Since teaming up with Florentine jewellery designer Carolina Bucci in 2016, Audemars Piguet has left barely any surface unfrosted. The micro-hammering technique developed by Bucci has been used to add its trademark shimmer to a plethora of the brand’s watches, and now brings perceptible handcraft to its most ground-breaking watch collection.
Audemars Piguet, founded in 1875, originally introduced its Concept range back in 2002, to showcase experimental, futuristic watchmaking. “This was the beginning of 21st-century watchmaking as we know it today, before all the experimental indies like Greubel Forsey and Richard Mille came along,” says Michael Friedman, head of complications at the watchmaker. “The Concept created a new pathway that said high horology can enter the field of experimentation and avant-garde design.”
Through the collection, Audemars Piguet has explored materials science with 2008’s Royal Oak Concept Carbon, worked out how to time consecutive laps to impress Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher in 2015, and played with perfecting sound and acoustics with 2016’s chiming Supersonnerie.
In 2018, it produced its first Concept for women, the diamond-encrusted Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon. This time around, Audemars Piguet has ditched the bling (almost), as well as the jagged openings that exposed the movement, and focused on surface texture and finish instead – or what Friedman describes as a “celebration of the artistic, aesthetic nature and beauty of the tourbillon itself, over its technical attributes.”
To that end, the flying tourbillon itself is topped off by a disc of rotating precious stones that is surrounded by a series of stepped blue rings edged with gold. The effect is akin an optical illusion, like looking down a well, or at ripples in a pond. The whole thing is enclosed with, of course, a frosted gold case.
“Frosted gold has been a lightning rod for us,” says Friedman. “It showed us that even the most ancient of materials can still be reimagined in new ways that feel highly contemporary.”
As well as being a beautifully designed piece, the watch represents a strange intersection of the careers of two women – one a watchmaker, the other a jeweller. The highlighting of the tourbillon, with the eye led to it by the dial’s architecture, recalls one of Audemars Piguet’s most feted modern-era wristwatches, the Tourbillon Automatique from 1986 – the world’s first-ever self-winding tourbillon wristwatch, the first tourbillon with a titanium cage and, for a long time, the world’s thinnest self-winding tourbillon.
That watch was designed by Jacqueline Dimier, head of design at Audemars Piguet until 1999, and the woman who redesigned the Royal Oak for women in 1976; the same watch Bucci was called upon to reimagine for its 40th birthday.
More great stories from WIRED
💿 Meet the Excel warriors saving the world from spreadsheet disaster
🚀 Inside Gravity’s daring mission to make jetpacks a reality
🧥 Don’t get cold this winter. How to the get the most out of your home heating
🔊 Listen to The WIRED Podcast, the week in science, technology and culture, delivered every Friday
👉 Follow WIRED on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn