The Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime and the Reference 6300, the Franck Muller Aeternitas Mega 4, the Vacheron Constantin Celestia or the Superbia Humanitatis by Piguet/Muller/Gerber… Many watches have claimed the title of the most complicated wristwatch, and all were undoubtedly wonders of miniaturisation and exceptional horological developments. Audemars Piguet is familiar with the concept, with multiple Grande Complication wristwatches in the collection. Today, the brand goes much further with the Code 11.59 Universelle Ultra-Complication, also known as RD#4. Equipped with 23 complications, 40 functions, a new Calibre 1000 with no fewer than 1,155 parts… All served up in a surprisingly reasonable 42mm case size and a price to match the feat. Meet AP’s most complex wristwatch to date.
The name of this new watch, the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Universelle Ultra-Complication, pays tribute to a historically important model for the brand, the L’Universelle pocket watch, one of the most complicated watches ever crafted by the manufacture, with 19 classic complications, including a Grande Sonnerie Carillon, a perpetual calendar, a split- seconds, jumping-second and deadbeat-second chronograph. It sits right there, on the top rung with the 1933 Patek Henry Graves Supercomplication, the 1802 Breguet Marie Antoinette or the 2019 Vacheron Constantin 57260. Audemars Piguet is no stranger to building hyper-complicated movements, and this year’s new Code 11.59 Universelle brings back the concept in the shape of a wristwatch packed with technology.
The project of the Universelle and its Calibre 1000 started in 2016 with “the goal of developing a highly complicated wristwatch fit for everyday use that would strike the right balance between complexity, ergonomics and aesthetics“. As part of the RD collection, it incorporates some elements of the three previous watches: the Supersonnerie of the RD#1, the ultra-thin perpetual calendar of the RD#2 and the oscillator with increased amplitude premiered on the RD#3. Seven years later, the new Calibre 1000 sees the light of day in the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Universelle Ultra-Complication, a contemporary take on the ultra-complicated wristwatch with 23 complications (as always, the complication count must be taken with precaution) and a surprisingly ergonomic and user-friendly approach.
Before we move to the technical details, let’s talk about design. The Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Ultra-Complication Universelle is a member of the brand’s latest collection, and it reminds us that, from the beginning, AP said that the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Universelle Ultra-Complication would become its vessel for all sorts of complications. The case has all the familiar traits of the collection, with the openworked lugs, the double-curved top surface and its complex crystal, the slim bezel and the octagonal case middle that creates the connection with AP’s star watch, the Royal Oak. As you’d expect, the case is far more complex due to countless pushers and crowns, all fairly well integrated.
The left side features a pusher to start the minute repeater and two correctors for the moon and day indications. Three crowns on the right side with coaxial pushers allow the wearer to wind the watch, set the time and date with the central crown and select the chiming mode (Grande Sonnerie, Petite Sonnerie or silence mode). The flyback chronograph can be started and stopped with the supercrown at 2 o’clock and reset with the other supercrown at 4 o’clock. The 4 o’clock crown also corrects the month in sync with the year.
In the four years since Audemars Piguet introduced its Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Universelle Ultra-Complication collection—and it was a collection, with the brand debuting six models at once—the general opinion of the line has shifted. Greeted with kneejerk jeering and derision when it was first shown at SIHH in 2019 (the show’s last year), Audemars Piguet has remained vigilant in its efforts to establish the Code 11.59 as more than just “not any of the Royal Oaks.” While the initial collection was undoubtedly and objectively impressive (never mind the naysayers), the hits have kept coming, garnering a 2019 GPHG award, and most recently housing the return of the starwheel. Audemars Piguet is dead serious about this collection, and it’s showing just that by using it to deliver most complicated wristwatch it’s ever made, the all-new Code 11.59 Ultra-Complication Universelle RD#4.