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Regis Meylan
September 13, 2010 Savoir-Faire

From coats of arms to astrological signs

Some of Audemars Piguet’s creations can be personalized for clients. Initials, baroque drawings -- anything is possible. Here’s an overview of some of the most extravagant requests and the most formidable technical challenges the team has faced.

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“At Audemars Piguet, we have always tried to personalize watches according to our clients’ wishes. So we are always attentive to their requests,” explains Régis Meylan, who has headed the Manufacture’s Spécialités (specialty) workshop since 1981. Skeleton watches in particular lend themselves to this kind of creative addition. With an engraved rotor made visible thanks to the sapphire caseback, the skeleton has become a showcase for every possible stylistic effect. Initials, Chinese and Japanese calligraphy, company logos, Cyrillic writing, astrological signs – anything is possible.

Between thirty and fifty of these creations are made each year. Two watchmakers sketch and propose the project to the client, and then trace and cut by hand these unique pieces in gold, grey or pink gold. All this is done on a very tight schedule. It takes from one to two months to deliver these personalized rotors to their owners, to be placed in classic models such as the Jules Audemars or timeless pieces such as the Royal Oaks.

The most extravagant request? “An Arab sheikh wanted to have his coat of arms engraved on fifteen pieces for a business dinner he was hosting in his palace. Each guest left the event with a personalized watch,” remembers Meylan. The pattern engraved in the material requires minute precision, particularly for Japanese or Chinese calligraphy. “One time, a piece was returned to us because we cut out a point when we skeletonized the rotor, and in doing so the meaning of the word had completely changed,” the enthusiast recalls.