Audemars Piguet watch

Born in 1875
Origin Switzerland
Prices from £12,000
Famous for  For its iconic Royal Oak collection, which recently featured in a Jay-Z song that sparked a collaboration resulting in a special edition Royal Oak Jay-Z watch

Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet were in their early twenties when they met and established Audemars Piguet in 1874. With Audemars creating the raw watch components and Piguet focussed on sales, success was not immediate but the company is now known as one of the ‘Big Four’ Swiss watchmakers – along with [glossary id=’7050′ slug=’patek-philippe’ /], [glossary id=’7083′ slug=’vacheron-constantin’ /] and [glossary id=’7019′ slug=’jaeger-lecoultre’ /] .

In its 140-year history, the watch company has been responsible for many world firsts, such as the jumping second hand (which rather than moving in a slow continuous motion around the watch face, jumps from second to second, in a manner modern-day watch collectors are familiar with). They also developed the first skeleton watch in the 1930’s, allowing the intricate inner working to be visible beneath the dial. Early customers included Tiffany & Co, [glossary id=’6984′ slug=’cartier’ /] and [glossary id=’6979′ slug=’bulgari’ /], who would purchase and rebrand the elegant pieces under their own established names.

Audemars Piguet’s most iconic creation to date is the Royal Oak. Designed in 1971 by Gerald Genta, the man behind such instantly recognisable designs as the IWC Ingenieur and Patek Philippe’s Nautilius, it was the first-ever luxury watch in steel. At the time, it was more expensive than a gold Patek Philippe dress watch and ten times more than Rolex Submariner. Unsurprisingly, it came under quite a lot of fire. However, the allure of its unique design with its visible screws, octagonal brushed- and polished-facted bezel and intergrated bracelet, just proved too much and, slowly but surely, the Royal Oak became a hit with collectors and watch aficiaionados alike.

Audemars Piguet’s factory is still in Le Brassus, where the brand was founded and, unusually for the 21st century watch world, it remains an independent family-run company. Jasmine Audemars, fourth generation of one of the founding family, has been chairwoman of the board for the past 23 years and continues to have real influence on the brand’s trajectory. The Audemars Piguet Millenary watch featured above is an example of its 2015 collection which is designed for women.

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