Hands-On Pics! The Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Starwheel
The Le Brassus watchmaker may just have landed on a heritage-made-modern execution that proves the point of the Code 11.59 line perfectly.
To say that the debut of the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet line in 2019 was somewhat controversial may be an understatement.
In short, it was an issue of perception. More specifically, with the burgeoning gravitas of a watch model as iconic as the Royal Oak ever-present, the watch community may have mistakenly anticipated the new Code 11.59 to be an instantly disruptive hit.
Audemars Piguet, however, was more intent on providing a new canvas to create design possibilities. After all, on the face, the Code 11.59 appeared to be a relatively straightforward circular timepiece with the subtle elegance of a hollowed “frame” approach to the lugs and the understated optics of a double-curved sapphire crystal.
And yet, if you take a look at the new Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Starwheel in Watchonista’s hands-on pictures, I predict you’ll begin to see those design possibilities take off in an execution where the circular format and the lug and crystal innovations are not only perfectly appropriate but actually enhance the overall package.
First, a Little History
Despite more than a few contemporary avatars of the rotating satellite/carousel mode of timekeeping (um, primarily Urwerk), the so-called “wandering hours” complication has a far-flung history. And Audemars Piguet can claim legitimate bona fides when talking about its modern revival.
In the press release for the Code 11.59 Starwheel, Heritage and Museum Director at Audemars Piguet, Sébastian Vivas, explained: “Invented in 1655 thanks to a request by Pope Alexander VII, who suffered from insomnia that was exacerbated by the ticking of his clock, the wandering hours complication was rediscovered by Audemars Piguet in 1991 and combines history, technical challenges, design, and poetry.”
Audemars Piguet’s Starwheel interpretation of a wandering hours mechanism adorned many models until the early 2000s. Now, a gorgeously flat, thin, elegant execution of that mechanism finds an equally modern home in the 41mm Code 11.59 case.
The new Code 11.59 Starwheel has the three circular hour-indicator satellite discs echoing the overall circular design, the open lugs complementing the open architecture of the movement, and the double-curved sapphire crystal amplifying and perfectly setting the stage for the whole rotating universe over a stunning blue aventurine dial surface. Form, function, you smell what I’m cooking here?
Three black opaline aluminum discs (each with four hour markers) slowly rotate within a metallic frame, rolling into the arrow position on each frame as it hits the 120-degree minute gauge between what would be ten and two o’clock at the top of the dial. At the same time, the entire triple-disc carousel makes a 360-degree rotation every three hours. So, let’s say, for example, the disc with the 10 o’clock indicator is approaching the end of the 60-minute arc. Then that means the disc with the 11 o’clock marker is arriving at the beginning of the gauge.
Hours on each disc are serially staggered quartets to match the time-telling motion. A central seconds hand that rides a full-circle 0 to 60 seconds gauge on the outer dial is the only nod to traditional time-telling.
This playful, sophisticated execution is wrought in equally fascinating materials. The blue aventurine dial surface is brilliant contrast to the metallic/black Starwheel device and gives it a subtle cosmic vibe without venturing into futurism. Plus, shimmering 18K white gold offers up the perfect clean visual counterpoint, modernizing the approach, and adorns the bezel, lugs, case back, hands, and strap buckle.
Black ceramic darkens the picture while still lightening the load for the crown and the mid-case sandwiched between the white gold bezel and caseback (total case thickness is 10.7mm). A technical black rubber-coated textured strap holds this machine on your wrist, but again, the zeitgeist never edges into an overly techy futurist realm. I applaud the restraint.
The Starwheel display is integrated into the timepiece’s self-winding calibre 4310 movement, which provides 70 hours of power reserve. The list price of the Code 11.59 Starwheel is $57,900 and is available at Audemars Piguet boutiques and retailers as you read this. Find out more at the brand’s website.
If you initially had some trouble wrapping your head around the Code 11.59, then this timepiece may well be your code-breaking Imitation Game moment.
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)