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Where the past and present come together

Audrey Simon
Audrey Simon • 8 min read
Where the past and present come together
The Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet brings together architectural innovation related to manufacturing and cultural projects
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SINGAPORE (Apr 30): When travel restrictions are lifted after the coronavirus pandemic is over, there is one must-visit item on your checklist that must be ticked — a trip to the Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet. To be fully completed by the end of the year, this newly-minted addition to the Audemars Piguet brand will take visitors on a trip that features the Swiss manufacturer’s cultural universe past, present and future.

With spaces dedicated to live craft and contemporary architecture, pioneering scenography and traditional savoir-faire, the Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet embodies the manufacture’s free spirit and devotion to the perpetuation of Haute Horlogerie in the Vallée de Joux and beyond.

The Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet combines contemporary architecture, innovative scenography and traditional savoir-faire

The location for the Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet is on hallowed ground — it is built on the company’s oldest building where Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet set up their workshop in 1875. Careful attention was paid to the details such as the wall claddings that only uses wood from nearby village houses.

This new contemporary building reflects the manufacturer’s commitment to architectural innovation regarding manufacturing and cultural projects alike. The building also fulfils the requirements of the Swiss Minergie certification in terms of energy efficiency and high quality construction.

Details of the building features a curved glazing that supports the steel roof, while a brass mesh runs along the external surface to regulate light and temperature. The sustainability efforts continue to the green roof that helps regulate temperature, while absorbing water. In order to fit into the surrounding landscape, the building features floors that follow different slants to adapt to the natural gradient of the land and provide the basis of the museum’s inner layout stretched into a linear continuous spatial experience.

Inside, the curved glass walls converge clockwise towards the spiral’s centre, before moving in the opposite direction. This gives visitors a walk through the building a feeling like they are walking along the spring of a timepiece.

Visitors will also get a chance to view traditional workshops, where some of the manufacturer’s most complicated timepieces are still made today. It gives visitors a first hand view on how an Audemars Piguet timepiece is made and perfected.

At the centre of the spiral, in front of the Grandes Complications Atelier, astronomical, chiming and chronograph watches orbit around the Universelle (1899), the most complicated watch ever produced by Audemars Piguet

Heart of the spiral

For watch enthusiasts, there is no better treat than to visit the Grandes Complications and Métiers d’Art
Ateliers, situated at the heart of the spiral. It is here that one can witness first hand the numerous feats of mechanical mastery and design exhibited throughout the museum.

To be exact, more than 300 watches will be on display, each telling a story of feats of complication, miniaturisation and unconventional designs. Stories such as how modest 19th century artisans from an isolated valley at the heart of the Swiss Jura produced creations that caught the eye of enthusiasts abroad and continue to captivate the admiration of collectors today.

Not to miss is the astronomical, chiming and chronograph complications that have been at the core of Audemars Piguet since its establishment are orbiting around the ultra-complicated Universelle pocket watch from 1899.

Inspired by the solar system, the spherical showcases of this section evoke the astronomical cycles of time at the heart of watchmaking.

Finally, one cannot talk about Audemars Piguet without mentioning the Royal Oak. So the trip to the Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet ends with a rich collection of Royal Oak, Royal Oak Offshore and Royal Oak Concept watches on display.

The Universelle contains more than 20 complications and 1168 components for its movement

Birth of a masterpiece

Talks of setting up the Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet began in 2014 when BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) won the architectural competition hosted by Audemars Piguet to expand its historical premises.

BIG’s high-concept spiral, seamlessly rising from the ground, offers a pristine setting for the masterpieces of technicity and design which have taken shape, year after year, in this remote valley of the Swiss Jura Mountains. To execute BIG’s ideas, award-winning architecture and interior design firm CCHE was appointed to turn this to a reality — a perfect fit as CCHE is committed to sustainable development and social responsibility.

Also housed in the Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet’s atrium is the Audemars Piguet Foundation, which has contributed to forest conservation through environmental protection and youth awareness raising programmes since 1992.

Alexandre Joly’s new multimedia installation Subliminal Moving Shapes, 2019

Strong foundation

To mark this occasion an amelanchier (Amelanchier rotundifolia) will be planted and housed for a duration of two years in this open space to pay tribute to the manufacturer’s roots in the Vallée de Joux, as well as to the Foundation’s engagement in forest conservation within Switzerland and worldwide.

The tree will then be replanted as part of a local project sponsored by the Foundation.

Preserving forests, educating children to the environment, restoring biodiversity and valorising traditional knowledge are the Foundation’s top priorities. Its approach aims to initiate, through the projects funded, a virtuous circle of sustainable development, by and with local communities.

Also serving the communities, the Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet will house a dedicated space to be set aside for exhibitions for some of the travelling artworks created by the manufacturer’s commissioned artists.

Since 2012, Audemars Piguet has always supported a dialogue between contemporary art and Haute Horlogerie by commissioning artists to explore its geographic and cultural origins as well as themes including complexity and precision.

For the opening of its Musée Atelier, the manufacturer will exhibit commissioned artworks by long-lasting friends of the brand such as Dan Holdsworth, Quayola and Alexandre Joly, which offer a creative interpretations of Audemars Piguet’s origins in the Vallée de Joux.

Holdsworth’s photograph Vallée de Joux n° 10 from his photographic series The Vallée de Joux and Quayola’s Remains #A_027 from Remains: Vallée de Joux will be complemented by a multimedia installation by Alexandre Joly.

More Audemars Piguet experiences are planned for the future such as the new Hôtel des Horlogers in its hometown of Le Brassus to be completed in the summer of 2021. It is a sustainable, contemporary space at the crossroads of modernity and tradition, once again designed by BIG with CCHE.

The blue chronograph hands add a subtle touch of colour to the gold-toned dial

The past revisited

When the Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet opens its doors to visitors at the end of this year, you can be sure that there is that one commemorative timepiece that will be on display. Indeed, the Manufacture has created a new take on one of its rare chronographs from 1943.

Audemars Piguet’s vintage chronograph wristwatches are among the rarest in the world with only 307 examples made between the 1930s through the 1950s. Named [Re]master01, this new selfwinding flyback chronograph embodies tradition and the forward-thinking minds of the people at Audemars Piguet.

In limited edition of 500 pieces only, this timepiece did not stray far from its original design such as the round stainless steel case and teardrop lugs enhanced by 18-carat pink gold bezel, crown and pushers.

The gold-toned dial is complemented with a blue tachymetric scale, pink gold hour, minutes and seconds hands, as well as blue chronograph hands. The watch comes with a light brown handstitched calfskin strap as well as an additional brown alligator strap.

Similarly, to the 1943 wristwatch, [Re]master01 features the logo “Audemars Piguet & Co Genève.” From around 1885 to the mid-1970s, the manufacturer had a workshop in Geneva to be closer to end-clients and facilitate distribution within Europe and beyond.

When Audemars Piguet started to sign its watches around the 1920s and 30s, the city of Geneva was frequently mentioned on the dial. The Audemars Piguet logo featured on [Re]master01 thus celebrates the manufacturer’s cultural openness to the larger world despite its deep rootedness in the Vallée de Joux.

[Re]master01 features a polished round stainless steel case and teardrop lugs complemented by 18-carat pink gold bezel, crown and pushers.

Movement specs

Selfwinding Manufacture calibre 4409

Diameter 32 mm (14 lignes)

Thickness 6.82 mm

Number of parts 349

Number of jewels 40

Minimal power reserve guaranteed 70 h

Frequency of balance wheel 4 Hz (28,800 vibrations/hour)

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