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A Review in Retrospect: The Audemars Piguet CODE 11.59

Controversial. Polarising. Debatable. Scandalous. And divisive. These are the words that sprung to my mind when I first laid eyes on the Audemars Piguet CODE 11.59. Were we going to see the rise of a new pillar in modern haute horlogerie? Have Audemars Piguet finally cracked the “code” and created a collection as iconic as its revered Royal Oak? Was there room enough in the world of watches for a brand-new collection from Audemars Piguet?

As difficult to answer those questions were, I felt it imperative to divulge into the CODE 11.59 a bit. I didn’t want to latch onto my very first opinion of the watch and elaborate on those sentiments. Rather, I wanted to wait until the dust had well and truly settle before opening my mind to the prospect of willingly purchasing a CODE 11.59.

Let’s take a look at the entire CODE 11.59 collection, from top to bottom. There will be no sugar coating. No sign of a “sponsored post”. No bias (I adore Audemars Piguet; in fact, they’re one of my favourite watchmakers), no swaying of opinion, no manipulating from social media or her influencers, and no one knocking down my door begging for a positively-inclined review.

First off, and this might bore you, but I think it’s important to expand on what I think is a very peculiar, if not off-putting collection name: the origins of “CODE 11.59”. Audemars Piguet chose this name, taking it from the minute before midnight. Any kind of deeper meaning behind it? Well, they lay claim to the fact that at a minute before midnight there’s great anticipation, if not excitement, of a new day, and thus an expectation of the future. The name is a major turn off for me. “Hey, what are you wearing?”, asked a curious bystander. “An Audemars Piguet CODE 11.59”, I state with a palpable air of false conviction. See what I mean? Definitely not the ideal name to attach to a collection that Audemars Piguet CEO François-Henry Bennahmias claims will make up a whopping 25% of their total sales output.

Anyway, onto the first piece of the CODE 11.59 collection. The most basic piece is the Reference 15210, incorporating the passing hours, minutes and seconds as displayed via the centre stack of hands, as well as a date indicator situated between 4 and 5 o’clock. The case structure, which applies to all of the CODE 11.59’s pieces, does resonate well with the Royal Oaks. Sandwiched between the top and bottom part of the case sits an octagonally shaped structure, obviously reminiscent of that of the Royal Oak’. The lugs attach to the top and bottom parts of the case, and the differentiation between the three layers of the case is actually quite lovely, albeit slightly disorientating. Is this a new watch, or are we still clinging to the infamy of the Royal Oak?

Again, the 41mm applies to all the models of the CODE 11.59’s collection, and there’s a huge amount of detailing apparent throughout the case. Mirror polished edges, horizontal brushing, all the bells and trimmings you’ve come to expect from a manufacturer like Audemars Piguet. There’s also a doming curve underneath the crystal, which basically improves dial clarity and legibility. Obviously, it’s more complex than that, and for a detailed look head to the Audemars Piguet website for more information.

Back to the watch. It’s available in either a red gold case with a black or a white dial, or a white gold case variation with a blue dial. The Reference 15210 is pretty lackluster, if I’m entirely honest. There’s not enough happening for Audemars Piguet to have decided to keep the dial this plain. It’s a clean, simplistic look, but it’s one that absolutely does the 15210 no favours. The hands are boring, the hour numerals are reminiscent of the of the TimeWalker from Montblanc, and the overall look of the 15210 is really quite deflating. Even the date window looks out of place. I have no evidence of this, but the 15210 looks like a rushed job, with minimal thought put into it. A definite miss for me.

The only plus-side is its new calibre, the 4302. It features 257-components, has a 70-hour power reserve as well as a gold rotor. It’s a lovely movement that reminds you of Audemars Piguet’s true potential. Unfortunately for the 4302, it sits in a watch that has less stature than it should.

Pricing for the Audemars Piguet CODE 11.59 Reference 15210 is $26,800USD.

Next up is the CODE 11.59 Reference 26393, also known as the Automatic Chronograph. The Reference 26393 obviously carries with it the same aesthetic virtues as its time-and-date counterpart, except this time we actually have something on the dial in the way of the chronograph’s sub-dials. Not exactly riveting, by thankfully that vast expanse of nothingness has been filled.

The Reference 26393 is a far more interesting timepiece and I wholeheartedly would prefer it over the 15210. If a dial is to be empty, at the very least make somewhat stimulating. The time-only Royal Oaks have the lovely clous de paris pattern. The 15210 lacks any kind of invigoration in that sense. The 26393 at least has its functions to keep things interesting dial side.

