The Swiss luxury watchmakers Audemars Piguet et Cie. was founded in 1881. Jules-Louis Audemars and Edward-Auguste Piguet were childhood friends who formed a partnership in 1875 which continues today to produce world class timepieces.
Jewellery Maker Profile: Audemars Piguet
World Class Timepieces
Audemars trained as a watchmaker, produced movements for Tiffany & Co. before his partnership with Piguet. The pair divided the responsibilities of the business they formed together successfully. Audemars directed the technical side of manufacturing, while Piguet guided the sales. This arrangement proved highly successful.
Jules Louis and Edward Auguste, died within a year of one another in 1918-19, leaving the firm in the capable hands of their sons who continued their father’s legacy in producing high quality and innovative timepieces. In 1921 they released the world’s first jumping hour wrist watch.
Today the firm is still family run. Jasmine and Olivier Audemars are the fourth generation to direct the company whose headquarters remain in Le Brassus, Switzerland. Audemars Piguet et Cie. is a company that fully appreciates time, both valuing the past and looking forward to the future. They continue to strive for innovation, producing 40,000 watches annually.
In 2012, they launched an advertising campaign around the slogan: “To break the rules, you must first master them”. This pertinently summarises the ethos that has driven Audemars Piguet et Cie for over 100 years.
Audemars Piguet et Cie have been responsible for revolutionary advancements in watchmaking. In 1892 they created the world’s first minute repeating movement. This innovation has been steadily matched by later generations. In 1934, Jules-Louis Audemars and Edward-Auguste Piguet’s sons, Paul-Louis and Paul Edward, produced the first skeleton watch. A decade later they launched the world’s thinnest movement, measuring only 1.64mm thick.
The Royal Oak
Perhaps the firm’s most iconic watch was released in 1972, at the Basel Fair. The Royal Oak was designed by Gerald Genta who was inspired by the diving helmets he observed on workmen on a dam in the Rhone River. The name of the iconic collection was taken from a series of British Royal Navy vessels, the HMS Royal Oak. The name was appropriate for the symbolic reference to strength, longevity and majesty that it evokes. These qualities are shared by the time piece, described as the ‘First Luxury Sports Watch’.
Its distinctive design was received as controversial upon its release. It had an unusual large dial for the time, measuring 39mm, and it was more expensive than a gold watch. The octagonal steel bezel was studded by screw heads, given the watch an industrial aesthetic that was popular in Italy, the home of the futurist movement. The utilitarian look was emphasised by the distinctive tapisserie pattern of raised squares and grooves.
The Royal Oak was embraced by the head of Fiat and voracious watch collector, Giovanni Agnelli and worn frequently by Alain Delon on screen. Delon has been shot in several films wearing the Royal Oak: Boomerang (1976), ‘Cop’s Honour’ (1985) and ‘Let Sleeping Cops Lie’ (1988).
In 1993 Audemars Piguet released ‘The Royal Oak Offshore’ collection, reimagined by Emmanuel Guieit.