In 1875, two young men with a passion for Fine Watchmaking, Jules-Louis Audemars (1851-1918) and Edward-Auguste Piguet (1853-1919), join forces to design and produce complication watches in the Joux Valley. Audemars designs the movements, while Piguet handles the financial and commercial side. The history of the Audemars Piguet Manufacture is deeply rooted in this region, the cradle of Fine Watchmaking.
Over the years, the Manufacture expands. Determination, imagination and discipline soon bring success. The Manufacture specialises in the art of chiming watches, perhaps because the crystal-clear sounds of these musical wonders resonates all the better in the peaceful air of a snowy winter.
In the first decade of the 20th century, the company prospers and continues hiring, to the extent that an expansion of the facility becomes necessary in 1907. The new factory adjoins the company headquarters and accommodates up to seventy workers. This favourable period ends with the approach of WWI. The Manufacture then faces significant difficulties.
The Manufacture evokes the effervescence of the Roaring Twenties with its jeweled ladies’ watches. After art nouveau, art deco prefers simple geometric lines. Audemars Piguet breaks with the tradition of an analogue time display, producing the first watches with jumping hour displays and becomes the unchallenged specialist in these extraordinary models.
After the Wall Street crash in 1929, the Manufacture comes through a major crisis. Beginning in 1933, Paul-Louis Audemars’ son, Jacques-Louis Audemars, gives production a new impetus.
The manufacture of chronographs breathes new life into production, but business is slowed by WWII. After the conflict, a reorganisation is needed. From this time on, simple, elegant ultra-thin watches rub elbows with the traditional high-end pieces. In 1949, Audemars Piguet participates for the first time in the Basal Fair.
Georges Golay becomes the business manager in 1962 and then, from 1966 to 1987, Managing Director and CEO. An era of prosperity and tremendous creative daring begins/ A network of agents improves distribution. The Manufacture continues to make watches with complex mechanisms, while showing that it is paying attention to the spirit of the times. Its range of products soon earns international success.
Audemars Piguet turns Fine Watchmaking codes upside down, creating the Royal Oak, the first high-end sports watch made of steel, recognisable by its octagonal bezel with eight hexagonal screws, the guilochage on its dial and its integrated bracelet-a true revolution in the watchmaking world.
The octagonal bezel and case back are joined by eight hexagonal screws on the bezel and eight visible bolts on the back. On September 6, 1651, Cromwell’s troops pursued Charles II, the future king of England, Scotland and Ireland, who took refuge in the branches of an oak tree. This tree, later known as the “Royal Oak,” became a symbol of protection and power. Between 1769 and 1914, the Brisish fleet christened four of its vessels the H.M.S. Royal Oak. The hull of one of them was reinforced with steel plates and the gun ports for its cannons were octagonal.