Audemars Piguet history
The legendary manufactory from Le Brassus, which dates back to 1875, enjoys noticeable popularity among fans of watchmaking around the world, as evidenced by the growing production volumes, which in 2019 amounted to about 50 thousand pieces, exceeding the indicators of 5 years ago by about half.
It is gratifying that these statistics do not make the brand rest on its laurels, but leads to the emergence of new collections and mechanisms, as well as the construction of new buildings, including the ultra-modern Musée Atelier opening this year in Le Brassus, as well as the new Manufacture factory under construction in Le Locle. des Saignoles.
Currently, the company’s production facilities are concentrated in the ancestral home of Audemars Piguet, Le Brassus (a complex of historic buildings and the newer Manufacture des Forges), as well as in Le Locle, rich in watchmaking traditions, where the cutting-edge division of Audemars Piguet Renaud et Papi (APRP) is located. directly related to the development of new calibers of the company.
The starting point for writing this article was the appearance in 2019 of two modern basic automatic movements of the company, which determine its near future, as well as the world’s thinnest integral self-winding perpetual calendar as the basis of the watch that took the main prize of GPHG’2019.
Audemars Piguet caliber Ultra thin. 2120 to 5133
The history of the ultra-thin automatic caliber Jaeger-LeCoultre 920, developed for and at the expense of the big houses of Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe in 1967, has been repeatedly mentioned on watchdaily.ru and many of you know that it was the company Audemars Piguet in 2000 that finalized the rights to manufacture this wonderful movement, which it still uses with success to this day.
The basic structure, which according to the classification of the brand bears the marking 2120 and offers a central indication of hours and minutes, with a diameter of 28 mm, has 2.45 mm in height, 36 stones in the composition and a balance oscillating at the not most popular frequency of 19’800 A / h (2.75 Hz).
At the same time, the number of stones includes four ruby rollers, on which the beryllium ring of the full-size self-winding rotor rests, supplemented with a gold sector to increase the moment of inertia of the unit – this approach ensures its sufficient efficiency at a low height of the entire structure.
Another cornerstone of the small profile is the so-called “suspended” barrel with a power reserve of 40 hours, the shaft of which is fixed only on one side of the movement.
As for the balance wheel made of beryllium bronze, it is the traditional type of gyromax for the brand with two spokes and adjusting eccentrics along the rim, with the only difference that, unlike the classic implementation, which has 8 washers, the 2120 caliber uses 6 eccentrics.
At present, the 2120 movement belongs to the Jules Audemars Extra-Thin model, while another thin watch – the Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin – is based on the 2121 version (height – 3.05 mm) with a date disc of the same at one time served as the basis for the very first Royal Oak in 1972, known under the reference 5402ST.
Note that the 2120 platform is perfect for installing various modules, thanks to which the history of Audemars Piguet watches has a varied number of options for implementing a perpetual calendar, including: 2120/2801 (height – 4 mm, perpetual calendar with week number indicator), 2120/2802 ( height – 4 mm, perpetual calendar), 2120/2804 (height – 4 mm, perpetual calendar with world time), 2120/2808 (height – 5.35 mm, perpetual calendar with equation of time).
However, in the fall of 2015, the manufactory decided to reduce all this variety only to the performance of 2120/2801, carrying out a slight revision of the caliber and designating it as 5134 (height – 4.31 mm), after which it took pride of place in the Royal Oal Perpetual Calendar.
Later, a skeletonized version of the movement, index 5135, became part of the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Openworked model.
The most ambitious work, however, has been done with the caliber 5133, the thinnest automatic movement with a perpetual calendar function to date, now part of an integral design with a total height of 2.89 mm.
The obverse of the caliber showcases both the ruby rollers (in oval platinum slots), which previously belonged only to the basic movement, as well as the new date and 4-year leap cycle wheels, the patented design of which allows all the calendar components to be placed on the same level.
It is no surprise that the Royal Oak Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin, based on this caliber, won the Golden Hand at the Geneva Grand Prix of Haute Horlogerie in November 2019.
Three arrows and a date. 3120 to 4300
2003 marked an important milestone in the history of the Audemars Piguet in-house automatic calibers, as after 5 years of development, a new base caliber 3120 was introduced to replace the era of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Eboshes (889/2 and 899).
With a diameter of 26.6 mm, it has a height of 4.26 mm, has 40 stones and has a 3 hertz (21’600 vph) balance (classic gyromax with 8 eccentrics) suspended under a bridge with two adjustable supports for better stability.
The power reserve from one barrel is 60 hours, and the bi-directional self-winding system is based on a full-size gold rotor with the family crests of the Piguet and Audemars families, secured by an efficient ceramic bearing.
The mechanism received the ability to stop the balance when setting the time, as well as a date disc moving along ruby rollers, with an instant change of readings and the ability to quickly adjust.
