AP Code 11.59 Chronograph

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AP Code 11.59 Chronograph

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.

Code 11.59 youtubery

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 . . .

AP Self-Winding Tourbillon Chronograph

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!

AP caseback

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.

AP Code 11.59 Chronograph on its side

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:

AP Code 11.59 Chronograph off center

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.

off center sandwich

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.

11 COMMENTS

  1. …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.

    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.

    I like me some wordsmithing as much as the next wordsmith. But, holy hell! WTF is what most readers are thinking when trying to read this sesquipedalian drivel. N’est-ce pas? (See? I can do it, too.)

    As for the rest of it… mostly jibber-jabber to this muggle. But, I guess it doesn’t matter, as I’m not in the $45k watch market.

  2. I feel bad for the poor 11.59. It did nothing wrong, it merely didn’t really do enough right. I think that nutty H. Moser & Cie. guy stands a chance at spicing it up in some fantasy football universe. That said, were I oblicated to wear one, I’d be pleading to not get a tourbillon or chonograph. The purple one is purple though.

  3. Most people still “see” the regal emperor. Unfortunately (or fortunately) for TTAW followers, the old coot is butt-naked, flabby, hirsute and yet bald in all the wrong places. At this point I’m not averse to expressing my derision at anyone using their income to support this kind of stupidity. They are certainly free to mock my inability to pay for such waste as well.

  4. Well the dial might be boring but at least the hand on the hour register is misaligned to keep you preoccupied.

  5. Mmmkay, I’ll bite.

    Even after having had a previous comment censored, because apparently that’s how even free watching hating blogs roll now, we’ll give you one more shot. (try not to have your inner Musssolini triggered, now, lest your still trying to get a job at your grail blog, Hodinkee)

    That watch sucks. If you ever wanted to make a watch hater blog (of which you did a fine job, certainly), this would be the headliner.

    And yet, the main fault of it is terrible marketing. Had they made it “boutique only” and “sold out” and “waitlist” while giving a few to whoever wears the most pastel colored RM these days, it would have been a total hit. Especially if they’d left out all the extremely nauseating self congratulatory circle jerk of their own grandeness for the launch.

    I’d want that watch to succeed. It’d be the ultimate testimony to the eternal sheepledom of humanity, and popcorn hilarious to see the Instagram ‘flex’ posts and forum threads discussing their latest ‘incoming 1159s’.

    • Thank you for that comment. Seriously. And please note I only delete comments that flame other commentators. That’s all.

  6. Maybe I’m totally wrong but I always assumed the 11:59 was meant to be AP’s equivalent of Ferrari’s California/Portifino/Roma. Its the car the dealer makes you buy along with a pre-owned model or two as well as an FF/Lusso before you’re allowed to get the car you actually want. Because AP is truly a young horse with a single exceptional skill they need a good unloved model to force on the new clients and booming Asian market. Hence this Kohl’s Special. I guess if you buy an 11:59 or three you might be allowed an Automatic and then eventually a Jumbo; and François Ornery Benihana can say: “Its a hit! We sold them all and I’m a genius. I shall buy a dozen more tight fitting leather jackets to cover my paunch and start work on the Rick and Morty Offshore Concept.”

    • It’s too kind to claim that this was designed as an obligatory screening step for prospective flagship purchasers. That would mean they tried to fail and succeeded. It was meant to be at least a contender to the throne. But then it immediately played out as described above.

  7. This is my first comment on your page, though I’ve read you before. You’re amusing, for sure, but your resentment fair exudes from every pore and punctuation mark.

    Let me start by stating that I own an AP Code Chrono, latest gen in purple and rose gold. I also own some 120 other watches that most readers and even some journalists may wet themselves over. As far as I am concerned, it is no big deal to wear a 50K watch (unless in London, where I keep it out of sight. I don’t feel safe there). I nearly bought the tourbillon instead, though I love the appliqué logo on the dial of the chrono, so the tourbillon was out, for now.

    So pour scorn on me, tell me I’m just protecting my investment, but I really don’t care. 50K is a drop in the ocean, I couldn’t care a fig about resale prices…

    May people hated the Royal Oak when it was released. Many people hate HoDinkee (I see what you did there) and I hate it when journalists add a redundant ‘the’ article to the words ‘hoi polloi’, given that the article is in the phrase already.

    I’m no journalist (this much is obvious, since I can pay my utility bills) but I can clearly tell that to a man, not one detractor of the new Codes has actually seen one up close and personal. Granted, the older dials are somewhat heinous, but the new ones are glorious. The construction exquisite and the mechanism sublime. I love telling Royal Oak smatterers I meet that, a) I have lots of Royal Oaks, b) I don’t pay over retail for them because I’m a preferred client and c) I wear my Code anyway, because I prefer it.

    I also love me a nice Vacheron, so I am not a brand loyalist, or whatever the term is. I’d just hazard a guess that if anyone of you actually saw a Code chrono in the flesh, you’d love it too. The flying buttress lugs, the concave and vertically polished sapphire and the lightly smoked dial, none of these are done justice by online adverts and photos, which is as close as most proletariat get to these watches anyway.

    One more thing. I can’t stand Bollinger Bolsheviks. Pick your side and own it.

    PS : I agree that the ineluctable conclusion ia that HoDinkee might as well be on their payroll.

    PPS : In order to be fair and balanced, I would have preferred the watch under 40mm.

    • Mr King, It’s refreshing to a positive review, even if it’s served with a side of caviar. I recently purchased a Code 11.59 mostly because I’m a contrarian. Out of the chaff, a few comments remain consistent: you have to see and hold one to truly appreciate it. I’m glad I took a flyer, that is indeed the case.

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