Marcus’ Vintage Audemars Piguet Calendar Collection: Over the coming weeks there are going to be many new timepieces introduced and I’m sure Audemars Piguet will be amongst those. So we thought we’d present our third instalment of It’s Complicated. Now if you’ve read our previous instalment, then you’ll know last time we looked at Marcus’ vintage Audemars chronograph collection. This time round we are looking at just another snippet of Marcus Margulies incredible vintage Audemars Piguet calendar collection, which consists of some truly stunning timepieces that are just out-and-out awesome!
As you may have heard me mention before, AP are one of the three that is considered the ‘Holy Trinity’ of fine haute horlogerie timepieces; the others being Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin. Like their peers, they were also producing simply stunning triple and perpetual calendar moon phase timepieces but probably without as much critical acclaim. Just a few weeks ago we touched on the minutiae details of the moon phase and just how complicated some timepieces are and the lengths manufacturers go to, to achieve ultimate moon phase precision. While it ‘s true that these moon phases made in the early 1920’s aren’t as precise as what is produced today, they were nonetheless still as stunning. Probably even more so today, these handcrafted wristwatches were and still are pieces of art.
Last time we spoke about what Marcus wanted to do and if you haven’t read it you can check out that article here. But while many collectors are drawn by the allure of vintage Patek Philippe’s, Marcus has had a keen eye for vintage AP’s for some time. Marcus’ decision to start a collection of vintage AP’s was largely based on his respect for Patek Philippe who, over the years, have made many great timepieces and produced comparatively large quantities of highly priced watches. And though Audemars Piguet have not achieved the same level of success in the complicated watches. But Marcus feels that their designs are the very best that watches of that period have to offer and in all honesty, it’s hard to disagree.
Audemars started to manufacture full calendar timepieces in the 1920s. The production included calendars with a variety of displays, such as day, date and month through hands and moon phases in an aperture, or apertures for day and month with the date through a hand from the centre, and moon phase through the aperture.
Like many other watch manufacturers, who were not fully producing their own movements at the time, Audemars also had to source their base movements externally and in the case of just these six pieces we are showing you today, four house a movement from the likes of Valjoux. As we explained in our last segment we broke-down the use of the Valjoux 13”’ family. Then there are the others, which house a movement made by arguably one the finest movement manufacturers –LeCoultre now known as Jaeger LeCoultre. The Calibre 10”’ base features in a couple of pieces below.
1927 18-CARAT WHITE GOLD TRIPLE DATE MOON PHASE
This beautiful rectangular piece manufactured in 1927 has a little bit of an interesting past. It was first sold to a customer in Switzerland and then bought back by AP in 1931, it was then sold again to a company in La Chaux-de-Fonds for a 1440 Swiss francs, (approximately £940) which in those days was sizeable amount of money. The case is made from 18-carat white-gold and features a triple date function.
The silvery-white dial has some really interesting features: the black enamel railway track minute scale is as vibrant as ever. It features handmade, applied Breguet numerals, which adds distinction to the dial. The date is displayed via two apertures below 12 o’clock and an inner date scale, which also features compressed Breguet numerals. Within this scale is the moon phase with the inscription Audemars, Piguet & Co. just above it. This piece houses the Calibre 10”’GHSM 15/12 that we mentioned was a base movement made by JLC. Could you imagine if AP made a piece like this again!?
1928 18-CARAT WHITE GOLD TRIPLE DATE MOON PHASE
Another rectangular piece manufactured just a year after the previous timepiece. Sold in 1930 for 1075 Swiss francs to a famous jeweller in St Moritz, approximately £700. The case is also made from 18-carat white gold and features a triple calendar but with a different layout to the previous model. It sports four subsidiary dials, at 9, 12 and 3 o’clock are the weekday, date and month, indicators respectively.
Down at 6 o’clock is the running seconds and moon phase indicator with the inscription Audemars Piguet, Geneve at the centre, and a black enamel railway track minute scale. This vintage AP isn’t too dissimilar from a piece that Sotheby’s sold in November of last year, however this AP makes use of applied Breguet numerals. It houses the Calibre 10”’GHSM 15/12 that has been stamped with the Poinçon de Genève, again another breath-taking timepiece from AP.
