5 minutes

From hating to loving the Audemars Piguet’s Code 11.59

By Jorg Weppelink

What do you think of when you hear the name Audemars Piguet? Probably the Royal Oak. But what about the brand’s Code 11.59 collection? It’s probably not in the forefront of many watch enthusiasts’ thoughts. After a very rough start, the Code 11.59 won the praise of watch critics in 2023. The manufacturer was awarded the Aiguille d’Or Grand Prix at the GPHG in Geneva with its Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Ultra-Complication Universelle (RD#4). We also saw a number of great new stainless steel models that fans loved. So, how did the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 go from being hated to loved? Time to find out!

Introduction of the Code 11.59 Collection

Let’s go back to the introduction of the Code 11.59 collection in 2019. With CEO François-Henry Bennahmias at the helm, Audemars Piguet set out to introduce a groundbreaking new series. Bennahmias called it the biggest launch since the Royal Oak in 1972. But was it really? In terms of watchmaking effort, the new collection was very impressive: a total of 13 new references were introduced with six different movements, three of which were developed specifically for the Code 11.59 line. This was no ordinary launch. This was a new direction for the brand that had slowly become synonymous with the Royal Oak, but that wasn’t what the media and fans focused on.

Problems With the Code 11.59

Watch enthusiasts often need time to get used to a new design, and that’s what Bennahmias was banking on. He didn’t expect overnight success, but he did hope for instant praise; however, watch fans had a lot of fundamental problems with the Code 11.59. Let’s start with the launch itself: Bennahmias emphasized at volume that the collection was groundbreaking – too loud, according to many. It may have well been groundbreaking in terms of horological achievement, but it needed the design to back it up. And that’s where the real problems began.

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Chronograph 18k White Gold / Rose Gold with Silver Dial
Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 chronograph 18k white gold / rose gold with a silver dial

Design of the Code 11.59

The three-piece case of the Code 11.59 is ingenious. The construction and design demand respect. It’s incredibly well-thought-out and meticulously executed, but there is one problem: It borrows heavily from the Royal Oak. The middle section of the case mimics the hexagonal design of the Royal Oak’s bezel. If you are going to start a new iconic collection, why would you borrow from one of your existing series?

The dial design also received a lot of criticism. The look of the numerals reminded some of those used on fashion watches – once you see it, you can’t unsee it – and that can be detrimental to an ultra-luxury brand like Audemars Piguet. The release created an immediate social media storm, and the watch media acknowledged that while the technical mastery was hard to ignore, the design had obvious flaws. So, how do you recover from that?

The Silver Lining

While the case may borrow features from the Royal Oak, the ingenious design and construction are nothing short of impressive. There was one model that showcased the greater potential of the Code 11.59 right away: the Code 11.59 Perpetual Calendar. The main reason why it stood out was that it didn’t use numerals on the dial, proving that without the numerals, the whole look changes. Paired with a rose gold case and gorgeous blue aventurine dial, this watch was the biggest eye-catcher of the collection and a beacon of the Code 11.59’s future potential.

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 - Perpetual Calendar 'Code 11.59' Blue Dial 26394OR.OO.D321CR.01
Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Perpetual Calendar blue dial ref. 26394OR.OO.D321CR.01

Losing the Characteristic Numerals

In its early years, the Code 11.59 was far from a commercial success. The collection was struggling a bit with its image, but Audemars Piguet created some beautiful versions sans numerals that showed the way forward. The Code 11.59 Grande Sonnerie Carillon Supersonnerie and the white gold version of the Code 11.59 Perpetual Calendar were two such examples. Moreover, the models with open-worked dials proved that small adjustments could shift the much-discussed numerals issue. People’s opinions gradually softened, and acceptance of the Code 11.59 as part of the Audemars Piguet collection. Of course, it helped that the newer models continued to demonstrate the incredible craftsmanship behind the name and gained respect.

Revisited Code 11.59 Design

At the start of this year, more pieces of the Code 11.59 puzzle fell into place. As if the brand had been listening, we saw the release of a number of new models without numerals. The new stainless steel Code 11.59 Selfwinding and Selfwinding Chronograph feature an optimized design with indices. The brand also introduced new, more characterful dials. Another great revision is the Code 11.59 Minute Repeater Supersonnerie; fans and critics alike agreed that the design tweaks were a huge step in the right direction and showed how to move the collection forward. The brand did just that by introducing a line of smaller, 38-mm models in October that showcase future designs.

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding, Ref. 15210ST.OO.A348KB.01
Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding ref. 15210ST.OO.A348KB.01

Winning the Prestigious Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève

At the same time, Audemars Piguet introduced its most complicated watch ever created. With the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Ultra-Complication Universelle RD#4, the brand created a watch with 40 different functions, 23 of which are complications. Thanks to a focus on modern usability, ergonomics, and comfort, this unique timepiece can be worn like a normal watch, even though it is a marvel of Haute Horlogerie. The beautiful beige dial version won first prize at the GPHG 2023. It was recognition from the industry that this unique version of the Code 11.59 is a truly wonderful masterpiece.

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 - Ultra-complication Universelle (RD#4) 42mm
Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 – Ultra-Complication Universelle (RD#4) 42 mm

Price Development of the Code 11.59

As a result of these recent events, there has been a massive increase in interest in the watch, but has this led to an increase in value? First, it must be said that after a long period of rising prices, the value of all watches from all brands has come down in the last 12–18 months. Second, it will take time for people to understand the increased appeal of the Code 11.59. This means that demand may rise over time, and that more of the improved, better-appreciated models will be available for sale.

At the moment, most of the Code 11.59 models for sale on the secondary market are the initial release self-winding models with numerals, which are only available in precious metals and selling for well below their original list price. However, we can already see that the prices of the new stainless steel models with the updated dial design are selling for closer to their actual list price on Chrono24. Moreover, the Code 11.59 Perpetual Calendar, which has never had any numerals, is selling for close to or even above its retail price.

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 hater to lover?

Is this the first sign that things are changing? Only time will tell. But in the meantime, Audemars Piguet has created some stunning timepieces that demonstrate the true power of the Code 11.59 – and that is something that people have come to appreciate. With CEO François-Henry Bennahmias leaving Audemars Piguet at the end of the year, it will be interesting to see if his successor, Ilaria Resta, can keep the Code 11.59 momentum going. All the ingredients are in place to make the Code 11.59 the key to even greater success for Audemars Piguet.

About the Author

Jorg Weppelink

Hi, I'm Jorg, and I've been writing articles for Chrono24 since 2016. However, my relationship with Chrono24 goes back a bit longer, as my love for watches began …

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