Audemars Piguet Code 11.59: The Starwheel makes a comeback
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Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Starwheel: Reinterpreting a classic

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Starwheel: Reinterpreting a classic

The Swiss watchmaker has revived the curiosity that surrounds the little-known complication with its latest launch, which honours the tradition of timekeeping with a host of contemporary influences

Gulf Business
audemars piguet Code 11:59 starwheel

There’s always a great story behind every invention, and the watchmaking industry is no exception. This tale links to a previously ‘hidden’ and mysterious mechanism – the wandering hours’ complication – dating back to the 17th century.

True to its legacy of innovation, Swiss luxury watchmaker Audemars Piguet (AP) has revived the curiosity that shrouds the little-known complication with its latest launch: Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Starwheel.

Launched more than three years after the first Code 11.59 release and 30 Starwheel models later, the Swiss luxury watchmaker’s latest horological creation stands out among its predecessors for its bold and contemporary design, particularly seen in its case, marked by the overlapping of geometric shapes, including a round bezel, caseback and Starwheel discs in addition to a rounded octagonal case middle – all underscored by the ‘wandering hours’ mechanism on display.

Back to the beginning

The ‘wandering hours’ complication, a favourite among collectors, was created by the Campani brothers, who hailed from a family of inventors, philosophers and clockmakers, in response to an unusual request from Pope Alexander VII – to create a clock that would be silent and easy to read in the dark.

Presented with this challenge, the brothers used their skills to create the first wandering hours’ clock. Its specialty: The time was read on a semi-circle in an aperture that indicated the quarter hours and was lit from the inside. This night clock was the precursor of the wandering hours’ system. Needless to say, the pope loved it.

From the end of the 17th century, this complication was introduced into pocket watches without backlighting, becoming very popular among well-heeled members of society. However, its popularity soon waned in the 19th century.

As told by AP, in 1989, a watchmaker from Audemars Piguet chanced upon an article on the ‘wandering hours’ system in the journal suisse d’horlogerie.  In 1991, after 18 months of developing and customising it, the manufacture’s first ‘wandering hours’ watch was presented. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Named the ‘Starwheel’ – in homage to the three stars that support the sapphire hour discs fixed on a large central wheel – this watch shattered the “mystery” of its operation by revealing the mechanism.

The new reference carries forward the legacy of the models from the 1990s,  but goes several steps further, firmly announcing AP’s new direction for the future. And it’s one where the brand is definitely stepping outside the box.

Diverse materials in play

The avant-garde watch reflects a perfect alignment between the multiple angular and round surfaces of the case, showcasing the skilled craftsmanship of AP’s artisans.

In addition to the contemporary case, the new 41mm edition experiments with materials, combining blue aventurine with 18-carat white gold and black ceramic – a striking alliance that will not go unnoticed.

This diversity complemented by the refined hand finishing, a signature of the manufacture, creates “an infinite play of light”,  highlighting the complex yet creative design of the timepiece.

The 18-carat white gold bezel, lugs and caseback contrast with the black case middle and the new black ceramic crown. Like the gold components, the ceramic case middle is meticulously finished complemented by polished bevels and satin-finished surfaces.

On the dial, the double-curved sapphire crystal magnifies both the numerous details present in the blue aventurine and the finishing of the various elements, while also bringing increased depth to the dial.

The back of the watch features a sapphire crystal that reveals the beating heart of the movement, as well as the 22-carat pink gold oscillating weight dedicated to the collection.

Reinforcing AP’s future-forward focus is the textured strap with rubber coating, again far from the classic alligator leather expected from a complication watch. This new reference also comes with a new pin buckle engraved with the Audemars Piguet logo, instead of the usual AP monogramme.

Telling time

Powering this timepiece is the self-winding Calibre 4310. The next-gen hour, minute and seconds movement is directly derived from the Calibre 4309, with a new module added.

This movement has a minimum power reserve of 70 hours and is water-resistant to 30 metres.

The time display features a central rotor operating a complete revolution in three hours.

The aventurine is an ideal backdrop for three slightly domed discs that rotate on their own axes. The aluminium discs tinted black with a PVD treatment, feature an opaline sandblasted finishing touch. The white wandering hours’ numerals have been moved onto the dial.

Each disc has four digits from 1 to 12 that take turns in pointing to the arched sector at the top of the dial on which the minute 3 scale is printed.

Following the contemporary theme, the 120-degree minute sector, which extends in an arc from 10 to 2 o’clock, and the inner bezel, are both black with white minute indications. The 18-carat white gold trotteuse is slightly curved at the tip to follow the relief of the discs, indicating the seconds just like that seen in a traditional timepiece. The font on the hour disks and minute track is also modern.

A collector’s item

For AP collectors, this latest addition is a definite keeper, as the first modern wandering hours watch. It’s a conversation starter and aimed at the next-gen of Haute Horologie aficionados, who appreciate the fine art of watchmaking and functionality of intricate complications, but also want a contemporary reference to match their lifestyles and trends.

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