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A UNIQUE WATCH
FROM 1943

AUDEMARS PIGUET HAS CONTINUOUSLY PRODUCED
CHRONOGRAPH POCKET WATCHES.

When Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet opened their first workshop in 1875, they immediately adopted the chronograph mechanism.


Since then, Audemars Piguet has continuously produced chronograph pocket watches.

1899. Audemars Piguet chronograph pocket watch, equipped with a central instant 60-minute counter. Audemars Piguet Heritage, Inv. 57

Circa 1940. Registers of completed watches. Audemars Piguet Archives

AUDEMARS PIGUET’S VINTAGE CHRONOGRAPH WRISTWATCHES ARE
AMONG THE RAREST IN THE WORLD.

In the field of wristwatches, the story is different. According to the Archives, before 1980, Audemars Piguet counted a total of 307 chronograph wristwatches, all produced between 1930 and 1962.

Today, Audemars Piguet’s vintage chronograph wristwatches are among the rarest in the world. Before 1950, the concept of model did not exist at Audemars Piguet. Each watch produced was a unique piece but some were similar. We consider them pre-models.

A study of the Archives has revealed that the 307 chronograph wristwatches are classified in 40 pre-models and models. An examination of the collections and secondary sources shows that each timepiece remains unique.

Interestingly, this story began at the hardest time in the company’s history. Between 1932 and 1939, the economic crisis struck Audemars Piguet. From 30 employees before the crisis, the total workforce was reduced to only 10 to 15 watchmakers. During this decade, they created slightly more than 50 chronograph wristwatches.

Circa 1945. Advertisement Audemars Piguet Archives

THE SIX YEARS SPANNING WORLD WAR II WERE BY FAR ONE OF THE MOST PRODUCTIVE FOR AUDEMARS PIGUET IN THE FIELD OF CHRONOGRAPH WRISTWATCHES.

210 chronographs were put into production between 1939 and 1945, meaning 68% of the company’s total production of chronograph wristwatches during its first century of existence!


Swiss and Italian retailers absorbed three-quarters of the deliveries, with the 27 remaining watches spread between the U.S.A., Argentina, Brazil, England and Turkey.

NINE EXAMPLES OF PRE-MODEL 1533 WERE PRODUCED BETWEEN 1941 AND 1943.

Produced by the prestigious Geneva casemaker Wenger, the 36mm case’s harmonious curved shape is highlighted by so-called "goutte" (drop-shaped) lugs. The two pushpieces are almond-shaped. Underlined by an extra-thin bezel, the dial stands out from previous chronograph versions by the addition of an hour counter at 6 o’clock.

The nine examples of pre-model 1533 were sold between 1943 and 1948. Three combined steel and gold, while six were entirely made in gold. Two third of the watches were sold in Italy (3 in Milano, 3 in Bologna), two were delivered to New York and one to Istanbul.

Archival photograph numbered 1533

Chronograph wristwatch pre-model 1533. Audemars Piguet Heritage Collection, Inv. 1660.

ONE OF THE BEST PRESERVED EXAMPLES OF PRE-MODEL 1533 IS EXHIBITED IN THE MUSÉE ATELIER AUDEMARS PIGUET IN LE BRASSUS, IN A SHOWCASE DEDICATED TO MASTERPIECES OF DESIGN.

Numbered 45603, originally sold in 1943 to a retailer named Casanova in Bologna (Italy), the watch was acquired by the Audemars Piguet Heritage team in 2015 at Phillips Geneva.

The lugs and caseback of the two-tone case are made of steel, while the bezel, pushers and crown are honed from 18-carat pink gold.

The watch 45603 features a highly stylised gold-toned dial. The 12 and other hour-markers are made from black enamel. The hour, minute and small second hands are in gold, while the chronograph hands are made from blued steel.

Extract from the register of completed watches, watch 45603. Audemars Piguet Archives.

This dial combines balance and complexity with numbers in multiple fonts and sizes according to their function and location on the dial. Note also the different types of railway tracks, open or closed, regular or progressive, singular or with multiple scales.

The chronograph’s 30-minute counter, located at 3 o’clock, has a 4/5 indication above the 15-minute mark to allow the wearer to record up to 45 minutes. This indication was requested by Audemars Piguet’s third-generation family-founder Jacques-Louis Audemars (1910 – 2003) to satisfy his taste for soccer and indicate his favourite sport’s half time.

The dial features the signature “Audemars, Piguet & Co Genève.” From around 1885 to the mid-1970s, Audemars Piguet had a workshop in Geneva to be closer to end clients and facilitate distribution within Europe and beyond. When Audemars Piguet started to sign its watches in the early 20th century, the city of Geneva was frequently mentioned on the dial. This indication gradually disappeared during the 1950s, as well as the comma between the family names and the “& Co” addition.

CALIBRE 13VZAH
OF THE WATCH 45603

 

Calibre 13vzah of the watch 45603 was produced in 1941 in the vallée de joux by the movement maker valjoux in les bioux, a little village 9km away from le brassus.

Between 1933 and 1946, Audemars Piguet acquired 268 blanks from Valjoux, all equipped with various types of chronographs. Introduced in 1939, the last generation is described by the number and letters of its appellation:

“13VZAH.” “13” refers to the calibre diameter in lignes (29.3mm – one ligne is 2.25mm). “V” stands for Valjoux, “Z” probably corresponds to Zähler (counter in German), “A” likely designates Audemars Piguet and “H” indicates the hour counter.

Calibre 13VZAH, caseback side

Calibre 13VZAH, dial side

94 similar units of the 13VZAH blanks were acquired by Audemars Piguet between 1939 and 1946. These mechanisms were decorated (chamfered, polished and satin finished) and assembled in the workshop of Le Brassus. They were cased up in the finest chronograph wristwatches and sold between 1941 and 1961.

2020. Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet

Audemars Piguet’s Heritage Department notably bridges the brand’s origins and present activities. The Complicated Wristwatches book released in 2018 and the development of the Musée Atelier are two of the Heritage Department’s latest projects highlighting how the brand continuously looks at the past to better anticipate and write the future.

It is in this logic that the project to “remaster” pre-model 1533 through the prism of 2020 was born. After long discussions amongst the Manufacture’s historians, engineers and product designers, pre-model 1533 was selected for this forward-thinking project in celebration of the Musée Atelier’s opening.

Pre-model 1533’s design remains highly sought after by watch collectors today. However, due to their extreme rarity, these timepieces remain difficult to obtain. As a result, [Re]master01 Selfwinding Chronograph will delight many watch aficionados.

While looking at the past, this wristwatch is oriented towards the future. It offers the latest ergonomical features and is equipped with a new generation of flyback chronograph movement, calibre 4409.

2020. [Re]master01 Selfwinding Chronograph Model 26595