Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Tourbillon

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Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Tourbillon black

Last January, Audemars Piguet launched the Code 11.59. The usual suspects gave it the usual love. But the watch community was of one voice: meh. To fight the old ennui, AP smoked the Code 11.59’s dials and added complications galore. And now they’ve brought out the big gun: the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Self Winding Tourbillon . . .

I haven’t written The Tourbillon Must Die, but only because I slate the complication every chance I get. And boy, do I get a lot of chances. I can’t think of a single high end watchmaker that hasn’t added a tourbillon to their line. They all charge customers through the nose for the privilege of wristing an ancient device that serves no practical purpose whatsoever – aside from the aforementioned financial premium.

To be fair, the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Self-Winding Tourbillon isn’t an Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Self-Winding Perpetual Calendar Grand Sonniere Tourbillon Chronograph. It continues the Code 11.59’s minimalist aesthetic. Which is, of course, the problem.

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Tourbillon blue

I make this assessment as a someone who adores a proper minimalist watch. “Proper” as in every detail forms a coherent statement. If we drill down to where the Code 11.59 in general and the Self-Winding Tourbillon in specific fails, there’s plenty of details to kvetch about.

If you were to set out to make hour and minute hands with no visual interest whatsoever you could do no better than the Code 11.59. They’re not . . . anything. Now look at the indices. They match the hands, to the same non-effect.

The minute markers on the bezel aren’t helping; they’re subtle to the point of invisibility. And then there’s the 9 (and the 6 in the other models). What IS that? The number isn’t retro. It isn’t modern. It’s just odd. Goofy. Jarring. Unacceptable. And BIG, as it would be in a 41mm watch.

Audemars Piguet head on

The tourbillon in the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Self-Winding Tourbillon is similarly oversized. The hole into which it’s sunk actually overlaps the central post. There’s no need for the spinny thing to be so large, except to fill up the blank space. Of which there is a great deal, despite the smoked effect dial’s star-filled attempt to fill it (not seen on the launch model). As large as it is, the bland brand text can’t compensate.

That said, some will find the XXL tourbillon a feature, not a bug. In many other tourbillon watches, Abraham-Louis Breguet’s 1801 pocket watch accuracy enhancer plays a supporting role. Unless an observer is looking for it, they won’t see it. Here, the tourbillon is unavoidable. As many buyers of high end horology want to impress observers, well, there it is.

Audemars Piguet caseback

Flipping the watch over makes me sad. Whatever else you can say about the Code 11.59’s design deficiencies the watchmaker’s mechanical prowess is beyond reproach. While I can’t fathom a $150k watch with misaligned case screws, the in-house calibre 2950 is a peach. It’s intricately beautiful in a way that makes a mechanical watch lover happy to be alive, even before you take a loop to its decoration. Sixty-five hour power reserve? Good on you mate.

While many of its creators have “moved on,” there’s no way in God’s green Earth that Audemars Piguet is going to abandon the Code 11.59. I don’t know the sales figures for all indeed any the models, but you can buy a box fresh base plain Jane white dial model for $23k (a couple of grand off MSRP). Scanning chron24.com, higher end models – like the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Self-Winding Tourbillon – hold their value.

two watches

A lot of that has to do with the fact that the Code 11.59 is an available Audemars Piguet. Equally, it’s safe to say that the Code 11.59 doesn’t have a tenth the desirability of the coveted Royal Oak, as revealed by the RO’s scarcely credible waiting lists and premiums.

If we judge the Code 11.59 according to its ability to attain the same devotion as the watch they introduced 48 years ago, it’s a failure. Early days? The Royal Oak got off to a slow start but had “it” from the git-go. The Code 11.59 didn’t. And still doesn’t.

If we judge the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Self-Winding Tourbillon on its ability to keep the tourbillon bragging rights customer satisfied, it’s a hit! How great is that?

8 COMMENTS

  1. All the PPP fraud and quantitative easing money has to go somewhere, which has propped up a lot of bad watches, while making the prices for popular watches absurd. But this is still the loser consolation prize for people that can’t get the Royal Oak with the calibre 2950 (although I’m not sure why anyone would want to mar the classic design of the Royal Oak with a tourbillon).

    One of the coolest things Biver ever did was put a tourbillon and chronograph in a $15,000 Swiss Made watch. The undeserved prestige of the tourbillon has been dead since then.

  2. There’s a hole in my watch! 😮

    I don’t get that. I don’t get that at all. Would you put a big hole in the SIDE of a Ferrari 488, showing the engine?

      • Many Ferrari models have the “engine under glass.” We might compare that to having the movement of a watch visible through a crystal in the caseback.

        Having a HOLE in the DIAL is akin to a big hole in the rear fender to expose part of the Ferrari engine. Hideous and out of place.

      • To be more clear.. the Ferrari engine is often visible under glass in the rear deck lid. And, that’s quite acceptable. Similar to a crystal in the case back to observe the movement.

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