We go hands on with the newly released Audemars Piguet [Re]master01, a very special re-issue watch from the grand old maison. The press release piqued our interest, and here is our views when we got our hands-on session.
The Audemars Piguet [Re]master01 looks remarkably refreshing for a design which is more than 80 years old. We find this return to the basics and re-mastering their early achievements to be quite remarkable for Audemars Piguet. Instead of churning and re-churning the Royal Oak. Nothing wrong with that, as we love the RO, but taking a leaf from their storied history is a nice turn.
Audemars Piguet [Re]master01
Thus, we are also very happy to see AP revisiting the past, and digging into their archives for inspiration. In this article, we explore more deeply, as we had the opportunity to handle and photograph the watch, and present this detailed review.
The case, dial and hands
As mentioned, the [Re]master 01 is a tribute to the Ref. 1533. Comparing to photographs of the Ref. 1533, we find the resemblance to be almost spot on. The case is enlarged from 36mm to 40mm to meet the demands of current fashion.
According to the Audemars Piguet archives, only three stainless steel and gold chronograph wristwatches with the present case design were manufactured in 1941 and later sold in 1943, and only one with a rose-champagne colored dial.
Here is one example we found in the Phillips catalog: Ref. 1533 circa 1941 stainless steel and pink gold chronograph wristwatch with teardrop lugs and rose champagne-colored dial sold by Phillips as Lot 234 in Geneva Auctions 7 & 8 November 2015 for SOLD FOR CHF305,000.
The dial follows the Ref. 1533 in detail, from the stylized 12 to the use of the name “Audemars Piguet & Co Genève” which is the original trademark of the day (AP had a workshop in Geneva till the 1970s), to the red 45 minute marker on the chronograph counter at the 9 o’clock sub-dial. However the sub-dial layout is switched around. The 1533 had the running seconds on the sub-dial at 9 o’clock, a 12 hour totalizer at 6 o’clock and 30 minute totalizer at 3 o’clock, the [Re]master01 switches them around making the running seconds at 6 o’clock, while the totalizers occupy the other two sub-dial locations, but switched left for right. Another interesting trivia is that a red 45 is marked above the 15 minute totalizer is intended to track half time intervals in football matches, a sport which is a favourite of the third-generation family-founder Jacques-Louis Audemars.
The dial is finely finished with a brushed finish protected by a lacquer layer. The markers are all transfer printed.
The hands are differentially finished according to function. The time keeping function uses long, slim and elegant gold hands, while the chronograph functions are equipped with blued steel hands. The length of the chronograph hands are in true classic style, which are long enough to just about hover over the marker it is to indicate.
The lugs are a specific peculiarity, and particularly handsome. The teardrop style lugs are very elegant and is a nice touch. The two tone nature of the watch also presents itself as an elegant touch, rather than many others which tend to be crass in suggesting that the owner cannot afford a solid gold watch. But in the [Re]master01, the blend of gold on the bezel, crown and pushers is a very pleasing aesthetic, and adds to the aura of elegance rather than taking away from it.
The movement AP Caliber 4409
The [Re]master01 features an open case back, a departure from the closed back in the original 1533. Of note is that the caseback seems to be a snap back design instead of the more usual screwed back. From the sapphire glass fitted, the movement is impressively seen to stretch almost completely across the entire case. No movement ring in this watch.
The movement is the AP Caliber 4409, which is very similar to the one found in the Code 11.59 chronograph – the 4401. The main difference being that the Calibre 4409 does not have a date. Also the 4401 features a skeletonized rotor, while the 4409’s rotor is solid.
Movement finishing is quite good, with a clever blend of hand and machine finishing. So clever that it is hard to distinguish where one starts and the other ends, though connoisseurs will be able to spot them. However, all finnisage work is well done, whether by hand or by machine, and functionally there is little difference.
The main plate and bridges are highly decorated and impressively finished with côte pattern, and anglaged. The main plate is finished in perlage and look like they are in maillechort, though this is not stated in the documentation.
The chronograph works are also beautifully designed and worked in steel, and as befitting a chronograph of this stature features a column wheel with a vertical clutch system. Activating the chronograph functions are a pleasure, and an even, positive feel is felt with each press for start, flyback, stop, reset.
The competitive landscape
The [Re]master01 certainly stands quite its own ground in the world of chronographs which are faithful re-issues of originals from the golden ages. However, at S$74,400, it may be seen as a pricey watch, especially when compared to her stablemate – the much maligned Code 11.59 Chronograph which can be had for about S$62,000 in solid gold.
But we think the [Re]master01 definitely draws comparison to the Vacheron Constantin Corne de Vache, which retails for S$105,600 in the platinum we reviewed, but now available also in a solid pink gold case for S$79,000 and in stainless steel for S$58,500. Thus the AP being in gold and steel, sits right in the middle.
The VC Corne de Vache is also a remake of the Ref. 6087 made in 1950s. But at a glance the two watches look very similar, thanks in no small part to the fancy teardrop lugs. The VC movement is handwound and is based on a Lemania 2310 ébauche. It also has two counters and is finished extremely well. We will look into a 1on1 comparison on the AP vs VC in an article soon.
The AP [Re]master01 is exactly as its name implies. It is a re-mastering of an original masterpiece from the 1940s, and in this instance, AP has pulled it off very well. The watch is very beautiful, and sits nicely on the wrist. The two tone design, which we are seldom a fan of, though in this case we are! It is an asset to the visual elegance, balancing well between the rose gold and stainless steel with the champagne of the dial. The attention to detail on the dial is outstanding, with many elements of the original watch being painstakingly replicated to good effect. The movement is a classical automatic, column wheel chronograph, and is decorated accordingly and performs flawlessly.
While the pricing is on the premium side, it is a limited edition of only 500 pieces, and the Audemars Piguet name will be a strong pull. We are particularly happy that this is a very beautiful watch from the grande maison, which is not a Royal Oak, nor the much maligned Code 11.59.
The Audemars Piguet [Re]master01 is already available in boutiques around the world when this review goes into publication.