I saw firsthand that coalescence of history and innovation at the company’s headquarters. In Audemars Piguet’s restoration workshop, I met two brilliant men who masterfully restore and repair the watches, fashioning new parts by hand for timepieces for which there are no spare parts available. Nearby, at the Manufacture des Forges, I saw dozens of craftsmen working intensely over watches in different stages of creation. This modern atelier is on the second floor of a building and is flooded with natural light. Visitors must don a watchmaker coat and booties to protect the integrity of this work space.
I met five men and women who make Grande Complications. Each artisan works on one watch a time, and each Grande Complication takes about six months to make. It is then assembled and disassembled three times for testing. These were humble people who recognize that they are part of a centuries-old tradition, and they did not easily make small talk about their work. But as they gradually opened up, it became clear that they were immensely passionate and very proud of what they do—and very generous with their gift. I asked if it was hard to work on a watch for six months and then have to say farewell when it was time for delivery to a customer. Not at all, they told me. They knew that their work was going to be worn by someone who truly appreciated it—and would show it to the world.
I’ve tried to do something similar in these four articles: to explain not just the technological achievement contained within every Grande Complication timepiece, but to communicate the human tradition they each reflect. With their origins in individual craftsmanship, they embody the past, signify the present and suggest the future. They are time, and timeless.
Richard Bradley is chief content officer at the Worth Group. This is part four of a four-part series.