Since its inception, it has been registered in all lines of the brand, where simple automatic models were present, but at the moment, after the release of the larger 4302 movement, it is an accessory of the Royal Oak Selfwinding 37, Royal Oak Offshore Diver and Jules Audemars Selfwinding watches.
Also, this caliber is characterized by a number of interesting modifications, such as the delicately skeletonized version 3129 (height – 4.31 mm) or its even deeper modernization 3132 (height – 5.57 mm) with a coaxial system of two balance-spiral nodes with improved stability of the oscillatory system, but and a power reserve reduced to 45 hours (model Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked).
Finally, the Millenary Philosophique presented in autumn 2019 uses caliber 3140 (6.18 mm high, 50 h power reserve) with a superstructure, which provides a non-linear movement of the base of the movement’s single hour hand, due to the oval shape of the Millenary dial.
Well, a little earlier (in the spring of 2019), simultaneously with the appearance of the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet collection, the watchmaking community witnessed the birth of a new family of automatic calibers 4300, presented so far by the only version 4302, which took place not only in Code 11.59 Selfwinding, but also in new reference 15500 Royal Oak Selfwinding 41.
Compared to the 3120, the new caliber has become larger (diameter – 32 mm, height – 4.8 mm, 32 jewels) and more autonomous (power reserve – 70 hours), while the updated version of the balance (gyromax, three spokes and 6 eccentrics) now fluctuates from higher frequency (28’800 vph or 4 Hz), which, together with a stable two-bearing bridge, has a positive effect on the chronometric properties of the movement.
The bi-directional self-winding system with a full-format gold rotor on a ceramic bearing received a reversible unit based on ball bearings, and the system of manual winding and control of the arrow mechanism acquired a new patented solution that eliminates the slightest play of the crown with appropriate manipulations.
The functional content of the new caliber corresponds to its predecessor – these are three central indicators (hour, minute and second) and a date disc, placed on the periphery of the movement.
Chronographs Audemars Piguet
The third part of our story is devoted to chronographs, which are always the measure of the success and technical competence of any self-respecting manufactory.
Until the spring of 2019, the Le Brassus-based brand did not have its own self-winding integral chronograph, building its collection either on the 1988 Frederic Piguet caliber 2385 (index 1185), or on the modular chronograph 3126/3840 with in-house caliber 3120 and chronographic superstructure from Dubois-Depraz.
The first construct in this list, which first appeared in the company’s arsenal in 1998, is a slim integral chronograph (diameter – 26.2 mm, height – 5.5 mm, 37 jewels, balance frequency – 21’600 vph, power reserve – 40 hours) with a progressive, even today, scheme with a vertical clutch and a column wheel, the main disadvantage of which is not a very large power reserve.
However, the distinctive 3-6-9 subdile layout of caliber 2385 still features a significant number of watches in the current Audemars Piguet collection: the Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph 41 and 38, as well as the Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Chronograph 37.
In turn, the modular 3126/3840 (diameter – 26 mm, height – 7.16 mm, 59 jewels, balance frequency – 21’600 A / h, power reserve – 55 h) with the 6-9-12 layout is extremely demanded in the Royal Oal Offshore Selfwinding Chronograph line, where massive 44- and 42-mm cases offset the considerable thickness of the modular movement.
However, since the spring of 2019, a third force has appeared in the chronograph segment – the newest 4400 family, which has much in common (barrel, regulator) with the basic 4300 automatic, but is a full-fledged in-house integral chronograph, which took 5 years to develop.
Today there are two versions of this movement, characterized by the 3-6-9 subdile arrangement – caliber 4401 (Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Selfwinding Chronograph) with a date disc and caliber 4409 ([Re] Master01 Selfwinding Chronograph) without it, with a 32 mm diameter, 6.8 mm height, 40 jewels, a 4 hertz balance and a power reserve of 70 hours.
Like the 2385, the 4400 caliber is based on a modern vertical clutch design, the closing of the discs of which causes the stopwatch hand to start smoothly (as opposed to the classic horizontal engagement, which can be accompanied by a noticeable jerk of the pointer), and reliable control of the chronograph functions via column wheel.
However, in comparison with the same 2385 there are significant differences: firstly, the 4400 is a flyback chronograph with an instant restart and, as a consequence, a complicated kinematics of this process; secondly, for zeroing the hour, minute and second counters, the new chronograph offers three separate hammers with three separate springs, which provides a softer, noble pusher response to pressing compared to the Frederic Piguet, where these functions are performed by one complex part.
Conclusions for the Audemars Piguet brand
We believe that in the very near future the new caliber will take its place in the Royal Oak Offshore collection, replacing the not very elegant modular design based on the 3120.
And in conclusion, we note that despite the active development and strengthening of the Audemars Piguet line of in-house movements, the brand has not yet been noticed using the Nivachron paramagnetic balance spring, developed jointly with the Swatch Group and announced at the beginning of 2019 – we dare to hope, this is an important component would make the company’s calibers even more accurate and reliable.