A new classic has been born
If there is one thing that watch manufacturers have learned over the last few years, it’s that vintage aesthetics sell (see the latest issue of I-M Magazine). New model lines and designs might be launched with a great deal of fanfare but introduce a watch with a well-loved bygone era look and generally, it will do very well. For a variety of reasons: association with past values and time, something analogue in an increasingly digital world and the promotion of vintage aesthetics in the popular literature, the re-issuing of watches out of archives is a successful path to market.
The new timepiece by Audemars Piguet was destined to be released at the opening of their museum in Le Brassus this year, now for obvious reasons put on hold. They have reissued pre-model 1533 from 1943 as the “[Re]master01 Selfwinding Chronograph” (which is a bit of mouth full). The fact that they have called it [Re]master01 certainly indicates that there may be more watches in this series remodelled from their archives.
Vintage chronographs by Audemars Piguet are in the “extremely rare” category. Up to 1951, every one of their watches was essentially bespoke. Chronographs in the 1930s and 1940s were the new complication for a society increasingly obsessed with time and speed, with records being established for the fastest man alive, top land speed and timed races.
Audemars Piguet started to make wristwatches with a chronograph function in the 1930s. During World War II, when the original premodel 1533 was made, this type of watches accounted for just under one-tenth of the company’s total production. Hence, the manufacture’s vintage chronograph wristwatches are among the rarest in the world today. Only three stainless steel and gold pieces with the present case design were sold in 1943, making the model extremely scarce. The watch’s 36.5 mm diameter was avant-garde for the time when an acceptable size case was a more diminutive 33 mm.
Proof positive of the rarity factor, and with a price to match was the recent Audemars Piguet reference 1533 chronograph from 1943 offered at Phillips Geneva Eight: https://www.phillips.com/detail/audemars-piguet/CH080218/101 The watch sold for three times its high estimate at approximately 380,000CHF.
The modern [Re]master01 version has the same two-tone case with the main part and teardrop lugs made from stainless steel, with an 18-carat pink gold bezel, crown and push-pieces (to operate the chronograph). The case size has been increased to a diameter of 40mm to appeal to more modern preferences. Other welcome contemporary design features that are a definite improvement over the original are the glare proof sapphire crystal and caseback along with water-resistance to 20 metres.
The dial mirrors the original with its yellow gold tone and blue tachymetric scale, pink gold hour, minute and second hands with blued chronograph function. Detailed touches that keep the watch as a remastered edition of the original include the title of the manufacture with Genève on the dial and the use of 45 in red as the final marker on the chronograph minute counter. Genève was written on the Audemars Piguet dials during the middle of the 20th century as the manufacture had a workshop in town to be closer to end clients and facilitate distribution.
Beneath the dial, the movement is all modern -which is a good thing. Audemars Piguet invested heavily in chronograph movements and make stunning examples of the complication. The [Re]master01 watch has a free sprung, automatic, integrated chronograph with column wheel and flyback function.
Audemars Piguet have called the watch (Re)master 01. Given their by-line is usually “To break the rules you must first master them,” it seems they have conquered the rule of issuing a vintage design re-engineered for the current day. It’s a beautiful timepiece in a limited edition of only 500. I am sure all are spoken for. The [Re]master01 is a beautiful example of haute horologerie at its finest.