The 70s was a good, happy time, rose-tinted and full of hope. No wonder it’s an era many a watchmaker is looking back on fondly right now. Few of them though are as defined by the 70s as Audemars Piguet. The Royal Oak, the watch that has come to define the Le Brassus-based brand, is a child of the 70s and is so famous that it’s hard to think of an AP before it.
But Audemars Piguet didn’t start when Gerald Genta design his opus; the manufacture was founded back in 1875 and had plenty of warm-up time before the Royal Oak took off. Enough that, in this age of archive raiding, it was only a matter of time before Audemars Piguet took a deep cut into their own vintage catalogue.
Don’t worry though, this isn’t the usual re-creation, re-edition or re-release; this is a re-master. The [Re]master01 chronograph, in fact. Still, it’s not quite as far back as the 1800s that AP has gone. Instead their inspiration comes from the turbulent 1940s and one of their rarest ever pieces: their 1943 chronograph.
There’s a good chance you didn’t even know that the manufacture built chronographs back then; I honestly didn’t think they did either. That’s because they only built 307 between 1930 and 1950. They’re among the rarest watches in existence and the last one sold by Phillips achieved CHF 384,500. You can see why then Audemars Piguet want to bring their own vintage chronographs back into the limelight.
The specific base watch in question is the pre-model 1533, a tachymeter-equipped sports chronograph – from back when sports watches were still elegant – and many of the vintage characteristics remain.
That means a two-tone case, with the case and funky teardrop lugs in stainless steel. The thin bezel, champfered crown and unusual olive-shaped chronograph pushers are all in rose gold. We’re seeing a lot more two-tone in the recent crop of retro releases and as far as I’m concerned we should see more of it. Steel’s boring; gold’s too much. Two-tone is quirky vintage fun. The yellow gold dial (rather than the more subtle champagne of the original 1533) leans more towards the opulent than the off-kilter.
To keep things tight, the markers on the dial are transferred rather than applied, flattening it. To make the chronograph hands stand out, they – and the tachymeter scale – are all in blue, while the local time hands are rose gold. It’s a separation plenty of chronographs could use.
On a side note, if you look closely you can see an odd 4/5 written in red above the 30-minute chronograph counter. That’s because Jacques-Louis Audemars, third generation of the founding family, enjoyed a spot of football. The marker’s there to indicate the 45-minute half time. If only the mysteries of extra time weren’t so beyond mortal ken.
The final archival flourish is the signature. Audemars Piguet was founded and remains in the Vallée de Joux, yet is says Audemars Piguet & Co Genève on the dial, referencing when AP still had a workshop in the central watchmaking hub of Switzerland. It closed back in the 70s, if you were wondering.
There are some differences in the design though. For one, the case size has been upped to 40mm rather than the 36.5mm of the original model. Ostensibly it’s to make the dial more legible, but it’s also just a more modern size. The chronograph too has been laid out differently. Previously it had chronograph minutes and hours at 3 o’clock and 6 o’clock respectively, with running seconds at 9. The [Re]master01 switches things around with chrono minutes at 9, chrono hours at 3 and running seconds at 6.
That change comes down to the movement, which is anything but vintage. To anyone that’s seen a ‘vintage-inspired’ release before it won’t come as a surprise that, like a restomod Porsche, what’s under the hood is pure modern mechanics.
The calibre 4409 is Audemars Piguet’s latest automatic movement, complete with a column wheel flyback chronograph function and a 70-hour power reserve. It’s all very up-to-spec with their current collection; functionally far superior to anything from the 1940s. You can see the whole thing, complete with its rose gold, clous de Paris-embellished rotor, through the sapphire crystal caseback, another thing the original was sorely lacking.
The [Re]master 01 promises to be just the first in a new wave of Audemars Piguet pieces with historical roots, which makes a nice change from the shiny new 11.59s and the abundance of Royal Oaks. However, there is one thing it doesn’t do as well as the original watch – depending on how you look at it.
Price & Specs:
Model Name: Audemars Piguet [re]master01 Selfwinding Chronograph
Case/Dial: 40mm diameter, stainless steel and pink gold
Water resistance: 20m
Movement: In-house Calibre 4409, automatic
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, chronograph with 12-hour and 30-minute totalizers
Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 70h
Strap: Light brown calfskin and dark brown alligator leather
Price: CHF 49,500 (excl. taxes), limited to 500 pieces
More details at Audemars Piguet’s website.