By Kupluthai Pungkanon
JUST AN hour’s drive from Lausanne, the Vallee de Joux, Le Brassus and its forests, lakes and the magnificent Jura mountains, is home to Audemars Piguet, a highly regarded watch manufacturer whose passion and craftsmanship have ensured for more than 144 years. This year, the skilled craftsmen are busy mastering their latest innovation, the Code 11.59, which is already one of the most discussed watches of all time.
Winderen at work in the Vallee de Joux that connects listeners to the sounds, both accessible and in accessible to the human ear, of the ecosystems at Vallee de Joux.
Writing a new page in the manufacture’s long history, the new collection represents its genetic code, which stands for challenge, own, dare and evolve. The brand offers 13 models, including five complications and six calibres of the latest generation in one go, with Code 11.59 representing one of the most important and comprehensive launches ever.
“The idea is to craft the round watch but not the round watch,” says Olivia Giuntini, chief brand officer.
“It comes with an unconventional design, which proposes a new language of the former design yet still bears our history. That’s why we named it Code 11.59. The C is for ‘Challenge’ because we always challenge the limit of our craftmanship, the O stands for ‘Own’ because we own our roots and we are really proud that our business is still in the hands of the founding family and here in Le Brassus, the ‘D’ is for Dare and represents our mission to create bold and unique complicated watches, while ‘E’ is for Evolve because we never stand still. We propose a special design and unique materials with highly technical insights that means our watches appeal to the connoisseur. Code 11.59 is another way of telling who we are and where we are now. It is being talked about because no one expected it,” she adds.
While the new collection is very different in many ways from Audemars Piguet’s iconic Royal Oak timepieces, Giuntini stresses that they share the same DNA. Both push the limits in terms of technological innovations, new movements, and the play on shapes at the very core of the watches. Royal Oak uses steel as a new material while the Code 11.59 is about the precision in the details.
“The more you look at it, the more you see the details in this watch, and the more your appreciation grows. For example, the collection is immediately recognisable. Its case boldly embeds an octagonal middlecase within a round case, and the upper part of the open-worked lugs is welded to the extra-thin bezel, while the lower part leans delicately against the caseback in perfect alignment. The double curved glare-proof sapphire crystal has a tense, arched profile like a dome, playing with depth, perspective and lights to give a visually extraordinary optical effect. Meanwhile the 3D logo created by Atom and applied by hand. Each letter is connected with links approximately the size of a hair and placed by hand on the dial with tiny legs that are almost invisible to the eye,” she explains.
Faithful to its legacy since 1875, Audemars Piguet is the oldest fine watch-making manufacturer still in the hands of its founding families – Audemars and Piguet. To underline its commitment to craft, creativity and innovation, in 2013 the brand entered into partnership with Art Basel to support the world’s premiere contemporary art show held annually in Hong Kong, Basel, and Miami Beach. For each of the Audemars Piguet Art Commissions, an artist-curator duo is selected to explore the link between the traditions of Haute Horlogerie and Art, namely complexity and precision while enlisting contemporary creative practice, mechanics, technology and science.
Art Basel 2019 was held recently in the Swiss town for which it is named and Audemars Piguet used the occasion to unveil a new site-specific sound installation by Norwegian artist Jana Winderen at the brand’s stand in the Art Basel’s Collectors Lounge known as “The Vallee”, designed by the Brooklyn-based artist Fernando Mastrangelo.
Winderen’s sonic artwork “Du Petit Risoud aux profondeurs du Lac de Joux” takes visitors on an acoustic journey across the Vallee de Joux from sunrise to sunset in a symphonic collage of interwoven layers. It explores what she refers to as the “disharmony” between the audible and the visible and results from two comprehensive visits to the Vallee de Joux forest and lake region. Windersen, who thrilled art lovers here in Thailand last year with “Through the Bones” presented at the International Art Biennale in Krabi, used hydrophones, an ultrasound detector and other highly sensitive tools to amplify these sounds, making a new dimension of the environment accessible to all.
The work encompasses the indigenous sounds of the Vallee de Joux, from the 300-year-old slow-growing spruce trees of the Risoud forest, known for their excellent sound transmission properties, to a plethora of mammals, birds, fish, insects and plants living in the valley. The piece also notes the inescapable sound of human activity, highlighting the fragility of the environment, as well as humanity’s part in its gradual degradation.
The Optical Crystal Experience: The Manufacture has created a complex double curved glareproof sapphire crystal, whose tense, arched profile embodies the watch’s contemporary design.
Winderen gave a live public performance at Art Basel organised in collaboration with the House of Electronic Arts.
Lakes in the mountains, says Winderen, create enormous, overwhelming noise, “I share with watchmakers a fascination for and attention to the very smallest of details. When you listen to the environment, it is the sound of protecting a habitat, So when you put the headphones on here in the lounge, it takes you somewhere very different, a place where you can relax and be nothing but yourself. It resonates with the materials used in the craft of watchmaking, a frequency you can hear but can’t see. Through this focused listening, I can sense my immediate surroundings. Watchmakers, too, have increased sensitivity to sound. The watch comes alive with its ticking.”
Mastrangelo’s design, The Vallee, was also inspired by Audemars Piguet’s origins. First unveiled at Art Basel in Hong Kong earlier this year, it will continue its evolution in Miami Beach and into 2020. It symbolises a journey across the Vallee de Joux with each part of the journey punctuated by sculpture and furniture. Visitors walk through the spruce tree forest, watch the sunset from the Vallee and feel the texture of the Vallorbe Caves. Each part is handmade and cast using materials as a metaphor for the awe-inspiring landscape. The design element that debuted in Basel was a chandelier made of crushed glass, referencing the limestone stalactites in the Vallorbe Caves suspended above the watchmaker’s desk.
“The space for me is about the journey across the Vallee de Joux,” Mastrangelo explains. “We all have different ways of thinking about time. For me it was geological time, so I translated the idea to rocks, the layers of the strata, the earth and the cave, all elements that take millions of years to develop. I want to approach time in the geological sense and create a metaphor about how time allows things to grow bigger.”
Both artworks blur the boundaries between contemporary art, design, and craft and, through their creative interpretations of the geographic origins in the Vallee de Joux, perfectly mirror the technical mastery at the heart of Audemars Piguet’s fine watchmaking.