When François-Henry Bennahmias introduced the new CODE 11.59 by Audemars Piguet collection in January at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva, he proclaimed it to be “the biggest launch since 1972” — a reference to the debut of the brand’s ever-popular Royal Oak timepieces.
And the CEO has reason to be proud of the new launch, which boasts 13 new watches: four automatic three-hand models, four chronographs, a perpetual calendar, two automatic flying tourbillons, a skeleton tourbillon and a minute repeater.
In addition, the collection features six in-house movements, including three new ones: an automatic with seconds and date indication, a flyback chronograph and an automatic flying tourbillon.
Aesthetically, the collection offers a modern take on a classic round watch, incorporating hints of Audemars Piguet’s signature design codes to handsome effect.
Alexa chatted with Bennahmias about the new flagship model and the unprecedented investment of time and resources behind it.
What prompted the launch of CODE 11.59 by Audemars Piguet?
We have always made round watches but never took the opportunity to make a true AP round watch incorporating the DNA of the brand. The objective was to re-conquer the round watch territory while bringing forward our brand identity. Classic by nature — as it is round — but unconventional by design — as it includes some of AP’s key design features, like the octagon. We also wanted to feature our savoir-faire, hence the extremely high level of details achieved on the dial, the lugs, the crystal, etc.
The launch initially received some criticism by watch obsessives on social media — how do you view that now?
ine months down the line, the results are very positive: Sales are meeting our expectations, and we are recruiting many new clients. We are still actively promoting our new collection on social media as well, and criticism is part of the game! We have never been afraid of taking risks, especially when the feedback of the audience and of our fan base teaches us so much, whether it’s positive or negative. However, critics have calmed down since January, partly because people have been able to discover the watch in real life now, which allows them to understand it better.
How did your iconic Royal Oak influence this new collection?
This was not about incorporating the influence of the Royal Oak, it was about remaining faithful to Audemars Piguet’s brand codes, like the octagon. Remember, we designed octagonal-shaped watches starting in the early 20th century, way before the Royal Oak, which launched in 1972.
What is the significance of the collection for the brand going forward?
Long term, we are aiming for CODE 11.59 by Audemars Piguet to represent 20 percent of AP’s sales, so this collection is definitely important to us! This is also why we have worked heavily on developing three new movements … so this is just the beginning.