In an unsurprising turn of events, Audemars Piguet has re-focused its attention to its past designs. With so many beautiful, albeit today little-known references in its history, that’s awesome news. The Audemars Piguet Remaster01 Self-Winding Chronograph is the first watch to launch the [Re]master line by reiterating the handsome design of a 1943 original in a slightly confused, albeit still very good-looking package.
The original we are referring to here is the Audemars Piguet Reference 1533, a three-register, two-tone (in some versions), 36.5mm-wide, hand-wound chronograph produced in extremely low quantities in the early 1940s. The Remaster01, or [Re]master01, takes the core components of that exceptionally pretty aesthetic, namely the tear-drop lugs, two-tone case construction using steel and 18kt pink gold, and the three-register dial layout — a truly exotic detail for the time.
There have been some considerable changes performed as the 1533 gets a new lease on life in a new millennium. First of all, replaced is the modest size, now inflated from 36.5mm to 40mm. The former size of 36.5mm would be perfectly acceptable today — just think of a Day-Date 36 or some smaller Breguet watches for some hard proof on that. Audemars Piguet’s choice of name with “[Re]master” works great in that it implies how the brand does not intend to create exact reproductions of its historical originals. Given limitations in original movement and other parts availability, maintaining the original details would be a tall order — though far from impossible, and we’ll say more on that a bit later.
Also gone is the glorious, hand-wound Valjoux 13VZAH caliber, in favor of the brand’s recently launched, beautifully finished automatic chronograph caliber 4409 from Code 11.59 (where it was called 4401). The two changes may very well be intertwined: The 4401 caliber measures 32mm in diameter, over 2mm more than the Valjoux original. The caseback image already reveals how Replica Audemars Piguet has done all it can to shrink-wrap the case around the movement as much as possible, so a smaller case closer to the 1940s original might not have been possible.
The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that the dial layout has also been changed. It just so happens that the modern movement has a completely different sub-dial layout, where all three of the subsidiary indications are in another location than on the Valjoux 13. Audemars Piguet had long been given a hard time over not producing its own manufacture chronograph caliber — relying on a base in-house AP movement with sourced modules on top, instead, all the while (let’s be honest) pricing itself comfortably among competition with proprietary movements. Over all the noise around Code 11.59, this new caliber may have been disregarded by many, which is a shame. It is a high quality movement that almost reaches to the heights that Audemars Piguet sometimes reaches in its communications. In its Caliber 4401 version, it comprised 367 painstakingly finished parts — all of which you can see in The Naked Watchmaker’s outstanding tear-down article here.
At the start, we referred to the Remaster01 as a good-looking, albeit slightly confused package. Here’s why. The Audemars Piguet Remaster01 Self-Winding Chronograph is priced at a whopping $53,000 before taxes, and is limited to 500 pieces. The steep price for what is a two-tone watch with a reasonably simple dial and capable movement with a widely available feature-set implies that this may be aimed at the hardcore collectors, those desperate to own a watch that they reckon is a pivotal point in the history of a brand they love. I symphatize with Audemars Piguet trying to find a limitation where everyone who really wants one, gets one; however, limiting the Remaster01 to 500 pieces makes it hard to consider it extremely rare and highly collectible — something one might expect at this elevated price. Because even if 50 large ones is meaningless for you, perception likely isn’t. And buying something that your peers might consider less than great value will hurt perception — and for many well-heeled collectors, money isn’t the issue, but the perception of their carefully curated collection is.
And it’s not like the Audemars Piguet Remaster01 Self-Winding Chronograph is entering into a void, either. Au contraire — the market has some truly strong offerings available right now, all to quench one’s thirst for some vintage-mixed modern horology. Sure, no two brands will have the same resources, financial background, and other specificities — but Audemars Piguet has, at times, really taken things to the next level in stressing its prowess and superiority. Armed with that, and a mighty impressive, billion-dollar turnover, it’s not exactly short of means either. Last, but not least, the resources at a brand’s disposal hardly rank among top considerations to the watch buyer out there looking to get the best value for hard-earned money.
You can pick up the new Omega Speedmaster Ed White for $14,100, with a historically correct Caliber 321 re-introduced at tremendous expense and effort… That’s 40 grand less. If you are after posher names, you can pick up a Breguet reference 5287 with a solid gold case, hand-guilloché dial and caseback, and to-a-tee hand-wound caliber in the mid-30k range. Even Vacheron Constantin, a brand not exactly famed for its competitively priced alternatives, is some $13,000 cheaper with its Historiques Cornes de Vaches 1955 — though, in fairness, that’s in all-steel.
Audemars Piguet Replica Watch has a past rich with absolutely outstanding watches and, on a personal note, I seriously cannot wait for more of them to resurface again in this “[Re]master” form. But from a powerhouse like AP, I feel many collectors will expect more than good looks, a hardly exclusive limitation and a steep, steep price for it to be truly considered as re-mastered.