Business leaders seeking solace in difficult times might be heartened by the fact that, while Audemars Piguet is one of today’s most successful high-end dial names, its passage through 145 years of history has been anything but smooth. It was pounded by the outbreak of the first world war and so crushed by the Wall Street Crash that, in 1932, it managed to produce just two watches.
But, as is often the way, it emerged stronger and during the following decades proceeded to create some of the most perfectly nuanced watches of the 20th century, one of which was the exquisite Reference 1533 of the 1940s. Few were made, and such is the collectability of an original that when one of three steel and gold examples from 1941 was offered at Phillips in November 2018, it fetched SFr384,500 (about £324,000) – more than six times its low estimate.
So the Swiss firm should have little difficulty in shifting this 21st-century reincarnation of the 1533 that it is calling [Re]master01 (priced £51,800), denoting the fact that it is set to be the first in a series of new timepieces based on vintage designs.
It is not, however, a slavish copy, but a modern interpretation using Audemars Piguet’s state-of-the-art Calibre 4409 self-winding flyback chronograph movement with a column wheel in a 40mm-diameter stainless-steel case (up 3.5mm over the original 1533) with bezel, crown and push pieces made from contrasting pink gold.
The champagne dial, however, is not far off being a dead ringer for that of the 1533, featuring the same tachymetric scale and blued steel chronograph hands operated by distinctive oval pushpieces.
One difference is that the 30-minute and 12-hour counter positions have been transposed, with the former now appearing at the nine o’clock position but still carrying the original’s 4/5 indication in red to signify 45 minutes of time recorded – a feature said to have been added at the behest of soccer fan Jacques-Louis Audemars so he knew when a match was approaching the half-time stage.
Also different is the caseback – while the 1940s version was made from steel, the [Re]master01 features a sapphire-crystal disc that allows the meticulously finished, 349-part movement to be seen in all its glory.
A light-brown calfskin strap completes this perfect picture of vintage elegance, just 500 examples of which will be available.
It’s proof positive that the late American typeface designer Frederic Goudy was absolutely right when he said: “The old fellows stole all our best ideas…”