Building traditions

The brand will unveil two new models with treasured details, writes Gaynor Thomas

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 October, 2013, 9:25am

Any new release from Audemars Piguet is eagerly awaited by the world's watch aficionados. So it is especially exciting that the renowned house chose the inaugural Watches&Wonders for the unveiling of two new timepieces.

David von Gunten, CEO Hong Kong and China at Audemars Piguet, says that two new models of the brand's collection will be presented at this week's Watches&Wonders. They are the Millenary Minute Repeater and the Royal Oak Offshore LeBron James Chronograph Limited Edition.

The new Millenary Minute Repeater pink gold model "blends the long-standing tradition of minute-repeater construction, with the manufacture's very latest technical breakthroughs", the brand says. The Audemars Piguet escapement, for example, "perfectly embodies the brand's philosophy - to break the rules, you must first master them", the company adds.

The LeBron James Chronograph "is the first limited edition that we are launching" with the NBA star, "who has been our ambassador since 2011", von Gunten says, citing the timepiece's exclusive preview in Hong Kong on Saturday.

Audemars Piguet has a long-standing relationship with the Asian market, where von Gunten says customers have a fine and continually developing knowledge of the brand and haute horology.

The Hong Kong event is an opportunity to extend this relationship further by reaching out to a wider, younger audience, von Gunten says.

"We also hope to immerse our guests into our origins, Le Brassus," he says.

Founded in 1875, Audemars Piguet is the oldest fine watchmaker that is still in the hands of its founding families.

The company operates from the Vallée de Joux, in the heart of the Swiss Jura, where it has pioneered some remarkable developments in watchmaking, and produces those limited editions that delight collectors.

The Asian market has embraced these Audemars Piguet creations and is developing as rapidly as the United States market for the brand, von Gunten says.

"Asian cities are picking up the pace and will continue to grow strong," he says. China currently represents a relatively small proportion of the region's market for Audemars Piguet, but von Gunten says there is "great potential" there, where the brand "will continue to expand".

Like most companies that rise above transient trends and flashy enthusiasms, Audemars Piguet relies on its intrinsic quality and historical values to maintain and develop its market.

"No matter which country the customer comes from, each has their own unique taste," von Gunten says. "It is the same for Audemars Piguet, as each and every watch is unique in its own way. Rather than modifying the designs to fit each country's preferences, we create designs that can withstand the test of time and suit different markets' needs and tastes."

In the past, the brand had limited editions that were exclusive to certain markets, but this approach was dropped as the brand's global strategy developed, von Gunten says.

"The brand and collections are driven from within, inspired by our heritage and origins," he says.

The new Millenary Minute Repeater builds on tradition, as the minute repeater is the earliest complication, before the perpetual calendar, chronograph or power reserve indication.

Audemars Piguet made its first minute repeater in 1892, and was largely responsible for re-popularising it a century later. The hand-wound model that visitors will see at Watches&Wonders is housed in an elegant rose-gold oval case. Its three-dimensional architecture, the brand says, "complements a refined and sophisticated movement highlighted by Audemars Piguet's own escapement, double balance spring, striking mechanism and gongs". The result is a "visual and aural delight", the brand says.

The Millenary Minute Repeater has a white enamel dial with black Roman numerals and a white enamel small-seconds subdial. The technical aspects will have as much appeal as the aesthetics. In addition to the AP escapement, two balance springs allow a finer adjustment of the balance spring assembly and two movement barrels guarantee an exceptional seven days power reserve, while a third barrel, for the striking mechanism, is two-and-a-half times larger than normal. The Royal Oak Offshore LeBron James Chronograph is also part of a long and illustrious tradition. Royal Oak is a treasured name in mature watch markets around the globe, including Asia, von Gunten says.

The Royal Oak and Jules Audemars models are relatively more popular in the Asian market, he says.

"The iconic Royal Oak represents a daring sporty model that has revolutionised the watch industry since 1972, and has always been a popular collection in the Asian market," von Gunten says. "Asian people also tend to favour classical designs, such as the Jules Audemars, which highlights elegance and simplicity." The brand is optimistic about its future. "People are getting more and more sophisticated and knowledgeable in haute horology," von Gunten says. "In the coming five to 10 years, we can foresee that high-end watches will become even more important in the luxury product market."