Audemars Piguet – Jules Audemars Extra-Thin (SIHH 2011)

In 2011, Audemars Piguet has entirely reviewed the fundamentals of the Jules Audemars collection, its moon-phase calendar and dual timezone models, as well as its simple selfwinding watches including those with a date display. The Jules Audemars extra-thin watch houses one of the world’s thinnest selfwinding movements measuring just 2.45 mm thick. Its slender case, streamlined bezel and pure dial generate genuine emotion of the kind surrounding objects that are built to last, because this timepiece is endowed with that special something that is in fact the natural elegance of authentic classics.

A region, a culture: a collection
The models in the Jules Audemars collection represent the very roots of Audemars Piguet. This collection tells the story of an exceptional place and some exceptional people. The place is the Vallée de Joux, and the people are those who have nurtured Fine Watchmaking in this remote region. Well before the timepieces from this valley were exported to the four corners of the world, everything was already in place. From the mid-18th century onwards, alongside the farming work they undertook during the summer, the local population devoted many hours to building watch movements. They spent their long harsh winters at the workbench in order to fulfil orders from Geneva-based companies. They later began making their own movements and entire watches. The boldest of them founded manufactories, or Manufactures as they became known.

The men of the Vallée had thus acquired the ability to conduct the entire process, from design through to production, using hand-craftsmanship techniques. This dexterity, this manual know-how was handed down from generation to generation. Today it is accompanied by technological progress and semi-industrial-scale production, and yet the watches nonetheless embody deeply rooted origins and culture.

Jules Audemars and Edward Piguet became officially associated in 1875 and created the Manufacture Audemars Piguet. Both were watchmakers and accomplished masters of their chosen profession that they cherished and constantly perfected. Building on their knowledge, they played a pioneering role and took up the challenge of making entire watches under one roof. The company they established has been active ever since and has remained in the hands of the founding families.

The Jules Audemars collection pays tribute to this firm by bearing the name of one of the founders. It recounts this legacy and is imbued with a profound awareness of its heritage yet without any sense of nostalgia. It reinterprets the past with a contemporary vision. Its quest is focused on simplicity and a refusal of anything superfluous or purely ornamental. This unaffected simplicity is indeed what makes it both naturally elegant and unmistakably modern.

Absolute elegance, inside and out
The round case is an archetype that tends to make one forget that the circle is the perfect shape par excellence. By opting for an extremely slender bezel, the Jules Audemars extra-thin reveals the full measure of its innate nobility. The white gold case appears light and almost ethereal. This narrow bezel ensures a maximum dial opening. Only the applied pink gold baton-shaped hour-markers and hands stand out against the decidedly understated silver-toned background. Not even a minute circle disturbs this epitome of formal purity.

The case owes its clear-cut, sleek lines to the ultra-thin selfwinding movement within: Calibre 2120. Measuring just 2.45 mm thick, including the thickness of the oscillating weight, it is indeed one of the world’s thinnest self-winding movements. Audemars Piguet’s efforts to reduce the thickness of its movements began at an early stage in its history, and were already rewarded in 1946 with the hand-wound Calibre ML measuring just 1.64 mm thick. This was followed in 1953 by the skeletonised ultra-thin Calibre 2003. All that remained was to apply this successful approach to a selfwinding movement, a feat achieved in 1967 with Calibre 1967 and stemming from cooperation between several prestigious companies. It has since been constantly perfected. Its enduring appeal lies in an atypical, modern and refined nature. In addition to its extreme slenderness, it boasts the ingenuity of its winding system and of its balance-wheel adjustment.

One of the distinctive features of this Calibre 2120 is its rotor fitted with a 21-carat gold oscillating weight. This weight serves to drive the winding system in such a way as to keep the barrel at an ideal level of performance. The mainspring is able to supply its energy in a constant manner and thereby has a positive influence on rating procession. Enhanced performance was also the concern that motivated the choice of a central rotor rather an integrated mini-rotor. The barrel stands out from certain others in that it is as if “suspended”, held only by the barrel bridge. It ensures a 40-hour power reserve, a noteworthy achievement in light of the thinness of the movement and the construction of the barrel. The movement can be wound in either direction thanks to a reverser. To keep the movement as thin as possible, the oscillating weight is not equipped with a ball bearing mechanism and the endshake is guided by a peripheral ring rolling on four jewelled runners fixed to the mainplate.

This system makes a highly distinctive noise during the rotation of the oscillating weight, a sound that will delight connoisseurs. The heart of the movement is a variable-inertia balance with six inertia-blocks that ensure more stable long-term rating. It is equipped with a flat balance-spring and beats at the rate of 19,800 vibrations per hour.

Calibre 2120 is also remarkable in terms of the extreme care lavished on crafting it. Manually assembled and decorated in the company workshops in Le Brassus, it is distinguished by the exceptional quality of its execution and finishing. The bridges are meticulously bevelled and polished so as to feature only cleanly-cut, gleaming edges. The jewel sinks are diamond-polished. The wheels have bevelled spokes and diamond-polished sinks. Even the screw rim and slots are bevelled. The mainplate is circular-grained on both sides – with two different diameters of circular graining so as to accentuate the depth effect – and the bridges are adorned with Côtes de Genève. The beauty of the oscillating weight, which is openworked to form the “AP” initials, sets the crowning touch to the decoration of this calibre.

Those who appreciate rare objects will marvel at this meticulous finishing work in admiring the movement through the sapphire crystal case-back. They will rediscover the pleasure of the infinitely small details that one keeps to oneself. And finally, in the Jules Audemars extra-thin watch, they will recognise the force of character capable of withstanding the changes of time and which represents the enduring strength of authentic great classics.

Movement – Proprietary ultra-thin, selfwinding Calibre 2120. Total diameter 28,40 mm (12 ¾ lignes). Casing diameter 28 mm. Thickness: 2.45 mm. 37 jewels. 214 parts. Power reserve – up to 40 hours. Cadence of the balance – 19,800 vibrations per hour (2.75 Hz).
Finishing – All parts finished by hand; mainplate rhodium-plated, bevelled and circular-grained; bridges adorned with Côtes de Genève.

Functions – Hours and minutes.

Case – 18-carat white gold. Diameter 41 mm. Thickness 6.7 mm. Water resistance – 20 m. Sapphire crystal.

Dial – Silvered with applied pink gold hour-markers. Pink gold hour and minute hands.

Strap – Hand-sewn black crocodile leather with large square scales, secured by an 18-carat white gold pin buckle.

Source: Audemars Piguet

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