Post by Mark
For my last post on my trip to Audemars Piguet I’m going to take you inside their facilities and show you their environment and some of the people behind the watches. By looking at some of the pictures you could easily mistake it for a scientific laboratory since all the watchmakers wear white coats and majority of them are looking through magnifiers and even microscopes.
For some parts of the tour we were required to enter a sterilized room, put on coats and even wear plastic bags over our shoes so that we wouldn’t bring any external contamination inside their sterile work spaces. The watchmakers are all very talented and experienced craftsman and not just random people sitting at an assembly line slapping parts together. There is no assembly line, each watch is hand built and decorated by professionals.
A watchmaker at work. [YouTube]
A lot of time goes into every watch and into every single part that is inside the watch. To give you an idea of how extreme their craftsmanship is we spotted one guy working on a part so small I couldn’t take a picture of it. It was part literally the size of a pixel and it turned out it was an extremely tiny screw and he was busy polishing it. Imagine a part so tiny you could barely see it and yet he was polishing it. Keep in mind that’s also a part no one other than him would probably every see again since it will be hidden inside the watch. That’s extreme detailing and really lets you appreciate the amount of work and crafting that goes into every watch.
Video showing how the Royal Oak face dial is made. [YouTube]
We were mostly allowed to take pictures of whatever we wanted except for the area where they make the carbon forged watch cases. They’re the only watchmaker that makes carbon forged watches and I guess they didn’t want us snapping shots of secretive information like oven temperatures or specific machinery. But you can watch a video of the process on YouTube if you’re interested [Here]
After visiting the main AP building the following day we headed to their other division called Renaud & Papi located around 2 hours from Geneva by car. That’s where majority of their extremely complicated movements get developed and built. Those guys are ridiculously smart and talented which is why they’re considered the best in the industry and work on complicated movements for other high end brands like Richard Mille and Harry Winstone. I saw one girl who was working on a Tourbillon using a microscope and I still don’t understand how they can do it. The Tourbillon is smaller than a 1 fils coin and is a very complicated movement to build with lots of different parts and layers that go into making it and here she was building it using just tiny tweezers and very, very steady hands. Amazing talent.
I spotted two Richard Mille watches while we were there that were being built, the Jackie Chan Dragon edition which costs over a million bucks and my favorite the skull watch which costs around $700,000. I love it because the watch has a huge skull in the middle with a Tourbillon hidden in the mouth and also because it costs seven hundred freakin’ thousand dollars. That’s so in your face I have billions and billions of dollars that I can afford to buy a watch with a skull head inside that costs nearly a million bucks so I could wear it with my cool ripped jeans and nike sneakers on weekends. Unfair and unbalanced world? Most likely, but that doesn’t bother me.
One last thing I need to mention. When we were done with the tour of their facilities we were taken into this large conference room with cabinets stretching from one side to the other and filled with rows and rows of all their watches. We got to check them all out and try them on and my favorite from the bunch has to be the new Sebastien Buemi watch (pictured above). We were also given a sneak peek at the new Schumacher watch thats going to launch at the end of the year but I’m not allowed to describe it or say anything about it. Maybe I can mention one tidbit and say that it’s going to be a 44mm but that’s all I can say.
It was a great trip and it was something that was on my things to do before I die list so I now get to cross it off. I’m really grateful to AP for inviting me on this trip. All the AP employees and watchmakers were very profesional and patient with us. Their work environment is a very tranquil and peaceful place and we were definitely not a quiet group yet they were all very friendly and focused even though at some points I had my camera very rudely close to their heads trying to get my shots. Great people, beautiful country and a wonderful experience.