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Chapter 3Artisans

Throughout the years, Audemars Piguet watchmakers have surpassed technical and theoretical boundaries to craft ever more demanding mechanisms. True artisans, they define and evolve Haute Horlogerie, mastering the rules only to break them.

Master of Grande Complications

Joëlle

Joëlle has been at Audemars Piguet since the end of her apprenticeship in 1997. Now a master watchmaker, she makes Grande Complications in the prestigious spécialités horlogères workshop, and is one of just a handful of artisans to do so.

"When you see the piece in its entirety, it's the culmination of every small detail."

Though her skills have progressed rather quickly, Joëlle did not always know horology was in her future. For a time, she thought about becoming a surgeon. Looking back, she finds certain parallels between her childhood dreams and her current vocation. "Both require manual skills and precision," she says. "Both have a humble side."

Facts

The Year Joëlle Joined Audemars Piguet

1997

Time She Devotes to a Grande Complication

4 - 6 Months

Driven by Curiosity

The process of hand-finishing a Grande Complication is intricate. The watchmaker relies not only on patience, but also curiosity. "No matter how much you study as an apprentice, there are things that, as a watchmaker, you must experience and discover on your own," Joëlle says.

Joëlle performs each activity – from beveling parts to setting jewels – with meticulous focus. She particularly enjoys casing up the movement, which requires a great deal of precision and care. In this moment, Joëlle knows she has executed everything properly. In her words, "When you see the piece in its entirety, it's the culmination of every small detail."

Finding Her Rhythm

Joëlle studied classical music for five years, often drawing similarities to her work. As with a Grande Complication, each musical element belongs in its place. There is a rhythm given by the escapement.

She favors classical to jazz, finding the former far more romantic. "Perhaps I can't let myself go, as should be the case with jazz," she says. "I prefer structure and partitions." Like her fellow artisans, she's a perfectionist.

Joëlle Describes the Royal Oak

"Crafting a timepiece takes nothing if not patience. A single calibre often has hundreds of components."

The Future By Tradition

The Royal Oak Offshore was born in 1993. Twenty years on, artisan Joëlle began working on an exceptional new Grande Complication for this iconic watch. Simple yet intricate geometric shapes enhance a powerful, inherently masculine design, forming a modern take on tradition.

Royal Oak Offshore Grande Complication

Audemars Piguet History

Grande Complications Through the Years

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Since 1882, Audemars Piguet has continuously produced Grande Complications. Here, we look back at some of the most celebrated pieces.
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  • 1882

  • Hunter-type Grande Complication

    Every Audemars Piguet Grande Complication, at a minimum, includes a minute repeater, a perpetual calendar, and a chronograph with a split second hand. This early Hunter-type model is no exception.

    • Split-seconds chronograph
    • 30-minute counter at 12 o'clock

    1891

  • 1895

  • 1904

  • Grande Complication

    This pocket watch features bimetallic balance and a poised pallet, as well as a minute repeater with two gongs on one level. The grey gold case is decorated with niello.

    • Art Deco aesthetics
    • New, flatter generation of calibre

    1908

  • 1912

  • 1922

  • 1955

  • Grande Complication

    In 1985, when Swiss watchmaking was recovering from a grave crisis, Audemars Piguet continued to make Grande Complication pocket watches, defying the odds. At just 8.5mm high, the Calibre 2860 is one of the flattest in its category.

    • Case influenced by 19th century design
    • 37 jewels

    1985

  • 1993

  • Jules Audemars Grande Complication

    Drawing upon traditional techniques of the pocket versions, this Grande Complication is used in all present-day Audemars Piguet wristwatches, with variations in decoration.

    • Selfwinding
    • Leap year cycle separated from months

    1996

  • First Royal Oak Grande Complication

    The Royal Oak Grande Complication takes inspiration from the 1972 Royal Oak, which had a highly resistant case and an innovative look. Both contain movements based on the finest of watchmaking traditions.

    • 648 parts
    • Still crafted today

    1997

  • 2000

  • 2002

  • 2004

  • 2008

  • 2010

  • 2012

  • 2013