Watch Snob Goes All In on Audemars Piguet’s Obscure Offerings

Watch Snob Goes All In on Audemars Piguet’s Obscure Offerings

All Audemars, All the Time

Millenary Take One


I get it that a great deal of watch “value” is about the image it projects to others. That is why celebrity endorsements work, and that is sticking to the established archetypes (man as diver, pilot, James Bond) will always sell.

At the same time, it hurts my eyes to see that the price of the value watches you often recommend (Nomos, Tudor, Seiko) you can get a veritable piece of no compromise high horology. Of course, it will not be the hot and hyped model, but still.

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The watch I have in mind is the forgotten and unpopular Audemars Piguet Millenary ref. 15016. It is a perfect everyday watch, almost a field watch in its austere black dial aesthetics and time-only functionality. At the same time, it has a unique design, a well-finished movement from a Big Three Swiss brand, an elegant thin profile — what is not to love for the price of a Tudor Black Bay (on pre-owned market, of course)?

Please prove me wrong in my reasoning. Am I not wise?

Here is wisdom: He that hath an ear, let him hear. You are indeed wise. The Millenary in general and that watch in particular are an opportunity to own an interesting watch with an intriguing design that has largely been passed over by the enthusiast community. The movement is the Audemars Piguet caliber 2225, which is derived — if my memory’s right —  from the Jaeger-LeCoultre 960; very nicely finished by AP.

The reason that the price is as low as it generally is, is obvious — an oval-shaped dress watch is not particularly what the market wanted from Audemars Piguet, and the Millenary (which came out in 1995) never really caught fire in the market. In fact, as a men’s dress watch, it was a bit of a flop, although AP has occasionally used the design for really spectacular statement pieces, like the astonishingly lovely Cabinet Piece No. 5 and the Millenary Minute Repeater. If, however, you don’t care about the fact that the Millenary Collection is currently largely a repository for ladies’ timepieces, you can indeed get something very nice for not a great deal of money. It’s not a bad litmus test for whether someone is a serious watch person either: Anyone who recognizes a Millenary as an AP has probably been around watches for a while. The same is true of the Edward Piguet collection, which AP has abandoned, more’s the pity.


Millenary Take Two


I have enjoyed watch collecting for many years, but I think that my interest is getting depleted. When I just started, there was so much to learn and understand: “What are the good brands? What are the good models? What makes them good? What makes a watch valuable and why?” Most importantly, it was a journey of self-discovery and an exercise in critical thinking, as I had to dig through the layers of marketing narratives and the taste of others to formulate my own values and the watches that these represent. Now, however, I have figured out the answers to these questions and there is not much new learning to sustain my interest.

Therefore, I want to retire from the hobby, but do so in the proper way — by sealing the decade of an obsessive-compulsive quest with a few horological symbols of my newly recovered, liberated self. First, to represent the values of creativity, originality and individuality, I will get the Audemars Piguet Millenary Chronograph ref. 25822. Second, to represent mechanical tradition, elegance, and a certain “ancient” chic, Breguet ref. 3490. Third, for the everyday, practical wear and the appreciation of sculpture, Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph ref. 49150. All these watches are from top-end brands and represent good value for money, thanks to them being non-mainstream and under the radar.

Not that I am unsure of my choices. They are thought-out, but it is interesting still to hear an opinion of a hobby veteran: you. Would you say that there are better candidates out there to stand for my values?

I’m flabbergasted. Two questions in one week that reference one of the more obscure modern watch designs, by which I mean the Audemars Piguet Millenary. I wonder if the design mightn’t be poised to take the world by storm at long last … almost certainly not, it is simply too much an oddball, but you never know.

OK, sir, to the business. You obviously know your own tastes and I can see from the watches that you have chosen that you know watches quite well also. There is little or nothing that I can do to further educate you about the watches you have picked. They each of them represent aspects of the company that has made them, that are a bit off the radar, as you say, but that are also highly characteristic of those firms. The Millenary, for instance, is a reminder that once upon a time, creativity in case designs was very much more AP’s stock in trade than is currently the case.

This particular approach really does have its pleasures. By this, I mean the approach of finding watches made by very good brands with real history, which, for whatever reason, have been passed over by broader tastes (pocket watches in general are an excellent example). If you were at the beginning of your horological activities I might counsel you to find something more generally appealing, but as you are clearly aware, general appeal can also be generic appeal and comes with a higher price tag. There are always alternatives to any choice, however well-educated it may be. I might suggest some of AP’s extra-flat series produced watches from the period, say, 1965 to 1975 as representing an interesting alternative to the Millenary, but the latter has much character on its side.


Mountain Time


Every once in a while when I am casually surfing the web or reading emails, the greedy servers lurking in the background try to sell me things and throw up something that actually catches my eye.

This week I was presented an ad for a watch with a single hand and a 24 hour dial. I won’t bother you with the details of the maker of this obscure quartz offering, but the marketing verbiage talked about the mindset of slowing down and seeing the world rather than rushing through with pointless precision — getting off the hamster wheel of life and all that. So I began searching around for better examples of the single-hand complication (simplification?). I did not see many. Are there any current offerings in this genre that you might find interesting?

Thinking about why this ad was presented to me, I realized I had been reading much about the Long Now Foundation and their project to build a 10,000 year mechanical clock in a mountain in the desert. Although it’s obviously not a watch, would the Snob care to render any opinion on this also?

Aha, yes, the Clock of the Long Now. We have a working scale model in the Science Museum (in London) which is worth a visit. It is a most fascinating project, creating a mechanical object capable of running for so long a period of time poses unique engineering challenges, of course, but it is also a kind of public artwork with many intriguing features. It will probably be over the heads of most readers, and the fact that the construction is being funded by the controversial billionaire Jeff Bezos may color perceptions, but the fact remains, it is one of the most worthwhile clock projects in … well, ever, I daresay.

Single-hand watches are rare; most folks would prefer to know the time to a bit better resolution. Audemars Piguet, to bring up obscure APs again, made one, the so-called Philosopher’s Watch, which is worth hunting around for. It is ref. 9040, I believe. Billed as a lady’s watch and a bit small, but I think at this point in the Year of Our Lord 2019, we can ignore that. Other than that, may I recommend you to a little brand called Meistersinger. They have more or less cornered the market for hour-hand-only watches and have for many years. (They do, if I recall correctly, a jumping hours version as well.) They are charming, interesting, and you would have to exert yourself to spend more than perhaps $2,000 at most to get one.


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