Joseph Adams – It’s Hot!
When I was last in the arena, Saad and I debated the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. I was on the hot side of the street. When Mr. Farago paired me with you [Luke] for another of these articles, I resolved not to take the coward’s way out and pick something that had the entire horological world on my side. As a card-carrying iconoclast, I am prepared to do the impossible, defend the indefensible, and take aim at the conventional wisdom and say: The Audemars Piguet CODE 11.59 is hot. Specifically . . .
the Selfwinding Chronograph in the white gold case with the blue dial.
More generally, this is the model line that launched a thousand negative threads. Too busy. Too bombastic. The marketing was bad. And my favorite: “it looks cheap.”
(Here’s a hint, if you care that your watch looks cheap, you’re not wealthy nor refined enough for expensive tastes). But we’re not here to debate what a bunch of commenters think. So why is the 1159 hot?
In the best AP tradition, the watch is technologically advanced, thoughtfully designed and impeccably finished. It’s a little large for a dress watch at 41mm but not excessively so in an era where the Rolex President is available in a 40mm case. And, like other AP models, it is straightforward about its influences, including the Royal Oak-esq angles.
However, you would never know that by seeing it on somebody’s wrist. Half-covered by a sleeve and to an untrained eye, it is a tasteful, nicely finished chronograph (albeit with one too many sub-dials for our esteemed editor). Rectangular pushers peek around the crown but don’t call attention to themselves. And the date window – don’t @ me Robert – is perfectly positioned if you’re wearing two-button barrel cuffs.
Because this is, unapologetically, a dress watch. Designed to accentuate, not overpower. The true details – the interplay of curves and straight edges, the hollow lugs – only reveal themselves on close inspection. Just look at complexity of the multiplane curve of the crystal.
That’s not something someone is going to notice at a bar. Instead, all of the work that AP put into this watch exists only for the owner’s satisfaction. It’s confident enough that it doesn’t need to announce itself. And that, my friend, is truly hot.
Luke Ibis: It’s Not!
First of all, sir, I applaud you for taking the positive side on this one. Just for future reference, I have no problems being a hater . . . I will even hate on things I love. Luckily we’re not in that situation here. I genuinely dislike this watch.
Let’s start with the name. It’s not the Audemars Piguet 11.59. It is actually and unfortunately the “CODE 11.59 by Audemars Piguet.” What does that even mean? It reminds me of the “Chrysler TC by Maserati,” a cynical attempt to attach Italian cachet to a dumpy looking K-car. Is this AP attaching their name to something made elsewhere? No! So why call it that?
I know you were trying to avoid the advertising campaign, but those insipid ads just point out that Audemars isn’t even sure what this watch is or how it fits into their product line. AP says that 11.59 stands for “a very specific instance in the creative process . . . one that’s hard to define . . .” Ok then!
Maybe that serves to highlight that the styling is an unrefined jumble of cues from AP’s other watches. Or maybe it hints at this watch’s target market – young, self-styled creative types with a few dollars that no one has touched. Marginally talented art school degree holders in very large cities that truly, deeply understand “that 11.59 moment.”
Ah that’s it! The CODE 11.59 is the watch for the worst people in the world- Instagram influencers. I will admit it looks damned good in a low resolution snap of a carefully arranged flat lay.
Joseph Adams – Credit Where Credit’s Due
Comparing me to Instagram influencers. You wound me, sir. But you have hit on something dear to my heart: luxury good marketing is (almost universally) crap.
And you are right when it comes to the 1159 (ahem, “11.59”). Everything surrounding the watch itself is just so, so, so bad. The name is unwieldy. The introduction was trying way too hard – it had the air of a bunch of people trying to convince themselves, let alone the world.
So I’m not going to defend AP for hiring the worst marketers alive and positioning a near-$50k watch towards people who haven’t earned anything in their lives.
But if we judged everything based on their advertising, we would be shallow indeed. I’m not going to hold “Make every shot a Powershot” against Maria Sharapova, and I’m not going to hold the name against this watch. Instead I’m going to celebrate the fact that AP took a very real risk to build this thing. It would have been so easy to pump out Royal Oak variations until the heat death of the universe (Oh hey, Rolex, didn’t see you there) but they took a risk.
And maybe not everything works perfectly. That’s the nature of risk-taking. But despite all this, the watch itself works. And to take a risk and succeed? To quote the original influence, that’s hot.
Luke Ibis: The 11.59 Is Ugly
Agreed, it’s best to leave the vomit-inducing marketing out of this discussion. Though one could argue it’s part of the overall product, it’s not our focus. I just want to say, one last time for the record, that I hate it and everything it was attempting to signify.
Let’s go back to the 11.59 itself – it’s ugly. I will grant you that some of the details are quite nice – I do love that crystal. But it’s what my father would call “10 pounds of shit in a 5 pound bag.” There’s just too much going on.
It’s a visually round watch but has the Royal Oak’s polygon sandwiched between two circles. Modern, open-worked lugs holding baroque leather straps. It presents as a dress watch but has tool watch details in the crown and heavyweight wide lugs. I’m not a design expert by any means, but I can recognize purity of vision. The CODE 11.59 suffers an acute lack of it.
I think that’s why it’s so disappointing in the context of AP’s classics. The more recent complicated Royal Oaks probably ruin this argument, but Audemars Piguet knows how to make beautiful watches. With the 11.59 they made something that would look right at home in the Ulysses Nardin case. That’s so not hot.