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AS EARLY AS THE 19TH CENTURY, AUDEMARS PIGUET WAS DESIGNING WATCHES IN VERY SMALL DIMENSIONS FOR WOMEN.

Nestled in their high-altitude valley of the Swiss Jura, watchmakers made the most of the long winters to become masters in watch complications and miniaturisation.

To encase these mechanical movements in High Jewellery pieces, Audemars Piguet often called upon great jewellers such as Cartier or Tiffany.

1897. Minute repeater brooch watch by Tiffany. Calibre 10 lines Audemars Piguet. Audemars Piguet collection, inv. 35

WATCHMAKERS AND JEWELLERS OFTEN WORK HAND-IN-HAND TO CREATE EXCEPTIONAL TIMEPIECES.

1913. Sketch of a pendant watch developed by Tiffany and Audemars Piguet - Audemars Piguet archives

THIS ARTICLE SHOWCASES ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL EXAMPLES OF A HIGH JEWELLERY WATCH JOINTLY CREATED BY AUDEMARS PIGUET AND A GREAT NAME IN JEWELLERY.

Oscar Heyman opened his first boutique in New York City in 1912 with his brothers Nathan and Harry. Oscar and Nathan had learned the art of setting gems into platinum during their apprenticeship in Kharkiv – then part of the Russian Empire – before emigrating to the United States in 1906.

The family registered six patents to perfect the manufacture of its jewellery, of which the first dates from 1916. At the time, Oscar Heyman was collaborating with Cartier, Tiffany, and Van Cleef & Arpels, brands already quite familiar with Audemars Piguet.

Circa 1922. High jewellery wristwatch n° 104841. Audemars Piguet collection, inv. 1666.

1921. Calibre 8RP, no 28594, similaire au no 25525. Collection Audemars Piguet

THE ARCHIVES DO NOT SPECIFY ALL THE TERMS OF COLLABORATION BETWEEN AUDEMARS PIGUET AND OSCAR HEYMAN, BUT THE WATCH ITSELF REVEALS A FEW SECRETS.

Its movement bears the number 25525. The Audemars Piguet registers confirm that it carries a Calibre 8RP, which began to be manufactured in 1920. Bearing the name “Audemars, Piguet & Co Swiss,” this mechanism belongs to the miniature movement category. It is 22.3mm long, 11.8mm wide and 2.8mm thick. An original feature: its winding crown is located at 12 o’clock, a position that suggests that the movement had originally been designed to equip a pendant watch.

ON 5 FEBRUARY 1921, THIS MECHANISM WAS DELIVERED TO THE NEW YORK CITY SUBSIDIARY OF AUDEMARS PIGUET EQUIPPED WITH A DIAL IN ROUGH SILVER, BUT LACKING IN A WATCH CASE.

To encase the mechanism, Oscar Heyman designed a platinum High Jewellery bracelet and decided to conceal the dial under a fully gem-set cover.

While the shapes, sizes and colours of the precious stones are distinctive for their great variety, the symmetry of the piece as a whole is flawless. Indeed, to obtain a perfect aesthetic balance, the jeweller went so far as to create a fake crown opposite the real one.

Circa 1922. Sketch of the wristwatch 104841. Copy kept in the Audemars Piguet archives.

THE ENTIRE PIECE IS A SECRET WATCH CONCEALED BY A COVER SET WITH A MARQUISE-CUT DIAMOND AT THE CENTRE.

Surrounding this noble stone are 16 princess-cut diamonds. This arrangement is edged by two green lines composed of 20 baguette emeralds that evoke the Art Deco influences of the time. 15 baguette emeralds coordinate with the green colour on each side of the bracelet. The flared portion of the bracelet is adorned with 12 ruby cabochons sculpted with a leaf design. This foliage decoration is completed by 261 brilliant-cut diamonds.

Circa 1922. High Jewellery wristwatch n° 104841. Audemars Piguet collection, Inv. 1666.

BENEATH THE COVER, THE TIME IS REVEALED ON AN OVAL DIAL, FEATURING ARABIC NUMERALS THAT ARE ENGRAVED AND ENAMELLED BY HAND, AND TOPPED WITH BLUED CATHEDRAL HANDS.

Purchased by the Audemars Piguet Museum & Patrimony Department at an auction in Hong Kong held in 2015, the piece is now on display in the Design section of the Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet.

While Audemars Piguet has continued to collaborate with exterior designers since the 1980s, a jewellery workshop was created within the Manufacture itself, where High Jewellery watches are created and restored. Just like the watch n° 104841, the workshop is an integral part of the Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet.

Circa 1922. High Jewellery wristwatch n° 104841. Calibre 10 lines Audemars Piguet. Audemars Piguet collection, Inv. 1666.