Powering the 26393 is another new calibre from Audemars Piguet, the 4401. This automatic, fully integrated, column wheel flyback chronograph movement is a very well put together movement. The openworked gold rotor lets you see the happenings of the calibre, and all in all I’m sort of relieved to see that Audemars Piguet have taken it upon themselves to build this. A step in the right direction. Oh, and some normality in the date window’s placement!

The Reference 26393 is available in either a red gold case with a blue or black dial, or in a white gold case with a blue or black dial. A hit or a miss? Hard to say without seeing one in the flesh, but I’m going to say it’s more of a hit than the 15210, but still feeling like a miss.

Pricing for the Audemars Piguet CODE 11.59 Reference 26393 is $42,4000USD.

The third addition to is the CODE 11.59 Reference 26394, the Perpetual Calendar. A step above the other two pieces, the 26394 features a blue aventurine dial with white flecks, reminiscent of that of a starlit sky. Purely from an observational perspective, it’s a nice watch, albeit somewhat messy.

The scattered look of the white flecks whilst adding a layer of detail is in a way displaced, especially so when placed next to the idea of something that is super accurate and super precise. Maybe had Audemars Piguet reduced the number of white flecks then the 26394’s dial would have appealed a bit more, but regardless and easing up on my critique it still looks like a better overall package than the 15210, aesthetically speaking of course.

My longstanding concern with perpetual calendars from Audemars Piguet is the lack of dial-side movement, in other words the missing seconds hand. The 26394 continues on that stagnant trend, but I think that Audemars Piguet have done themselves a favour by adding those extra details to compensate for an otherwise still-like look.

The 26394 comes in a red gold case with a blue aventurine dial and scattered white flecks.

Again, and like the chronograph, not a hit but not necessarily a miss, the 26394 is perhaps the most intriguing, at the very least from a visceral perspective.

Pricing for the Audemars Piguet CODE 11.59 Reference 26394 is $74,500USD.

The fourth piece is the CODE 11.59 Reference 26396, the Automatic Flying Tourbillon. Looking basically like the 15210, aside from the gaping hole at 6 o’clock filled with the flying tourbillon, the 26394 is just not enough watch for its price-tag.

The dial is boring, the hour numerals a let-down and all in all the 26396 is just deflating. I find it a bore to look at both in stagnant images and through videos. The movement is the main occasion of the 26396. Powered by the calibre 2950, this is a gorgeous movement that has unfortunately been put into a watch that does it a complete injustice. A big miss for me.

The 26396 is available in either a white gold case with a smoked blue enamel dial, or in a red gold case with a black enamel dial.

Pricing for the Audemars Piguet CODE 11.59 Reference 26396 is 129,000CHF.

The fifth piece is the CODE 11.59 Reference 26600, the Tourbillon Openworked. For some reason I liken the 26600 to Girard-Perrgeaux’s Laureato Flying Tourbillon Skeleton where it draws a similar design and movement architecture.

Wholly, though, the 26600 is my favourite of the CODE 11.59’s releases. Had Audemars Piguet revealed on the 26600, I can almost guarantee the new line would have been a hit. This is brilliant. This is what I would have expected Audemars Piguet to lead off of. I have absolutely no qualm, no nuance, no issue with the 26600.

From its openworked dial structure showing off the manually-wound calibre 2948 to the contrasting dial and case colour palette, the 26600 is a triumph.

The 26600 is available in a red gold case and is without a doubt the definitive hit of all 13 new releases for me. My pick most definitely. An uncontested, doubtless hit.

Pricing for the Audemars Piguet CODE 11.59 Reference 26600 is 175,000CHF.

The final piece is the CODE 11.59 Reference 26395, the Minute Repeater Supersonnerie. A very complex affair that will appeal to a very loyal Audemars Piguet collector, the 26395’s aesthetic downplays its insanely complex movement.

But, in saying that, I appreciate the contrasting distinction between a highly complicated, true haute horlogerie movement and an overly simple aesthetic. This highlights true appreciation for watchmaking. No smoke and mirrors here. Just definitive, to the point watchmaking, and I for one rather enjoy that. I’m going to say it’s a hit, purely from the perspective of no-bullshit horology.

The 26395 is available in a white gold case with a smoked blue enamel dial.

Pricing for the Audemars Piguet CODE 11.59 Reference 26395 is 295,000CHF.


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