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Audemars Piguet [Re]master01 Self Winding Chronograph | Watch of the Week

In 2019, Audemars Piguet gave us a vision of its future in the form of a totally new collection called CODE 11.59. This year? We’re going back in time with the [Re]master01. We’re already in love…

Audemars Piguet [Re]master01 Self Winding Chronograph watch review

Can you hear that faint sound of applause? That’s me, standing up at my work-from-home desk applauding Audemars Piguet – because, let’s face it, it’s absolutely blown the doors off with its latest watch.

The [Re]master01 is the brand’s gorgeous opening gambit of a style of watch that fans have been after for years. We are, of course, talking about the V-word – vintage – but AP being AP, they’ve chosen to add a little contemporary flair to their old-school templates. In a world where plenty of companies are going down the ‘faithful revival’ route, you'd have to say that’s a worthy point of difference.

Let’s check in with Audemars Piguet’s head of complications Michael Friedman to get the story from the horse’s mouth: “People are very cognisant of the design shake up that took place in the 1970s and in the early 2000s. However, creative expressions of case form and dial design have occurred during every decade of Audemars Piguet’s history.

“For [Re]master01, we chose to explore the strength and elegance of one of our chronograph wristwatches from 1943 through the prism of 2020. This is not a historic reissue – it is a contemporary remastering of one of our past creations.”

That last sentence is probably the most important bit – the [Re]master01 even has the snazzy name to illustrate it hasn't just dusted off old blueprints and pressed control + C.

One brief comment on that point. If I’m honest, I’d lose the square brackets. I totally get what AP was going for – that contemporary edge represented in graphic form – but when the watch looks this good, I’m not sure it’s wholly necessary. It’s also quite tedious to type it out multiple times: come on guys, think of us poor journalists.

Seriously, though, if we’re quibbling over the name and nothing else, it’s clear we’ve got a proper timepiece on our hands.

Let's take a closer look…

Audemars Piguet [Re]master01 Self Winding Chronograph watch review

The Elevator Pitch

So what’s the story here? It’s certainly nothing new for a brand to dip into the archives.

For one thing, the [Re]master01 was due to launch alongside the reopening (or [re]opening) of the AP Museum, the Musée Atelier in Le Brassus – now sadly postponed until June – so there was a planned synergy here that will hopefully add further appeal when the new space opens soon.

(FYI: the museum is a lot sexier than it sounds. It’s housed in a spiralling glass pavilion that sinks into the surrounding landscape like it’s slowly being devoured by quicksand. It’s a stunning piece of architecture.)

I think from that point of view the [Re]master01 makes a lot of sense. We’re looking at a piece of lesser-known history given a little bit of love in the modern day – isn’t that what museums are all about?

I think it’s also worth saying that this piece is a pleasing departure from the conveyor belt of desirable Royal Oak and Offshores for which we know and love AP.

We’re looking at a piece of lesser-known history given a little bit of love in the modern day – isn’t that what museums are all about?

Pub Fact

As Mr Friedman noted in the quote earlier, most watch people are plenty aware of the impact of Gerald Genta’s game changing 1972 Royal Oak design on the world of watches. But, for our sins, we don’t think about the pre-Royal Oak era quite as often.

One thing that often goes unmentioned is that before AP’s iconic sports watch came along, the company was famed as a dress watch maker, specialising in haute horlogerie chronographs and perpetual calendars – in fact, until 1951 Audemars Piguet watches were all individual and manufactured on request.

These pieces are understandably incredibly rare today – not altogether that surprising when you consider that AP manufactured approximately 307 chronographs from the 1930s to the 1950s. Those who know their history, speak about them in covetous tones.

The Audemars Piguet Pre-Model 1533, which forms the skeleton of the new [Re]master01, is one such unique piece. Now clients are getting a chance to get their hands on a little piece of history.

Audemars Piguet [Re]master01 Self Winding Chronograph watch review
Audemars Piguet [Re]master01 Self Winding Chronograph watch review

Geeking Out

The [Re]master01 is a smorgasbord of technical detail and aesthetic beauty.

First, the shape: it's a voluptuous combination of that pebble-like rounded case and the teardrop lugs characteristic of timepieces of the 1940s (hence the collector's nickname for the original: the 1943 'Teardrop'). There's even a roundedness to the navette pushers and oversized crown on the side of the case.

You could say this all lends the piece something of an hourglass figure; a pin-up model, if you will. It's a sexy old-school style that looks just brilliant on the wrist.

Size wise, the new watch is a little larger to accommodate modern tastes – stretching from the original's 36mm to 40mm – and a touch thicker to accommodate the modern movement. The Calibre 4409 is a flyback chronograph (similar to what we saw in the CODE 11.59 chronograph last year), featuring a column wheel and vertical clutch, as well as boasting a comfy 70-hour power reserve and the usual AP level of movement finishing. This is really where the modern blends with the old.

Next, the pop of colour. The [Remaster]01 shares the striking two-tone case of the 1943 original, which blends stainless steel on the caseback, case band, and lugs with rose gold on the bezel, crown and pushers. Particularly noticeable on the remastered edition is the subtle variance between the rose gold and the gold-toned vertically brushed dial – I appreciate the pictures make this look like a bit of a metal clash, but in the flesh it’s a much more nuanced affair.

The most exciting detail if you’re a proper nerd? The old-school "Audemars, Piguet & Co / Genève" logo

Looking closer, you see that AP has reproduced many of the more subtle details on the [Re]master01. The baton minute and hour hands, the same delicate fonts, and the blued steel chronograph hands. To my untrained eye, I’d say the printing on the new watch is just that little bit crisper, but that may just be me.

The most exciting detail if you’re a proper nerd? The old-school "Audemars, Piguet & Co / Genève" logo. It’s vintage with a capital V.

The history behind the logo is an interesting one: from around 1885 to the mid-1970s AP had a workshop in Geneva to be closer to clients, but it also served to distinguish Audemars Piguet as a reputable company in a time when Geneva was the capital of the luxury watchmaking world, and not Le Brassus and the broader Vallée de Joux. The ‘and company’ referred to the group of watchmakers who helped retailers like AP manufacture its watches, but were not exclusively employed by them.

According to the archive team at AP HQ, the mention of “& Co” disappeared from the logo around 1950 – probably because the notion of branding was becoming increasingly important to the watch world. You might say, therefore, this is the first time in 60+ years this logo has printed on a new watch. If you ask me, that’s a pretty cool fact.

Add To Your Collection

Honestly, my favourite thing about the [Re]master01 isn't its looks, or its neat twist on the vintage-inspired concept. It's the fact this watch – hopefully set to grow into a collection in the months and years ahead – follows the somewhat controversial launch of CODE 11.59. Certain watch journalists and collectors were building a bonfire around the brand there and then, but tails will be firmly between legs now. For me, this pivot back to the old school is all the more stylish as a result.

Here is one brand who as a collective have given us a glimpse of their future and a stunning window into the past in its two most recent launches.

Well played, guys. Very well played, indeed.

The Audemars Piguet [Re]master01 is limited to 500 pieces and retails at £51,800. For more info, see audemarspiguet.com