Despite a rocky reception when Audemars Piguet debuted the line in 2019, the Code 11.59 collection is gaining traction, especially after several facelifts that bestowed smoked dials, two-tone cases, as well as open-worked movements on the line.
Continuing the evolution – and improvement – is the Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon that combines white gold and black ceramic in a novel two-tone case. More striking is the unexpected simplicity of the dial, which is a polished expanse of onyx stone, resulting in the most striking version of the model to date.
Since the launch of the collection, most Code 11.59 model have been redesigned in a manner that is somewhat formulaic, though the results have been attractive. The makeovers usually involved brighter dial colours or new materials, like the recent Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon that got an aventurine glass dial.
In comparison, the latest redesign is a surprise that proves less is more. Stark and minimalist yet far from plain, the onyx dial easily sets the watch apart from its peers in the collection. It does that by streamlining the dial, even removing the Arabic numerals that are a signature element of the Code 11.59.
Aside from the onyx dial, I also like the smart application of coloured accents. Though it is mainly in silver and black, it has just the right amount of rose gold details in just the right places to give it warmth and a bit of a vintage feel. And the black is also smartly utilised to highlight the case band as well as the tourbillon carriage, but in a subtle manner.
Though the new tourbillon is equipped with a mineral stone dial, a rarity at Audemars Piguet (AP), it is not a limited edition, which is good news. Priced at about US$149,700, the watch costs about 10% more than the standard model in gold, but the dial material and aesthetics are certainly worth the premium.
Unusually for the Code 11.59 line, the new tourbillon does away with the applied hour markers and minute hashmarks. Those elements are almost the defining features of the range, but here the minimalist design makes sense since it allows the onyx dial to take centre stage.
And the redesign was almost certainly also a matter of practicality – onyx and similar stones are a challenge to work so drilling holes to accommodate the applied markers would have been a headache accompanied by a high rejection rate.
AP reveals the the onyx dial was produced by Someco, a Swiss dial and hand specialist established in 1966. Based in La Chaux-de-Fonds, the firm now has over 100 employees.
Starting with a single block of onyx, the stonemason divides the block into thin slices that form dial blanks. Each is then cut to create the aperture for the tourbillon before being ground and lapped to achieve a smooth, glossy surface. Finally, the stone disc is secured to a brass dial plate with adhesive and then mounted onto the movement.
Because the hour and minute markers have been removed, the domed and lacquered chapter ring becomes more obvious. It is a good match for the black dial, with the glossy, rounded surface of the chapter ring giving the face more depth and an upscale feel.
Notably, the case has a high contrast appearance thanks to its twin materials, which allows the complex geometry and finishing to become more obvious.
The ceramic case band, for instance, has been precisely milled to form an octagon and then hand finished with either brushing or mirror polishing. Though the ceramic case middle is a rarity in the Code 11.59 line, it will surely become more common in the future just because it looks good.
Inside is the brand’s cal. 2950, a recently-developed automatic movement with a 65-hour power reserve. Though its finishing is done with mix of manual and industrial techniques, one detail certainly reveals the brand’s respect for tradition: the barrel visible at 12 o’clock features a grand sonnerie-style winding click, a bonus that’s typically found in top-of-the-line striking watches.
Key facts and price
Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon “Onyx”
Diameter: 41 mm
Height: 11.8 mm
Material: 18k white gold and black ceramic
Water-resistance: 20 m
Movement: Cal. 2950
Functions: Hours, minutes, and tourbillon
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 65 hours
Strap: Black rubber strap with white gold folding clasp
Limited edition: No
Availability: At boutiques and AP Houses
For more, visit Audemarspiguet.com.
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