Out of
the blue

The 5616 BC reactor is set to fire and lifts off into the atmosphere like a dream – ready to launch into orbit. In the cockpit, the countdown ticks slowly, as if time itself wanted to hang on to the stars. Back in the 1960s, traditional design was disrupted by the heady creative influences of an alternative – and imaginary – world. With its pioneering energy, the so-called flying saucer pocket watch launched a new take on Haute Horlogerie. Unusual, unique, unexpected. 

First the contours – pure, circular, taut – then the dial with its classical, traditional and pared-down style. This timepiece was designed in 1962, then sold at Sautter, one of the Manufacture’s dealers in the canton of Ticino. Anything seemed possible in the early 1960s. In the United States, cars were four-wheeled spaceships. Across the pond, a wave of emancipation was blowing through Europe and progressive ideas were all the rage.

These futuristic influences were also perceptible at Audemars Piguet, with the development of the 5616 BC, modelled on the so- called “disco volante” or flying saucer watches that enjoyed a degree of success in the 1950s. Producing watches in series was a standard practice at the time, but the number of timepieces in a series could often be counted on the fingers of one hand. Science fiction took over hearts and minds and the quest for a modern renaissance marched on. It was time to cast off the shackles. At the height of this golden age of design, the cutting-edge case contrasted with the extremely classical dial and gave life to a new watchmaking tradition.

This intergalactically inspired pocket watch – 43 mm in diameter and weighing a mere 37.29 grammes – is aptly named. Its extremely wide white gold external bezel recalls a blank metal foil, adorned with complex satin-brushing decoration and circular graining. 

A majestic timepiece for a grand event. The movement blank was produced by Le Coultre, in the neighbouring village of Le Sentier.

The extra-thin Calibre 2003 – a mere 1.64 mm thick – was completed, assembled and set by Audemars Piguet. Engraved, it carries a unique number 84135. Light radiates from the matt lacquered gold dial, 22 mm in diameter with its applied hour-markers and white gold hands. The crystal is designed to recall the curve of the cockpit, while the bezel is set with 45 sapphires each 1.3 mm in diameter with a total of 0.45 carats. In this perfect dialogue between modernity and technical traditionalism, the bow is crafted to resemble a flame, bringing to mind the wisps from a space reactor in fusion and reinforcing the futuristic design.

The winding crown is propelled out of the case like a missile. Model 5616 also exists in an openworked version with no gem-setting. So much more than an evening watch, this piece is truly out of this world. 

— By Paul Miquel

The 5616 BC is modelled on the so-called “disco-volante” or flying saucer watches that enjoyed success in the 1950s. Its extremely wide white gold bezel recalls the shape of a flying saucer. A majestic timepiece for a grand event.