Watch of the Week: Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Ultra-Complication Universelle RD#4

With an 18-carat white gold case, a new ‘Supersonnerie’ soundboard and more than three-dozen functions, this is the latest high-art timepiece from the Swiss brand…

Before we buckled them onto our wrists, watches went into our pockets. Strung on chains and stored within our jackets, it’s a timekeeping tradition that stretches back to the 17th century, when Charles II of England tucked a watch into his waistcoat. Over the years, however, these watches developed; changing shape to become smoother and rounder — all the better for pulling out of and slipping into pockets. And, by 1899, a Swiss partnership perfected the pocket watch movement.

For, on the cusp of the 20th century, Jules Audemars and Edward Piguet, who had honed their own horological crafts by making movements for brands from Tiffany to Omega, revealed their ‘Universelle’ movement. With seven complications, including a minute repeater, perpetual calendar and chronograph with jumping seconds, it was the pinnacle of pocket watch innovation. Now, 124 years later, the Swiss brand has unveiled a thoroughly modern spin on the style.

The Universelle RD#4 is the first ultra-complicated self-winding wristwatch in the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet collection. Four variations of the design will be available — crafted in either 18-carat white or pink gold — and each is a meticulously ticking tribute to those incredible, original pocket watches. Our favourite of the four? This black-dialled option, with white gold applied-hour markers, red accents and a black alligator strap. 

At the heart of this new releases is the supreme, self-winding ‘Calibre 1000’ — a movement that counts over 1,100 components in its construction. It’s a mechanical representation of the Manufacture’s unrivalled savoir-faire; a pioneering mechanism that builds on three generations of research and development to bring this highly capable watch to rhythmic, reliable life.

Among its 40 functions — including 23 complications — there is a minute repeater, a semi-Gregorian perpetual calendar (with day, large date, month, year, astronomical moon and moon phases), a split-seconds flyback chronograph and a flying tourbillon. And all that in a case that measures under 16mm thick? It’s a serious feat.

Which is likely why it took the Swiss brand seven long years to realise the design. Engineers, designers, dedicated watchmakers and wider industry craftspeople had to come together — and work in perfect sync — to push the limits of high-art ‘Haute Horlogerie’ watchmaking. And, to innovate beyond traditional norms of construction, the teams blurred the line between movements and cases by developing a new breed of ergonomic correctors and crown-pushers.

All that in a case under 16mm thick? It’s a serious feat...

This makes the watch’s case — hewn from 18-carat white gold, featuring a double-curved, glare-proofed sapphire crystal and water-resistant to 20 metres — one of the most complex ever created by Audemars Piguet. Among its most eye-catching features, you’ll find an extra-thin bezel, highly stylised lugs and an octagonal case middle (reminiscent of the brand’s Royal Oak range).

The discreet push-pieces, too, have been integrated to the case’s left side. And these pushers — still large enough to be easily operated with your fingertips — start the minute repeater function, and correct both the moon and day indications. It’s a revolutionised system; rethought entirely to facilitate correction without the need to handle minuscule, sharp tools.

But the masterstroke of the Universelle RD#4? Its ‘secret’ white gold caseback; a hinged door that evokes those classic pocket watches — and amplifies the watch’s acoustic performance when worn. As, when opened, it reveals the beauty of the mechanism and the new sapphire soundboard.

Because, like that ‘Universelle’ pocket watch of decades past — which itself featured sonorous grand and small strike complications — this latest watch makes some serious noise. Combining the sophisticated ‘Grande Sonnerie’ with the patented ‘Supersonnerie’ technology introduced by Audemars Piguet in 2015, it’s an ultra-complicated model granted the acoustic power, sound quality and harmonic tone of older chiming timepieces — and that makes it well worth sounding out.

Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Ultra-Complication Universelle RD#4

Learn More

Want more incredible watches? Check out the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra 10th Anniversary…

Become a Gentleman’s Journal member. Find out more here.

Gentlemen's Journal is happy to partner with The Prince’s Trust RISE campaign, which is working to create a network of young adults aged between 21-45, who are passionate about social mobility. You can become a Prince’s Trust Riser by donating just £20 per month to the scheme.
Get Involved

Further reading