The Code 11.59's Journey
Debuting in 2019, the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 was one of the first non-Royal Oak-derived collections to emerge from Le Brassus in quite some time. Breaking free from the watchmaker's long-established aesthetic code and well-defined design language, the Code 11.59 was a maverick within AP's catalogue and, as such, was quickly blown off by the watch collecting community as something that wouldn't last. But, of course, for Audemars Piguet, this very criticism has long been their fuel, with the watchmaker constantly determined to prove their naysayers wrong and demonstrate that they operate outside of the conventional rules of watchmaking. Audemars Piguet doesn't, and has never, sought to conform to any particular conventions.
If we look into AP's history, they wouldn't have the Royal Oak, Royal Oak Offshore or the Royal Oak Concept if they had listened to those that said the Royal Oak was dead and buried before it got off the ground in 1972. In the same vein, a lot of watches that came about as a result of the Royal Oak wouldn't exist either, like the Nautilus and so on. Audemars Piguet have repeatedly demonstrated that they know what they are doing, and if you ask me, this latest release just emphasises that the Code 11.59 will turn out to be the same — a massive success, just like their other watches.
Building upon an already action-packed 2021 filled with novelties and leading up to what will be an era-defining year with 2022 being the Royal Oak's 50th anniversary, this latest release, in my opinion, is the best Code 11.59 variant so far, and has whetted my appetite for more of whatever the team in Le Brassus is cooking up for next year.
A Case for the Code 11.59
Arguably one of the most overlooked pieces of watch design is the case that the watch uses. So many brands rinse and repeat their case shapes or introduce tiny differences that offer little to the wearer — but not AP. The Code 11.59's signature design element is just how unique its case is, separating it from the rest of the watches that it competes on the market with.
Modular in design, this is the most complex case AP has ever created as it combines a multitude of surface finishes that can only be achieved and perfected by hand. With satin-brushed surfaces and polished chamfers throughout the octagonal architecture (a subtle nod to the Royal Oak), the job of the artisans creating the Code 11.59's case is not an easy one at all. Combining its hollowed lugs with its three-piece design, the Code 11.59's case is about as visually unique as it can get in the watch world.
With the ref. 26600CR.OO.D009KB.01 here, AP have continued the Code 11.59's unique two-tone precious metal construction. Unlike most two-tone watches that use one precious metal and combine it with stainless steel, the ref. 26600CR uses 18ct white gold for its caseback and front, and 18ct pink gold for its octagonal middle case. A refreshing take on the age-old two-tone concept, I must say its subtlety is quite appealing, and the effect AP achieve with this construction technique is that they highlight the Code 11.59's case complexity. After all, why not show off the incredible work that has gone into such a complex case?
Be Still My Beating Heart
When we move away from the ref. 26600CR’s intricate case design and stunning physical architecture, we are greeted with one of the best views in watchmaking: a fully skeletonised movement. Audemars Piguet's signature since the 1930s, the brand has been skeletonising their wristwatches longer than anyone else, and it definitely shows here.
Powered by the in-house cal. 2948 — a multi-tiered hand-wound tourbillon openworked movement — the ref. 26600CR's lack of a conventional dial enables AP to display every conceivable piece of the movement, with its bridges, barrel, gear trains and tourbillon all fully exposed beneath the Code 11.59's domed sapphire crystal. Blending vertical and circular satin finishing with polished chamfers, the entire labyrinthine movement is a genuine spectacle as your eyes move along the white gold corridors and cascade down the many layers as though they are under someone else's control.
Between the variety of colours on display — from the pink gold hands and balance wheel, the multi-toned white gold bridges and steel gears, to the ruby jewels and the tourbillon's hypnotic movement — this timepiece is genuinely enchanting, and I could look at it all day.
Additionally, it also features a small dial in the form of a slate grey lacquered inner bezel that provides minute markings and aesthetically links the variety of greys found in the movement to the external watch design.
Flipping the watch over, we see the reverse side of the cal. 2948 through the ref. 26600CR's sapphire crystal exhibition caseback — and it looks even better this way, at least in my books. From the rear, we see the incredible attention to detail AP paid regarding the movement's underlying architecture and how the bridges all work together to suspend the cal. 2948 within the Code 11.59's incredible case like a spiderweb of 18ct white gold. It's quite the sight, and I'm glad AP decided to keep the watch a manual wind.
All in all, I must say that I am becoming ever-more bullish on the Code 11.59's future. While some of the early models didn't pique my interest that much, I've always thought there was potential in the design, and the last few releases have demonstrated that there is. And honestly, I would say this is the best addition to the collection yet.
With its grey rubber strap matching the overall design perfectly, I can only tell the truth and say that this is one of the most visually complete and comprehensive releases from AP in a long time. Sure, some of the minor grievances that have always existed in the collection remain, but I'm finding it easier and easier to overlook them as I get more used to them, and more impressed by what AP has made of this collection in such a short period of time.
Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Tourbillon Openworked
Reference number: 26600CR.OO.D009KB.01
Material: 18-carat white gold bezel, lugs, push-pieces and crown, 18-carat pink gold middle case
Crystal: Double curved glare-proofed sapphire crystal
Movement: Calibre 2948
Functions: Tourbillon, hours and minutes.
Frequency: 3 Hz (21,600 vibrations/hour)
Power reserve: 72 hours
Strap: Slate grey rubber-coated strap with 18-carat white gold AP folding clasp
Price: Approx CHF 189,400 / HKD 1,590,000