and the Code 11.59 will, no doubt, be reinterpreted in the years to come.
The horologist has high expectations for the new collection’s success in Asia. “Hong Kong is one of the cultural centres of the world, and perhaps the most significant gateway between the East and the West,” he says. “Collectors from Hong Kong tend to be extremely focused and detail-oriented, and often very passionate and specific about their pursuits. For Audemars Piguet, enthusiasts in Hong Kong are always among the very first in the world to embrace new ideas, designs and innovations.”
So, Hong Kong collectors, prepare for the unexpected as Audemars Piguet heads in a new direction.
See also: Richard Mille Reinvents The Pocket Watch