A Matter Of Taste: Fine Wines And Complications – Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet
The Code 11.59 collection by Audemars Piguet fuels strong opinions among watchmaking enthusiasts. The same can often be said for another passion-driven subject: wine. But in the end, it's all about sharing the joy of the moment. We set out to find the best wine pairings for three iterations of the Code 11.59 for your delight.
Here at Watchonista, we love to combine passions. On a recent assignment, we met in the secret cellar of a top wine collector. Armed with three models from the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet collection, we gave ourselves the task of selecting the Domaine or bottle that might best express the characteristics of each model.
The first part of our adventure consisted in discovering the fine wine counterparts of the Chronograph and Perpetual Calendar models. The second will seek to find the rare pearl that might accompany the Openworked Tourbillon.
Instinctively, we turn our attention to the great family Domaines, famous for their limited productions steeped in age-old traditions, just like those abounding at Audemars Piguet. We are therefore looking for strong, distinctive characters comparable to those of the timepieces crafted in Audemars Piguet's Le Brassus workshop. We're thinking region, terroir, vintage. Opinions are strong and rife. Our choices gradually emerge.
Château Rayas, classic and unique
With its workshop-crafted calibre 4401, column wheel, and flyback function, the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Selfwinding Chronograph instantly impresses as a powerful thoroughbred among timepieces. Artful details, such as a vertical clutch for smooth and accurate stopwatch measurement combined with soft-touch pushers, lend it a touch of undeniable elegance.
The same attention to detail is found in a fine wine from the Rhône valley, especially a Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The harmonious balance of strength, typicity, substance, and refinement is one that is also prevalent in the greatest wine-growing estates of the region. We collectively opt for a Château Rayas rouge - a family Domaine shrouded in mystery, unknown but to a highly devoted privileged few, and renowned for its 100% Grenache wines.
A rarity within this appellation, its true depths are revealed only after many years of aging. We must learn to untangle the mysteries, just like those hidden within the complex case design of the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet. We must delve deep to discover its inner complexity. The dial of the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Chronograph, for instance, features two subdials at 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock which are somewhat broader than the third subdial at 6 o'clock. They lend strength and balance... one might say the same of the tannins in a Rayas jeune.
Yet it's the explosion of lusciously ripe red and blackberries that is most enchanting to the palate on a first tasting, just as the contrast between the blue-lacquered dial and 18K white gold case middle is instantly appealing to the eye. It serves to highlight such details as the curved applique indices, galvanically grown one-piece relief logo, and polished gold wires framing and showcasing the subdials. So, too, the 2000 vintage Châteauneuf plumbs uncharted depths of taste.
It offers a structural precision rivalling that of the optimised chronometry of calibre 4401 which beats at the heart of the timepiece at a frequency of 4Hz. Its longevity may not quite match that of the 70-hour power reserve on the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Selfwinding Chronograph, but it's nonetheless impressive and it boasts an architecture every bit as elaborate as that of the 22K rose gold openworked oscillating mass in this striking timepiece.
The choice of such a rich, intense wine is almost a foregone conclusion. It is the ultimate expression of the most widespread grape variety in the world: grenache. Likewise, the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Selfwinding Chronograph is a splendid version of this highly coveted complication among watchmaking fans. It's sure to pique the interest of enthusiasts of fine timepieces by combining traditional and contemporary details to powerful effect.
The rarity of a fine French white
The toughest task was finding a companion for the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Perpetual Calendar. Its inherent delicacy and intrinsic complexity pointed us in the direction of France's fine white wines. But a hard-fought debate was waged to determine which would make a better match: a super-rare grand cru Burgundy Chardonnay or a legendary sweet Sauternes?
The seemingly velvety-textured, starlit aventurine dial ushers us into a fairytale world. It is expressive of extraordinary finesse and remarkable elegance. A Montrachet grand cru from the Domaine Jean Chartron, established in 1859, might ultimately be deemed the perfect partner. The sparkling dial may be compared with the glittering, multi-faceted Bâtard-Montrachet and its remarkably long finish. The clarity of the Perpetual Calendar subdials embellished with short baton hands crafted in 18K rose gold is a nod to the prickly precision of the citrus fruit notes, white blossom, and ripe fruit sensations experienced when savoring this exceptional white wine.
Every detail in this timepiece invites a comparison with the famed Burgundy nectar. The white week-of-the-year indication extends spine-like across the dial as a constant reminder of the persistence of time, mirroring the lingering backbone acidity of the Jean Chartron Bâtard-Montrachet 2007. The flashy red figure 31 on the date subdial at 3 o'clock might almost be a colorful metaphor for that moment during tasting when the wine's dried-fruit, the almond sweetness is revealed on the palate. The moon-phase disc, in its own discreet aperture at 6 o'clock, references the infinite vault of the heavens, echoing similarities with the extraordinary depth and length of finish in this extraordinary wine.
An exceptional product for its uniqueness... just like the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Perpetual Calendar, already a resounding success.
The legendary Grand cru finish
When tasting fine wines, you need to constantly tap into the color, the nose and the palate impression in order to discover all the subtleties and all the varied expressions of a vintage. So it is for these two Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet models. Every detail, from the dial and case middle through to the finishing of the two movements, is painstakingly inspected in a minute examination so time-consuming that it could almost be measured on the famous "Caudalie" scale used to assess the finish of exceptional vintage wine.
All the fine decoration requirements are there: polished outward and inward angles, circular graining of different diameters, hand-drawn strokes, Côtes de Genève stripes, gilded hand-engraving. A watch of such architectural depth surely begs comparison with the complex, lingering palate of a fine wine!
As the evening draws to a close the message is clear: passions can exist in perfect harmony. Wine and watchmaking are two such passions that we love to share. We're thriled by our exchanges and discoveries. Magic happens when fine wine and fine watchmaking enthusiasts get together. We share our feelings. Details become strikingly apparent. Power and finesse are revealed in all their glory.
In Part 2, we reach for the skies with the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Openworked Tourbillon, which we will be pairing with one of the world's greatest fine wines. Until next time!
(Photography by Pierre Vogel)