The History of Audemars Piguet: Founding the Brand
In 1874, two young entrepreneurs in their early twenties reconnected in the Vallee de Joux in Switzerland. The pair had known each other since childhood, and their names were Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet. A year later in 1875, they decided to go into business together. Little did they know their namesake brand would become one of the top companies in their industry. This is the origin and history of Audemars Piguet.
Combining Strengths for Success
Both Audemars and Piguet had grown up in the Vallee de Joux, immersed in the region’s deep horological roots. They came from generations of watchmakers and had learned watchmaking at a young age. Each had unique strengths in different areas of watchmaking to bring to the table as they established their initial workshop. They were the perfect match.
Audemars was highly technical, having worked primarily in the production of complicated watch movements. So, he focused on heading up production, supervising product development, and manufacturing the raw components for their early timepieces. On the other hand, Piguet served as the repasseur or master watchmaker, performing the final regulation on the watches. He carefully inspected each finished component, made all the necessary adjustments, assembled the movements, and brought the watches to life. Later, as the company grew and evolved, Piguet discovered his passion for the business side of sales, marketing, and management and shifted into that role.
Watch Innovation Spanning the Centuries
The brand made its first truly groundbreaking creation in 1892 with the development of the first minute repeater wristwatch. Just a few years later in 1899, they debuted the “Grand Complication” pocket watch. The model boasted seven unique complications, including a grand and small strike, minute repeater, alarm, perpetual calendar, deadbeat seconds, chronograph with jumping seconds, and split-seconds hand.
Things changed for the company when both founders passed away in the span of a year, from 1918 to 1919. However, the business remained in the capable hands of the founders’ sons, Paul Louis Audemars and Paul Edward Piguet. Together, they continued to carry on the family tradition of innovation with the creation of the thinnest pocket watch caliber in 1925, the development of the first skeletonized pocket watch in 1934, and the debut of the thinnest wristwatch in 1946.
Becoming a Watchmaking Icon
Audemars Piguet solidified its place in watchmaking history in the 1970’s. As the Quartz Crisis continued to impact the industry, Audemars Piguet and other traditional watchmakers were struggling to stay relevant. The brand knew they needed to do something bold. So, on the eve of the 1972 Swiss Watch Show (now known as Baselworld), the managing director of the company met with legendary designer Gerald Genta. He told Genta the brand’s aspirations of creating a whole new category of watch, the luxury sport watch, and they needed a design to present the following day. Genta was instantly inspired, and his genius went to work. The result was the iconic Royal Oak.
Audemars Piguet Today
A decade later, the flagship model received an upgrade from designer Emmanuel Gueit, and the larger Royal Oak Offshore was born. Though these strikingly unconventional models were polarizing upon their initial debuts, they have ultimately come to define the brand. Still, Audemars Piguet has never ceased to continue innovating. In celebration of the company’s 125th anniversary at the turn of the century, they unveiled a highly complicated model showcasing the Equation of time, sunrise, sunset, and a perpetual calendar mechanism. Whether you choose one of the brand’s popular models, like the Royal Oak, or one of their highly complex complications, you know you’re wearing an icon when you sport an Audemars Piguet.