1943 18-CARAT YELLOW GOLD TRIPLE DATE MOON PHASE CHRONOGRAPH
This moon phase AP differs a lot from what you’ve seen so far. Not only does it feature a triple calendar moon phase but it also incorporates a chronograph complication. From 1930 through to 1950, Audemars Piguet produced a very limited number of chronograph wristwatches – a total of only 286 examples were made during this 20 year period. While you may be accustomed to seeing rare vintage perpetual calendar moon phase chronograph Patek’s – I think it’s safe to say vintage Audemars Piguet chronographs, though incorporate simple calendar complications, are rarer!
This vintage triple date moon phase chronograph was one of the first timepieces to feature in the Audemars Piguet book and was originally sold in the US. It features 3 sub dials and a moon phase at 6 o’clock. At 9 o’clock is the running seconds and weekday indicator, at 12 is the date indicator and at 3 o’clock is the chronograph minutes and month indicator. The silver matte dial sports a tachymeter outer scale and applied gold 3D triangle hour markers. The yellow-gold case features extended downturned teardrop lugs and oval-shaped chronograph pushers. Inside this piece is an AP modified Valjoux base calibre 13”’ VZA movement.
1943 18-CARAT YELLOW GOLD TRIPLE DATE MOON PHASE CHRONOGRAPH
Another 1943 yellow-gold triple date moon phase chronograph, which indeed looks very similar but this particular piece has a very interesting story. This piece features, more or less, pretty much the same stuff. Three sub dials and a moon phase at 6 o’clock. At 9 o’clock is the running seconds and weekday indicator, at 12 is the date indicator and at 3 o’clock is the chronograph minutes and month indicator. The silver matte dial sports a blue tachymeter outer scale but this time features gold applied Arabic numerals. In fact according to the serial numbers this piece was made before the previous timepiece.
It too features extended downturned teardrop lugs and oval shaped chronograph pushers, it even bears some resemblance to one of the chronographs we looked at in the previous series. Where these two differ are in the case backs. Engraved on the case back is: ‘Ted Atkinson for unselfish service Jockeys’ Guild Sept 26th 1959’. I won’t go into the details about Ted Atkinson but let’s just say he achieved some incredible feats in his field of sport during his day. You can read more about him here. Beating away at the heart of this vintage AP chronograph is a modified Valjoux base calibre 13”’ VZA movement.
1957 18-CARAT YELLOW GOLD PERPETUAL CALENDAR MOON PHASE
Probably the most important perpetual calendar moon phases ever made by Audemars Piguet. First is this 1957 yellow-gold perpetual calendar moon phase, which is one of six pieces that were ever made with the moon phase displayed at 6 o’clock. There were three others made with the moon phase at 12 o’clock. A reference 5516 like this also featured on fellow watch website Hodinkee just last month but this particular piece has one minor difference. The sub dial at 12 o’clock, features four individual calendar months, however this piece also comes with a spare pristine dial that is exactly the same as the one featured on Hodinkee.
The silver two-tone dial features a satin and brushed finish and features gilt hands and hour markers. On the periphery of the dial is the date ring and indicated by the three sub dials at 9, 12 and 3 o’clock are weekdays, leap year indicator and month respectively. The yellow-gold case on this timepiece is rather interestingly shaped, as you can see from the images. Ticking away at the heart of this 5516 is base movement Valjoux 13”’VZSSQ. There are not enough superlatives to describe this watch, you have to see it!
1955 18-CARAT YELLOW GOLD PERPETUAL CALENDAR MOON PHASE
Then there is this, a perpetual calendar moon phase that is 1 of only three ever made and apart from the placement of the moon phase, it is practically the same piece as the 5516 above. However, this particular piece doesn’t have a reference number. But looking through Marcus’ vintage Audemars Piguet archive, it would seem he doesn’t have one but two of these beautiful timepieces and both are in exact condition. You’ll notice the dial finish is exactly the same as the 5516 but with the moon phase at 12 o’clock and you’ll see the leap year indicator at 6 o’clock is somewhat larger too. Inside this piece is the Valjoux 13”’ VZSS with QP (Quantieme Perpetual) module. Both the pieces that are in Marcus’ AP collection were both sold to the same store in 1959.
Vintage Audemars Piguet calendar timepieces are a lot harder to track, than say a Patek Philippe 1518, or for that matter a Vacheron Constantin 4240, because they just simply weren’t given reference numbers and also the limited numbers made. There is no dispute that while Patek Philippe outdo Audemars Piguet and pretty much most other watch manufacturers when it comes to vintage timepieces but in my opinion, there is something extra special about vintage AP’s.
I would, once again, like to extend a special thank you to Alex Rose of Marcus Watches for his time and help while putting this article together!