A Matter Of Taste: Grand Crus And Complications – The Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Tourbillon Openworked
In part one, we became acquainted with two references in the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet collection by pairing them with their fine wine counterparts. Today, we repeat the experience, but take it up a notch with the inimitable Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Tourbillon Openworked.
Fine watchmaking is a rare and delicate thing, evoking images of age-old traditions and ancient skills. The same can be said of the world's finest wines, historic estates and legendary vintages. Just like in Part 1, we needed to find a family-run estate, renowned worldwide for its ability to best express its terroir and with its own unique personality.
Two Exceptional Domaines
Audemars Piguet is up there at the pinnacle of high horology. Its place in the watchmaking pantheon is already well established. When we are faced with a model such as the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Tourbillon Openworked, we know we are dealing with the ultimate expression of the brand's expertise. First, we have the masterpiece that is the wristwatch tourbillon, which has become one of Audemars Piguet's finest achievements since the celebrated calibre 2870 was produced in 1986. The Le Brassus manufacture then introduced the first series-produced extra-flat selfwinding tourbillon, as well as the smallest tourbillon cage in existence, and the pioneering first-time use of titanium for this component.
Then, there is the art of skeletonization, which the brand's master craftsmen have been fine-tuning for nearly a century, incorporating it into a wristwatch as early as 1934. Finally, we have an unprecedented level of finishing, one that attracts the attention of seasoned collectors and for which the Le Brassus manufacture has been renowned ever since its establishment in 1875.
Only an exceptional domaine could be paired with such a timepiece. We immediately recalled a premier grand cru classé and legendary vintage of the Bordeaux region: the magnificent Château Haut-Brion 1959. But very soon, our thoughts naturally turned to the celebrated Romanée Conti. The estate has been in the hands of two families since 1869. Production is super-limited to between 3,000 and 6,000 bottles, depending on the year. Their bottles are avidly sought-after by collectors worldwide. It is generally considered to be the utmost expression of pinot noir throughout the world.
Both parties being present, we proceeded with the pairing.
A Crosswise Look At Two Exceptional Vintages
The Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Tourbillon Openworked is undeniably an attention-grabber. So, too, is the splendid bottle of Romanée-Conti 2003 awaiting us at the tasting table. And what a union, indeed! A moment of solemn silence ensues. We open the bottle with bated breath, our every sense on highest alert. Our host, in the meantime, furnishes us with a few oenological facts, "In 2003, the estate produced only 3,575 bottles of Romanée-Conti, a yield of 16hl/ha. A year of minuscule output due to the drought affecting the vineyard that year." A fact that explains the rarity of this particular nectar. It also naturally resulted in a particularly highly concentrated cru.
While there were no drought conditions at the Le Brassus manufacture, the output for the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Tourbillon Openworked was similarly limited, with only a 100 pieces being produced. The challenge commences, with much oohing and aahing heard over both the wine and the timepiece.
Comparisons abound as the tasting of the Burgundy elixir progresses, and as the details of the timepiece are gradually revealed. The velvety mouthfeel of the Romanée Conti admirably reflects the silken texture of the black brushed finishing on the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Tourbillon Openworked. An iron fist in a velvet glove.
Depth, Power, and Delicacy
The Romanée Conti evokes all the mystery one might expect of a legendary vintage. As does our chosen timepiece, its skeletonized movement a gem of elaborate architectural complexity. And the depth of taste plumbed by this exquisite bottle is reflected in the many levels left open to view and admire through both the dial and the sapphire crystal caseback of the watch. The plush and powerful palate of ripe ruby red and black fruits find their counterpart in the highly precise blend of this oenological masterpiece. The delicate notes of rose petals, typically found in our chosen wine, echo the supremely fine finishing, the inward and outward angles, and the mirror-polished chamfers of the watch to perfection.
Two respective passions provide the perfect showcase for age-old skills rendered with love and generosity to their ultimate expression. To sample the Romanée Conti is to give meaning to time... as much could be said of the Audemars Piguet in the panoply of high horology.
Great wines leave their mark. Rare wines generate their own memories. Exceptional timepieces have the same capacity. Such discoveries, for us enthusiasts, are moments indelibly etched in time.
(Photography by Pierre Vogel)