The Audemars Piguet [Re]master01 Selfwinding Chronograph comes hot on the heels of their Code 11.59 – the Swiss watchmaker’s failed attempt to move away from its dependence on the Royal Oak. To move the metal, AP’s gone back to its roots, launching a new watch based on their 1941 chronograph, reference 1533. “Gone back” as in retreated? Well . . .
Not surprisingly, Audemars Piguet’s Head of Complications disagrees. “This is not a historic reissue,” Michael Friedman tells ours friends at HoDinkee. “It is a contemporary remastering of one of our past creations.” This is a contemporary example of the expression “a distinction without a difference.”
Equally unsurprising, our favorite champagne socialist leaps to Mr. Friedman’s defense: “It’s far from just semantics,” HoDinkee Editor Stephen Pulvirent asserts. “The former would be about being faithful to an original in form, while the latter is more about being faithful to an original in concept.”
In other words, it’s not the same watch. As Joe Biden would say, c’mon man! Here’s the original reference 1533 (sold at Phillips auctioneers) and its “conceptually faithful” re-do.
There are differences – especially if you’re a watch nerd. The new dial’s brighter (more garish), the sub-dials have been swapped around, the pushers are a different shape and it’s been upsized from 36.5mm to 40mm.
But I would NOT want to be the guy who just paid $310k for the reference 1533 now that five-hundred “limited edition” Audemars Piguet [Re]master01 Selfwinding Chronographs are hitting the streets, on sale for just $53,100 a piece.
The similarities between the old watch and the new “remaster” are so many and so obvious – from identical indexes to the old logo – that it’s hard not to imagine AP wringing their hands over lukewarm Code 11.59 sales and saying “what the hell do we do now?” And answering, “We put the new movement in an old watch!”
Yes, there is that.
The 1941 reference 1533 was powered by the hand-wound Valjoux 13 movement. The Audemars Piguet [Re]master01 Selfwinding Chronograph is motivated by AP’s caliber 4409, a modified version of the Code 11.59’s caliber 4401.
AP removed the date complication, put a hobnail pattern on the skeletonized rotor, made the new watch’s case big enough to fit the beast and called it old. I mean, good.
Wait. A self-winding vintage chrono?
Yes, well, remember the stakes involved: $26,550,000. Keeping in mind the fact that the new old watch uses movements already hanging around (i.e., paid for) and AP doesn’t have to shell out millions for an obscure, ineffective marketing campaign to sell the thing.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m sure the Audemars Piguet [Re]master01 Selfwinding Chronograph has all the quality workmanship we’ve come to associate with the brand. But this is a Hamilton move, not something you’d expect from the brand that gambled on Gerald Genta’s radical design to save its bacon, and won. Here’s hoping for better days – and better watches – ahead.