If you’ve paid much attention to watches, you’ve seen one. If you’re a watch fanatic, you have probably seen a dozen – you may even own one. And yet, seeing one likely still takes your breath away. What watch are we describing? Would the words “octagon” or “bezel screws” give you enough clues to guess it? That’s right – Audemars Piguet. As one of the most iconic and recognizable Swiss watch companies, learning more about the company’s history is well worth any watch aficionado’s time.
From Vallée de Joux to Global Recognition: Tracing the Roots of Audemars Piguet
It all started in a rural, snowy region in Switzerland, just north of Geneva – the Valle de Joux. Before Audemars Piguet existed, the agricultural citizens in the region utilized their months of winter free time to develop craftsmanship skills. Among the Jura Mountains, many in the communities began producing various watch components. Two men from region had an idea – to create high-quality watches by using solid watchmaking skills and involving artisans from around Valle de Joux. Their names? Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet.
Preserving Craftsmanship: How Audemars Piguet Embraced Labor-Intensive Excellence
In their home village of Le Brassus, Audemars and Piguet founded their watchmaking company in 1875. Le Brassus, and the Valle as a whole, was a small community where hard work prevailed over technological advances. Because of that, Audemars Piguet’s watches were labor-intensive and stood for a high level of quality. During a time when a multitude of watch companies were moving to a mass production model, Audemars and Piguet refused to move toward mass watchmaking.
The Art of Complications: Audemars Piguet's Legacy in Movement Mastery
Initially upon forming the business, Audemars Piguet only produced watch movements – selling them to larger watchmaking companies in Geneva. But the company changed that model quickly. By utilizing the craftsmen throughout the Valle de Joux, Audemars Piguet was able to build phenomenal cases, dials, etc. to complement their movements. And speaking of movements, if Audemars Piguet had a specialty during the early years, it was movement complications. Prior to 1900, most of the company’s watches included at least one complication.
Surviving the Quartz Crisis: Audemars Piguet's Innovation and the Rise of the Royal Oak
Audemars Piguet’s focus on high quality and advanced complications led the company to thrive until the quartz crisis struck the watch industry in the 1960’s and 1970’s. When the crisis struck, the brand experienced the same struggles most other high-end Swiss brands faced. The 1970’s could have spelled the doom of Audemars Piguet; however, it instead provided the perfect conditions for innovation. That innovation came via the advent of the iconic Royal Oak collection in 1972.
Iconic Design Redefined: Unveiling the Royal Oak - Audemars Piguet's Modern Masterpiece
The collection was a new modern design Audemars Piguet pursued to help circumvent the crisis. Although it took a bit of time for the collection to become popular among horologists and watch fans, the Royal Oak eventually became the new face of the company. The octagon-shaped bezel, the hexegonal screw heads, brushed metal, and the “Tapisserie” textured dial…. All those attributes combine to make the quintessential Audemars Piguet.
The Evolution of Audacity: Exploring the Royal Oak Offshore Collection
Audemars Piguet revisited the Royal Oak in 1993, via the Royal Oak Offshore. This was another innovation – this time in the size of the watch and in changing the bracelet from integrated to a removable, leather one. The 42mm watch was at the time considered a “mammoth” size of a watch. It, too, took time to become popular but eventually led to a new generation of Audemars Piguet fans falling in love with the brand.
Growing Beyond Boundaries: Audemars Piguet's Journey to Global Success
Since the Royal Oak came on the scene, Audemars Piguet significantly increased its staff and workbench space to meet the demand. Up until 1950, AP ran with 10-30 craftsmen on their workbenches. That number grew to 100 with the introduction of Royal Oak and it currently has an all-in employee count of over 2,000. Today the company is nearly unrecognizable from a size and scale standpoint, but it has never lost sight of its core values or history. Its headquarters remains in Le Brassus today and the company has even repurposed some of the original company buildings to keep their history alive.
Discover Your Perfect Audemars Piguet with Grand Caliber
Audemars Piguet watches are made to turn heads and last for countless years. When you’re ready to add that flair and quality to your collection, turn to Grand Caliber. We can help you find your perfect Audemars Piguet – be it a Royal Oak or any other model. We know iconic watches and can make your search as easy as [Swiss chocolate] pie.