It is in the heart of the Vallée de Joux, a region that beats to the tune of complicated watch mechanisms, that everything started for Audemars Piguet in 1875.
THE VALLÉE DE JOUXCENTRE OF COMPLICATED WATCHES The Vallée de Joux, birthplace of Audemars Piguet and one of the centres of high-end Swiss watchmaking, is an awe-inspiring region nestled in the Jura Mountains, north of Geneva.
The region’s natural resources—specifically the forests, water, ice and rocks from which iron ore could be extracted—provided the means for the watch industry to evolve and thrive.
To this very day, the raw nature of this rugged region with vibrant views of the clear night sky, has served as inspiration for watchmakers.
Watch mechanisms are indeed representations of the passage of time as dictated by astronomy and nature has always inspired the development of time measurement devices.
WHERE FARMERS MASTERED THE UNYIELDING ENVIRONMENT
It all started towards the end of the 18th century in the Vallée de Joux, when farmers began dedicating their workday to horological craftsmanship during long winter months in the light-filled rooms at the top of their farmhouses. They transformed their agrarian dwellings into high quality ateliers for the production of watch parts such as wheels, bridges, springs, semi-precious stones, pinions and all manner of specialist part production and assembly. This tightly knit network of family artisanship that developed in the region gave birth to some of the most complicated mechanisms ever produced.
Audemars Piguet’s watchmaking foundations were laid on this rare savoir-faire, which dates back to bygone days and has been handed down from generation to generation. Since 1875, these talented craftspeople have practiced their skills at the highest level, building on tradition while continuously pushing further the limits of their crafts to create timepieces imbued with the Manufacture’s savoir-faire and forward-thinking spirit.
SPIRIT OF INDEPENDENCE
Still in the hands of the founding families, Audemars Piguet is endowed with a unique spirit of independence. The founders’ visionary workmanship and uncompromising spirit have infused the brand to this day.
Jules Louis Audemars (1851–1918) and Edward Auguste Piguet (1853–1919), two young and ambitious watchmakers, established their workshop in 1875 in their home village of Le Brassus. Believing in the power of the Vallée de Joux’s network of artisanship and following their firm convictions, they set on crafting unique complicated mechanisms by hand at a time when serial production was looming with the rise of industrialisation.
While the two entrepreneurs first produced complicated movements that were sold to Geneva-based firms, they soon orchestrated the production of complete watches in the region by coordinating the activities of a variety of craftsmen, buying in blanks, cases, dials, bracelets and sending out pieces for gem-setting and decorating. The miniaturisation, design, assembly and setting of movements were then done at Audemars Piguet workbenches.
Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet
The company ledgers demonstrate that nearly 80% of the some 1600 watches produced by Audemars Piguet between 1882 and 1892 included at least one, if not several complications. Refined chiming, chronograph and astronomical watches, assembled and finished by hand, have remained the beating heart of Audemars Piguet ever since.
Audemars Piguet is more than a company. It remains independent and family owned, responsible for the transmission of knowledge and know-how to the future generations. Here in Le Brassus, where it all started in 1875.
Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors
Audemars Piguet’s oldest building, where Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet set business, was built in 1868 in their home village of Le Brassus. To complement their original workshop, the two entrepreneurs built their first Manufacture in 1907 next to the house where they started. Today, this building houses part of the brand’s headquarters.
BIRTH OF A MANUFACTURE
Until 1950, the Manufacture employed between 10 to 30 craftspeople. The number grew to 100 with the birth of the Royal Oak in the 1970s. Since then, Audemars Piguet, which counts more than 2000 employees worldwide today, has seen the development of several buildings and manufacturing sites in Le Brassus, Le Locle and Meyrin. In 2008, Audemars Piguet notably inaugurated the Manufacture des Forges in Le Brassus where hundreds of engineers, watchmakers and craftspeople work every day to create the extra-ordinary.
Despite its growth, Audemars Piguet remains firmly attached to the production of small series, all reflecting the Manufacture’s forward-thinking approach to craftsmanship.
RAISED AROUND THE WORLD
Although deeply rooted in the Vallée de Joux, Audemars Piguet has developed steadily over the years thanks to its connection to and dialogue with the outer world in terms of culture and distribution network.
Audemars Piguet has always found inspiration in fields as varied as art, architecture and science and established enduring relationships with prestigious designers and retailers across the world, such as Cartier in Paris and Tiffany in New York.
To make a name for themselves and slowly gain respect worldwide, Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet notably participated in Universal Exhibitions, such as the one held in Paris in 1889.
Born in Le Brassus, Audemars Piguet’s timepieces have been raised around the world.
Audemars Piguet is a luxury Swiss watch company founded in 1875 by Jules-Louis Audemars and Edward-Auguste Piguet. The company is known for its high-end timepieces, which are often made with precious materials such as gold, platinum, and diamonds. Audemars Piguet is based in the village of Le Brassus in the Vallée de Joux, Switzerland, and has a reputation for producing some of the finest and most complicated mechanical watches in the world. The company has a long history of innovation and has been responsible for several important advancements in the field of watchmaking, including the development of the first wristwatch with a perpetual calendar and the first wristwatch with a minute repeater. Audemars Piguet watches are highly prized by collectors and are considered to be among the finest watches available.
A FEAT OF MECHANICS Calibre 2120 was born in 1967 in the Jura Mountains from the collaboration of LeCoultre & Cie, Audemars Piguet, and Vacheron Constantin. This mechanism powered the first high-end sports watch by Audemars Piguet, a 100-year-old manufacturer, a few years later.
THE FIRST SKETCH Audemars Piguet's then-Managing Director, Georges Golay, called Gérald Genta on April 11, 1970, at 4 p.m. and asked him to design "an unprecedented steel watch" for the next morning. The designer recalled a childhood memory that inspired him to create these protective headpieces: seeing divers prepare to plunge into the Rhône, their lives dependent on the watertightness of their helmets.
PATENTED INNOVATION An octagonal bezel with eight hexagonal screws through the steel casing and eight nuts squeezing a huge gasket is ridiculous! Casemakers doubted the watch's viability. Gold, a more malleable substance than steel, was requested for practise.
FOR WOMEN Absolutely radical! Jacquline Dimier designed the first Royal Oak for women. The proportions were rethought, but its core codes—straight lines, steel case, integrated bracelet, Tapisserie dial, hand finishes, and selfwinding movement—remained.
BETWEEN EARTH MOON AND SKY The Royal Oak's Calibre 2120/2800 perpetual calendar movement met two legends in 1984. A groundbreaking system that revived problems following the quartz crisis. A futuristic octagonal watch promises many surprises.
DEFYING GRAVITY The Le Brassus watchmakers added a tourbillon to the Royal Oak's 25th anniversary watch to honour the complication's revival. They built the 80 gravity-defying components at their workbenches.