Audemars Piguet’s Most Complicated Watch Ever

Four years in, it’s clear the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet isn’t going anywhere. Sarah introduced us to yesterday’s new lineup of time-only and chronograph models, but this one’s a little more complicated. Okay, a lot more complicated.

This is the new Code 11.59 Universelle RD#4. AP says its latest research and development watch is its first ultra-complicated automatic wristwatch: The Code 11.59 Universelle features the new AP Calibre 1000, which incorporates 40 functions, including 23 complications and 17 “technical devices.” It’s a stunning combination of much of the R&D we’ve seen trickling out of AP since 2015 when it introduced the RD#1, and the most complicated watch to ever come from the brand.

Among the 23 complications are a Grand Sonnerie Supersonnerie, minute repeater, perpetual calendar, split-seconds flyback chronograph, and flying tourbillon. AP says the RD#4 took over seven years of development and incorporates the previous three R&D innovations – the Supersonnerie from RD#1, the ultra-thin perpetual calendar from RD#2, and the flying tourbillon from last year’s RD#3. The Calibre 1000 has 1,155 components – impressively, it fits this in a Code 11.59 case that measures 42mm in diameter and 15.5mm in thickness. It sounds, dare I say – wearable?
Okay, 23 complications is cool and all, but how one puts these various tricks to use might be your next logical question. For this too, AP has an answer: crowns and pushers have been completely rethought and reworked to make the ultra-complicated RD#4 intuitive, or at least as intuitive as 40 functions can be. There are three pushers on the left side of the midcase: the first operates the minute repeater (with an engraved musical note to remind you of its symphonic purpose), while the bottom two correct the day and date.

Meanwhile, two rotating “supercrowns” at two and four o’clock operate the flyback split-seconds chronograph as you might expect, but the coaxial pushers allow for the selection of the chiming mode (that’s grande sonnerie, petite sonnerie, or silence), and for forward and backward correction of the month. Each supercrown returns to its neutral position after it’s rotated in either direction. No correctors or tools are needed to operate any of the watch’s functions.
Next, AP didn’t just take that Supersonnerie it developed back in 2015 and slap it into a Code 11.59 case. No, it’s been revised and updated so the mechanism can be put on full display. AP developed a new double caseback system that comprises a “secret” extra-thin cover and a new soundboard that’s just 0.6mm thick and crafted entirely of sapphire crystal, on which the gongs are mounted. Meanwhile, the “secret” cover features a series of apertures on the side to let air through and boost the sound.
As for the perpetual calendar, AP built on the RD#2’s perpetual calendar, which merged the perpetual calendar functions onto a single plane. For the user, operation has been simplified with those pushers and “supercrowns” on the case. A two-digit window at four o’clock even indicates the year, replacing the traditional leap year display.

The semi-Gregorian calendar thus advances day, date, and year automatically, even taking into account the 100-year leap year corrections – this means no manual adjustment is required before the year 2400. (Traditional perpetual calendars require manual correction every 100 years because they skip the leap year when the century year is divisible by 100 but not by 400, but this semi-Gregorian perpetual automatically skips the leap year every 100 years, meaning it only needs manual correction every 400 years – so yeah, you and your heirs can take a few centuries off).
The flying tourbillon uses the mechanism AP debuted in the RD#3 in 2022, while the flyback split-seconds chronograph uses a dedicated swivel clutch to ensure the chronograph doesn’t stutter when it starts.

Four variations of the Code 11.59 Universelle will be introduced by AP in 2023. The first two references will feature white gold cases with either a black galvanic gold dial or opaline beige PVD gold dial. The other two references will use either a pink gold or white gold case and feature open-worked dials to put the Calibre 1000 on full display. Of course, the case has been reworked compared to the typical Code 11.59, but at 42mm it’s only 1mm larger.

The RD#4 project was conceived and led by legendary watchmaker Guilio Papi, and the pieces are produced at AP’s headquarters in Le Brassus and AP’s complications center in Le Locle at APRP (Audemars Piguet Renaud et Papi), which was founded by Papi and his partner Dominique Renaud – AP first acquired a stake in Reunaud et Papi in 1992.