The time is now

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A SARTORIAL  gentleman should never lead his life without at least three pairs of good quality shoes, a handful of bespoke tailored suits, a signature cologne, flourishes of personal decoration (pocket squares, hats, ties and the like) and, most of all, an exquisite timepiece.

Historically, men of power and status have relied on the Swiss brand Audemars Piguet and their watches to complete their ensemble with style and to always be on time when picking up a lady for a dinner date. Known for its durability and reliability, the brand is le choix parfait for men who require a little more from their watches.

From 1875, Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet married their skilled forces, craftsmanship and shared passion for watchmaking to create and develop visionary timepieces with intricate mechanisms and a precision that the company is still famed for today.

Throughout their history, Audemars Piguet have broken boundaries such as with the creation of the first minute repeater wristwatch in 1892; a watch which contains mechanisms enabling it to chime on the minute. Not something we might find particularly useful today but without it, telling the time in the dark in the days before widespread electricity would have been incredibly difficult.

Containing 548 components, it has tiny hammers which strike miniature hardened steel gongs, sounding different sequences on the low and high pitched gongs to chime each hour, quarter hours and corresponding minutes – a feat of engineering absolutely unheard of in its day.

They were also the company which pioneered the luxury sports watch. When they unveiled the now iconic Royal Oak model in 1972 it was not only the first upmarket, high performance sports-aimed timepiece but was also the first luxury watch to be made of steel – something which left the horlogerie world agog. It was simultaneously an outrageously daring and incredibly bold move which turned out to be a genius play on the company’s part. Steel has since become one of the most commonly used materials in watches.

In 2002 Audemars Piguet stylist and watchmaker Gerald Genta, designer of the original Royal Oak, unveiled yet another breakthrough, the Royal Oak Concept GMT Tourbillon – the same model but reinvented in ground-breaking new materials such as ceramic, super strength aeronautic metal alloys such as alacrite 602, and the very first watch to use a carbon fibre casement and movement – a material which, again, has since become ubiquitous in watchmaking.

Nine times harder than steel and almost totally scratch-proof, ceramic proved a genius move. It also, however, demands higher workmanship skill and hours, taking up to eight hours compared to just 45 minutes to make the Tourbillon bezel (the metal band which holds the lens and all the watch’s components together).

Since the beginning, the brand has been famous for their use of the tourbillon, an addition to the mechanics of a watch escapement (the device which keeps the timekeeper mechanism oscillating in perfectly timed rotations) which counterbalances the effects of gravity by mounting the escapement and balance wheel in a rotating cage, thus defying the effect of gravity. And more significantly, the company later introduced the Royal Oak Tourbillon which utilised the pull of gravity as a means to keep the mechanisms impossibly accurate and ever moving in a precise manner in any possible position.

Another fascinating field of the business’s craftsmanship is the making of astrological timepieces. These “mega-watches” take into the account the wearer’s latitude and longitude to display sunrise and sunset while taking into account the changes in the month’s days from year to year. Pre-set to account for the cycles of the earth, sun and moon, the astrological models tick by without any need for adjustment in under 125 years.

Such well-made and beautiful watches have earned Audemars Piguet the adoration of a wide range of world class sportsmen, musicians and businessmen such as Henrik Stenson, Leo Messi, Lebron James and Jay-Z.

The brand also extends not merely timepieces but an entire lifestyle with their extensive support for art, design and creativity, typified by strong partnerships with the likes of Art Basel, Zona Maco and the Bolshoi Theatre, nurturing art exhibitions and performance.

At present, Audemars Piguet remains one of the oldest and most celebrated watch manufacturers in the world. Since their founding over 100 years ago, the brand continues to develop and innovate. Their timepieces have shaped and moulded into fundamental items that will become companions to their owners for decades to come.

by Calvin Baillie

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Glass Online fashion writer

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