Audemars Piguet’s mammoth swathe of early 2023 releases proves there’s much more to the 148-year-old watchmaker than Royal Oaks, as their latest, most complicated wristwatch ever demonstrates.
It used to be that Switzerland’s top watchmakers saved their biggest releases for March (for Baselworld and Watches & Wonders) or September, but in 2023, it seems many brands have missed that memo.
LVMH Watch Week in January saw Bulgari, Hublot, TAG Heuer and Zenith bring the goods in a big way. Other heavy hitters like Cartier, Grand Seiko, OMEGA and Richard Mille have also hit the ground running in 2023, wasting no time introducing new novelties and collection overhauls.
Now it’s Audemars Piguet’s turn to hog the spotlight. The ‘Holy Trinity’ brand has just wrapped up the latest edition of their ‘AP Social Club’ release event, which saw a truly stupendous number of exciting new watches unveiled, including new takes on the Royal Oak, Royal Oak Offshore and Royal Oak Concept.
But it was the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet that was the real star of the show. First launched in 2019, the Code 11.59 has had a somewhat mixed reception among watch fans: while it’s good to see AP doing more than just Royal Oaks, the Code 11.59 has been criticised for being too simplistic in its design. You can’t level that criticism against the latest and greatest Code 11.59, however…
Simply put, it’s the most complicated wristwatch AP has ever made – a demonstration that AP hasn’t lost any of its magic when it comes to making ultra-complicated watches as well as a coming-of-age moment for the previously-overlooked Code 11.59.
It’s called the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Ultra-Complication Universelle RD#4 (a classic AP word salad of a name) and it features a mind-blowing 40 functions and 23 complications, including a minute repeater, a perpetual calendar, a moonphase indicator, a split-seconds flyback chronograph and a flying tourbillon.
According to AP, it took over 7 years to bring the RD#4 to life – and we believe them. It’s actually inspired by their famous L’Universelle pocket watch from 1899, one of the most complicated watches they (or any watchmaker) has ever produced. We wonder what those AP watchmakers from back then would make of the RD#4…
Despite being jam-packed full of complications, the really surprising thing is that it’s remarkably wearable, coming in at only 42mm in diameter and 15.55mm thick. That’s comparable to a standard Royal Oak Offshore.
It’s also extremely legible and easy to use, despite its daunting list of features – although if you opt for one of the two skeletonised dial variants, you lose some of that legibility (but gain a lot of visual drama instead, so pick your poison).
All four RD#4s are fitted on black alligator straps and come with an additional black textured rubber-coated calfskin strap “for a touch of sporty elegance”, as AP puts it. Sporty elegance is kind of how we’d describe the entire watch, to be honest: it’s got all the glamour and opulence of an elegant old high-complication watch, but in a deceptively modern, innovative form factor.
Speaking of opulence, they ain’t cheap. Prices start at 1,450,000 CHF (~ 1,570,000 USD / 2,230,000 AUD) for the standard dials and 1,600,000 CHF (~ 1,730,000 USD / 2,500,000 AUD) for the open-worked dials.
Other highlights from AP Social Club 2023 include six new stainless steel takes on the Code 11.59 with eye-catching ‘ripple effect’ dials – which not only look sick but also represent the most affordable new entry point into AP ownership, with prices starting at 22,700 CHF (~24,520 USD / 35,430 AUD).
We’re also big fans of the new black ceramic Royal Oak Offshore (ref. 26238CE.OO.1300CE.01), which is an almost 1:1 recreation of the original 1993 ‘Beast’ ref. 25721ST in ceramic with a matching integrated bracelet – very 90s stuff.
The new Royal Oak Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin (ref. 26586TI.OO.1240TI.01) is also an exciting prospect. An ‘heir’ to the RD#2 model launched in 2019, which was at the time the world’s thinnest perpetual calendar, this new model is crafted from titanium as opposed to the RD#2’s platinum (making it even lighter and sportier) and also has a more modern-looking smoky blue dial.
Find out more about all the AP Social Club 2023 releases at Audemars Piguet’s online boutique here.