For 2022, Swiss Audemars Piguet has spent a lot of time tweaking and adding to its still-fresh Code 11.59 family of watches. This newest Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Chronograph (reference 26399BC.OO.D321CR.01) watch debuted today is a highly exclusive limited edition that focuses on using the Code 11.59 case to promote an elegantly handcrafted, complex haute horology movement. For years, Audemars Piguet was urged by fans to diversify its appeal away from the Royal Oak collection. In a move to appeal to younger buyers who grew up in a novel world, the Code 11.59 family is Audemars Piguet area in which to experiment and play — which the brand has always done marvelously when price isn’t a limitation.
The Code 11.59 case for this model is 41mm wide (water resistant to 30 meters) produced in 18k white gold. The case as always is very nicely finished – and openworked around the lugs – with mostly brushed surfaces that are enhanced by carefully polished angles. This same aesthetic concept has been adopted onto the movement, which according to Audemars Piguet has over 100 hands-polished surfaces. While not technically part of the watch’s title, the in-house made caliber 2952 automatic movement is “Openworked” (Audemars Piguet’s preferred way of saying “skeletonized”) in a manner which creates an eye-pleasing symmetrical dial motif.
The movement is produced from 479 distinct parts and operates at 3Hz with 65 hours of power reserve. The automatic (self-winding) movement offers the time, a 30-minute chronograph with a flyback complication (a first in a tourbillon movement from the brand) as a flying tourbillon positioned above 6 o’clock. Until now there have been Code 11.59 Tourbillon watches, andCode 11.59 Chronograph watches, but no other Tourbillon Chronograph watches like the novel reference 26399BC.OO.D321CR.01.
Royal blue lacquer color is used to decorate the dial’s flange ring as well as the flange rings on the chronograph subdials. Blue is still a very popular color in watchmaking, which allows this first version of the Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Chronograph to be fashionably trendy. I anticipate that Audemars Piguet will render this same case, dial, and movement combination in additional gold or precious metal cases, and with different dial colors. Legibility might be a challenge given the blue hands on an open dial can be tough to spot in some lighting conditions (and come to think of it, the hands could have been a tad bit longer), though at least the flange ring has complete minute and hour markers.
There are more new Code 11.59 watches for 2021, including this particularly attractive (and high) skeletonized tourbillon version. What is the most immediately distinctive about the novel reference 26600CR.OO.D009KB.01 Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Tourbillon Openworked is the two-tone case, which makes use of both 18k white and pink gold. Audemars Piguet was always clear that the Code 11.59 case was meant to be modular, and thus rendered in different ways, with different materials. This is to be expected, but watches at this price point (for whatever reason) have rarely offered a two-tone gold approach. It’s actually quite refreshing.
This particular Code 11.59 dial is one of my favorites given the symmetrical beauty and hand-finishing of the in-house-made caliber 2948 manually wound tourbillon movement. The intricate case with its skeletonized lugs is still an interesting modern take on the round case classic. The 41mm-wide main case (just 10.7mm-thick) is done in 18k white gold, while the middle section of the case is done in 18k pink gold. We see this same juxtaposition of hues on the movement between the silver-toned movement and the 18k pink gold hands and balance wheel. It’s really a great use of these colors for fashion purposes. More so, the watch does not have all the same colors from the same angles. Look at the Code 11.59 Tourbillon Open Worked head-on, and it mostly looks like a white gold watch. Look at it from the side and the color mixture changes dramatically.
The skeletonized movement is really rather simple from an engineering perspective, and here is all about elegance in construction and decoration. Audemars Piguet made especially sure that the curving, circular lines of the movement bridges follow the major round shape of the mainspring barrel as well as the spinning tourbillon assembly. The movement is made up of 196 parts and operates at 3Hz with 72 hours of power reserve. Audemars Piguet does have a lot more sophisticated tourbillon-based movements, but this version of the Code 11.59 is more of a modern dress watch so a more simple, decorative movement suits it. Legibility isn’t bad, though the hands appear a bit on the short side and feel a bit far from the peripheral minute/hour indicator ring that sits above the skeletonized movement display.