Tag: Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Selfwinding

AUDEMARS PIGUET Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Selfwinding

Even though it would be impossible to hide all the buzz, the discussions and the emotions that surrounded the launch of this watch – certainly the most commented watch ever – it won’t be the topic today. We could argue with its detractors… We could, but we won’t. Today we are going to be fair, objective and realistic. Because today, over a year after its launch, now that the dust has settled, we’re going to take a second, in-depth look at the Code 11.59 By Audemars Piguet – with the blue dial/white gold Selfwinding Chronograph model. Because, objectively, this watch has a lot to offer.
Thirteen new references, six news models, three brand new calibres, including the much-awaited in-house integrated chronograph… The launch of this brand new collection at the SIHH 2019 was a major step in the history of Audemars Piguet, a new beginning of sorts, a disruptive choice that had nothing to do with yet another octagonal watch inspired by or derived from the Royal Oak. The basic concept with Code 11.59 By Audemars Piguet was to create a new pillar in the collection next to the Royal Oak, Royal Oak Offshore, Royal Oak Concept and Millenary. But one that no one really expected. In fact, we’d known for years that Audemars Piguet was preparing a new collection and that in itself generated a great deal of anticipation around this new product.
The brand was founded in 1875 by Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet in the Vallée de Joux, Switzerland. The following 100 years saw some of the most respectable and desirable Haute Horlogerie creations emerge from a manufacture capable of producing some of the most complex and distinguished watches. The liberation of mentalities that came with the late 1960s and early 1970s had an effect on the brand and in 1972, the Royal Oak was created: a watch that would change the face of this watchmaking company forever. While not an immediate success, this watch slowly became a hit, a cult object and the brand’s main strongpoint… and coincidentally its main weakness.
In the past decade, Audemars Piguet focused its production almost entirely on watches based on Genta’s octagonal design – whether RO, ROO or ROC watches – which represented the vast majority of the watches sold. The classic, round and elegant watch (Jules Audemars collection) had fallen out of favour and the same went for the small, elegant and rectangular Edouard Piguet line. The Millenary is now a watch mostly aimed at a feminine audience. The Royal Oak (and its multiple iterations) made the brand very successful in the past decades; however, this almost mono-product strategy was not devoid of risk. The brand knew it and reacted by introducing Code 11.59 By Audemars Piguet – all of this is explained in the words of CEO François-Henry Bennahmias in our in-depth video, here. But trying to find your place next to a watch as strong and as iconic as the Royal Oak is no easy task.
Today, Audemars Piguet has a bold and modern approach to Haute Horlogerie and this shows in this Code 11:59. The basic concept was to bring back the classic round watch in AP’s collection, yet to have a contemporary, younger approach for a less traditional clientele. The small, conservative dress watch doesn’t really work for the brand, and Code 11.59 represents a new vision of a modern classic. However, there’s more to this watch than just a round case… And we’re going to take a closer look in this review.
Audemars Piguet is a brand with a strong (to say the least) identity, forged largely on the shape of a particular case. However, reducing the brand to just that would be an insult to the exceptionally desirable watches that brand has created, including many grande complications, perpetual calendars, chronographs – some of which were revived in the newly introduced [Re]master collection.
The brand’s newest collection couldn’t just be a shape. It had to be a sum of details, savoir-faire and a demonstration of what AP can do in terms of dial making, watch design and, of course, movement making. Once you handle an example of Code 11.59 By Audemars Piguet you understand that it has to be explored, deciphered, observed. This watch is round… but not only. This watch is classic… only from a far distance. This watch is a chronograph… yes, but its movement is state-of-the-art. This watch is less of a statement piece… that is for sure.
A watch is first and foremost a three-dimensional object made to be worn, not an object to appear in a magazine or on a billboard. It is a lively object, with proportions, angles, curves, reflections, which change depending on the light conditions, which need to be seen in action. And this is where Code 11.59 By Audemars Piguet becomes something unique. Forget about the early images and hands-on; this watch, its case, its crystal and its shape is impressively detailed and deserves to be touched and tested.
Code 11.59 is a bit like (a handsome) Harvey Two-Face. Depending on the angle, the watch reveals two different personalities. From the top, the case is round, with a wide dial opening and almost no bezel. Its lugs also appear pretty simple. Stopping the examination of this case here would be (extremely) reductive. This watch needs to be seen from an angle – which is actually the natural view you’ll have of this watch when worn on the wrist. And then, you’ll discover sides that are highly detailed, complex and even intriguing.

