Grande Complications buyers may be collectors ready to acquire the pinnacle of the Swiss company’s watchmaking—Grande Complications cost over half a million dollars—or they may be watch aficionados who collect the finest pieces from the world’s most exclusive brands. But each Grande Complication is designed to be consistent with the brand’s aesthetics yet allowing for considerable input from the client. At any point in the process, which takes six months to a year, the client can visit the watchmaker here to see his or her timepiece as it comes together. The end result: a watch that reflects not only Audemars Piguet’s renowned design tradition but also the individual taste of its owner.
This fascinating room is worth the trip. Here, some of the world’s finest craftspeople work within feet of each other, but separated by the fact that each is dedicated to a single project so small that you wear it on your wrist. When I asked them what kind of a person becomes a watchmaker at such a high level, they paused and pushed their chairs back from their tables.
“You have to be patient, maybe a little bit crazy,” joked one.
“Each of us has a strong personality,” said another. “You have to have the power to do a perfect job from beginning to end.”
A passion for watchmaking is, they agreed, a hard thing to explain; the increments of watchmaking are not the kind of thing you can share with friends at the pub. “The respect we really get,” said one, “comes from people who know the brand and dream of owning what we produce best.”
As these watchmakers, so gifted with their hands, struggled to articulate their passion, what did become clear was the depth of that passion. They are modest, but they are very, very good at their craft, and their pride in their work was palpable.
I asked if they had favorite watches. Several quickly shook their heads no. “Every piece is different,” said one.
Was it difficult to work on something so intimate, so, well, personal—only to have a customer take it away? Again, heads shook no. “The true satisfaction,” said one man, “is to make a great product and then know that someone will show it, someone will wear it who understands what it took to make it.”
And a piece of art will have both an owner and an audience.
Richard Bradley is Chief Content Officer at the Worth Group. This is part three of a four-part series.