I worry that I’ve turned The Truth About Watches into site for horological haters. A lot of what I write here can be summed up with three letters: WTF? The thing is, all the other watch websites are obsequious to the point of onanism. I promise to heap praise on somethingorother next week. Meanwhile, let’s take a deep dive on HoDinkee’s In-Depth “review” of the AP Code 11.59 Chronograph. It’s a classic of its type. The article I mean . . .
The Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Chronograph Says, ‘Take Me To Your Leader’ the headline proclaims. “This reporter, for one, welcomes our new Code 11.59 overlords.” Which is both a bizarre and a painfully honest intro to Jack Forster’s analysis of Audemars Piguet’s latest attempt to create a desirable Code 11.59. Check out his opening salvo:
When the Code 11.59 collection launched back in January of 2019, it was as if we’d gone to a restaurant called Le Controverse, sat down, and ordered the Controverse appetizer, with the Controverse Flambé main course, extra la sauce Controverse Grand-Mère Ancienne Gérald Genta on the side, and to drink, naturellement, a couple of magnums of Le Grand Vin De Audemars Piguet Premier Grande Controverse 2019.
In his own disingenuous sort of way, Mr. Forster is acknowledging the fact that the Code 11.59 was DOA. The watch didn’t so much create controversy as unleash a deafening chorus of . . . wait for it . . . WTF? Why would Audemars Piguet – the Audemars Piguet – release a watch so bland it makes dry white toast seem interesting?
The massive corporate hype accompanying the Code 11.59’s release did nothing to convince the hoi polloi of the Swiss watchmaker’s genius, and everything to confuse everyone. (Click here for an explanation of the name.) Mr. Forster wants us to reconsider this abject failure, in order to do what he’s been charged to do: heap praise upon the new AP Code 11.59 Chronograph. Not an easy task, all things considered . . .
While the time-only versions of Code came in for the worst lambasting out of the gate, the complicated watches in the collection had the onslaught softened, to some degree, by their complexity and by the undeniable sophistication in their mechanical execution. The watches were, after all, a deliberate provocation – Francois-Henry Bennahmias was certainly not trying to epater la bourgeoisie but he certainly seemed to be trying to epater somebody, even if it was just the legion of AP fans who had begun, more and more vocally, to wonder if AP hadn’t become a one-trick pony.
To be clear, HoDinkee didn’t lambaste the Code 11.59 when it dropped. “Across the entire range, I’d describe the dials as bold and punchy,” HoDinkee’s champagne socialist wrote in his intro to the model, “with an emphasis on clarity and simplicity.” Bold and punchy. Sure – on Opposite Day. That said, I credit Mr. Forster for adding “to some degree” to his assertion that complicated Codes “softened the onslaught.”
At least the wordsmith admits there was an onslaught against the Code 11.59. OK, sure, how could he not? And I love this bit: ” . . . there has been enough water under the bridge for the notion that there might be a more considered perspective to seem slightly more plausible than it might have seemed two years ago.” Might be. Sightly more plausible. Heh.
Mr. Forster leaves the prevarication train for a quick excursion into a discussion of the difficulty of creating a chronograph. It’s more challenging than building a tourbillon! And then, well, I can’t help but hear Jim Carrey’s line from The Mask: somebody stop me!
The finish is not quite as elaborately executed as you would find in a simpler high-end movement where decoration is taken as an end in itself. A Dufour Simplicity, for instance, or an Eichi II, are both simple watches in which it is important that the movement function as a showcase for anglage, polished countersinks, meticulously finished screws, and so on, as well as a showcase for the mechanism per se. The Code 11.59 chronograph however, isn’t going for a classic haute horlogerie feel, but rather, for something that emphasizes the geometry and angularity of the movement.
Hello? The AP Code 11.59 Chronograph costs $45,200. I’m thinking a little “haute horlogerie feel” to the engine behind the transparent caseback wouldn’t go amiss. I suspect Mr. Forster is saying it’s missing. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.
As Mr. Forster’s article heads down the home stretch, his “this thing sucks” signaling gets louder. Less subtle. More fun!
This is a strange watch to have on the wrist, and I’m not entirely sure I’d ever get used to it, but it doesn’t seem like a watch whose designers had that in mind in the first place.
Right! The designers set out to make a watch people don’t want to wear. I believe that. Anyway, Mr. Forster’s summation is a testimony – make that a monument to the fine art of dissembling. Bound by federal Fair Use provisions, I can only quote so much of his waffling. I’ll leave you with this:
It’s a contradictory piece. The case and movement finishing draw on the classic Genevan finishing vocabulary. The geometry has the harsh angularity of the original Royal Oak (as well as echoing some of its geometry) but taken to an extreme Gérald Genta never dreamt of and which I’m sure he would have hated on sight . . .
The Code 11.59 Chronograph is, however, an interesting watch. The Code collection is not easy. You have to spend a lot of time with the watches to start to get what AP was going for, and I’m not convinced even now that they succeeded unequivocally in connecting all the dots they wanted to connect.
Audemars Piguet succeeded with the “interesting” AP Code 11.59 Chronograph! Only . . . not so much. Not unequivocally. In fact, let’s file Mr. Forster’s entire “review” under the heading “Equivocation,” defined as “The use of ambiguous language to conceal the truth or to avoid committing oneself.”
While we’re at it, let’s credit HoDinkee for admitting their relationship with Audemars Piguet from the git-go. And thank the Lord that the HoDinkee Shop doesn’t sell Audemars Piguet, at least not yet.
If they did Mr. Forster’s masterpiece of half-assed “criticism” wouldn’t exist. And I’d have to spend my Sunday writing about how much I love the Vacheron Constantin Overseas – despite one TTAW writer’s brutally honest design review.