To make a connection with the Royal Oak, the central container of Code 11.59, the part that sits in between the bezel and the caseback, which holds the movement, is octagonally shaped – a discreet reference to what has made the brand so iconic in the past 48 years. This central container is finely brushed and polished, with sharp facets and neat separations between the different finishes. Something that gives this watch its DNA, its identity, but in a discreet, elegant manner.
The same dual nature can be applied to the lugs. From the top, they appear simple. However, these lugs, an integral part of an element that also incorporates the bezel, are hollowed, finished with a brushed surface and complex polished bevels. Funny detail is that the screw heads are hexagonal, simply for visual pleasure, which is again another nod to the hexagonal screws on the Royal Oak. Looking at these details offers a truly different perception of the case.
Regarding specifications, the watch is contemporary sized, with a 41mm diameter and a relatively restrained height (at least for an automatic chronograph) of 12.6mm. The case sits well on the wrist, with some presence but also great comfort due to the positioning of the strap, allowing the whole watch to ‘hug’ the wrist. It is available exclusively in 18k gold – white or pink. Some variations, in two-tone or other materials, will certainly be introduced later. Overall, the execution of the case is impressive, detailed and on par with what you’d expect from Audemars Piguet. The decoration of the surfaces is extremely precise and neat, contributing to the overall luxurious (but not ostentatious) feeling.

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Selfwinding

Four long years have passed and the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Selfwinding is still the new kid on the block, but it has grown out of its weird-looking bald baby phase. The core of the watch remains the same as what AP released in 2019; the Selfwinding houses the 4302 movement, and the Selfwinding Chronograph, the 4401. But it is growing into a more appealing toddler whose parents are dressing it up in smart new outfits.
These new releases offer three new colors in stainless steel cases. They have guilloche dials with a concentric circle pattern, and each version comes in a deep, dark green, a dark blue (Bleu Nuit, Nuage 50, which is a popular Royal Oak shade), and a smoked beige. The blue and green are made entirely of steel, and the smoked beige watches have a ceramic middle case.

Both watches would feel more or less the same as their predecessors in the dark, with a thin bezel octagonal case middle and a domed top and those much-discussed lugs, which are only attached to the upper part of the case.
These refreshes to the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Selfwinding are about color and detail. On the three-handed watch, the blue dial has a gray inner bezel, the green inner bezel is the same tone as the watch, and the smoked beige goes black toward its outer edge.

On the chronograph models, the blue has two-tone blue and gray counters at three and nine o’clock and a gray small seconds counter at six o’clock. The green is mostly monochromatic, with rhodium plating on the counters. The smoked beige chronograph is accented with various tones of black.
Two obvious changes: the Arabic numerals that have been on every three-handed model since the launch of the Code 11.59 are gone and have been replaced with hour markers in white gold which are thicker and have more definition than on earlier models. The date window has migrated from 4:30 to 3:00.

In both the three-handed and the chronograph, the inner bevel has been widened and smoothed, and the seconds scale is more detailed, for better precision and more modern styling.
We will not fully rehash the arguments made when Audemars Piguet released the Code 11.59 in 2019 and the watch world exploded. In a nutshell, some people hated the watch. Some people who hated the watch were upset that it was not the Royal Oak and some people merely hated it on its own terms. Other people liked it! My sense was that skeptics were never too terribly disappointed about what was inside of this thing, they just thought it was funny looking. As you can see for yourself below, that very first white three-handed Code 11.59 did indeed resemble Daniel Wellington. But the designs have improved and continue to do so with these latest steel iterations.
I guess I prefer the lacquer, personally. What I’d really like is to see those new hour markers on the lacquer and also that new date window location, and given AP’s propensity for iteration I am sure eventually I will.

That said, the stainless probably looks better with these colors. What does stainless add to this collection, other than making it cheaper? It makes it more sporty and less luxe, but then stainless is also a vibe, a little less showy and more under the radar.
I had the odd experience of seeing a Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Selfwinding before I really knew what a Royal Oak was, and honestly, at the time, what I liked about the watches was the deep color of the lacquer dial and the diamonds on the dial of the other one I saw. But in retrospect — and I could not have known this at the time, was too new to the game to know or care — likely much of what I liked about those dials is the way that they looked under this specially designed crown, with all its arching and angling, much discussed when the watch launched.

To me, the Code 11.59 is a great-looking watch with lots of beautiful details and now that AP has had more time with it, and is working with more materials and more colors, it is putting out something that rivals its more famous sibling.
I’m not saying that no one is allowed to dislike the Code 11.59, nor am I arguing that it’s the world’s greatest watch, or better than the Royal Oak. All I’m saying, and I would hardly be the first to do so, is that if you have been loving, wearing, coveting, worshipping, whatever it is that you as a watch lover do with the Royal Oak (b. 1972), if you are truly honest with yourself, you cannot separate that relationship from how you look at the new 11.59 (b. 2019).

I wish that I could have somehow rented out space in my brain for a real watch lover to have the experience of seeing an 11.59 in real life before seeing a Royal Oak in real life. Oh well, hindsight is 2020. And years from now when the 11.59 is just as beloved as the Royal Oak I have no reason not to suspect this that phrase will be employed, and I will be able to tell my story to the point 0002% of people in the world who would find it remotely interesting. People get ready.