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What’s old is new again: The Audemars Piguet [Re]master01 chronograph

For its first new release of 2020, the Vallée de Joux’s preeminent watchmaker revives an icon — and no, it isn’t a Royal Oak.

Three years ago, an Audemars Piguet ref. 1533 managed to fetch CHF $384,500 at auction — a sizable figure which, to this day, represents a high watermark for the brand’s relatively underrated catalogue of vintage chronographs. Like many other beloved mid-century references — manufactured by the ‘Holy Trinity’ of Swiss horology — the ref. 1533’s importance possesses numerous dimensions. When the style was first introduced in the 1940s, its standout attribute was the usage of triple registers: a layout most collectors (at the time) deemed fairly radical. Adding to this desirability, according to reports by both scholars and the brand itself, Audemars Piguet produced only a handful of chronographs throughout the period: no more than 307 to be exact. Of that number, a minuscule 9 ref. 1533 chronographs were made; with the rarest examples being those featuring two-tone gold and steel cases. (It’s important to mention that the ref. 1533 which sold at auction in 2017 featured the aforesaid two-tone case construction.)

Audemars Piguet
Pictured: an original ref. 1533, complete with two-tone case and gilt dial. (Image source: PHILLIPS)

Now, that particular ref. 1533 is once again being thrust back into the spotlight, as it provides the launchpad for the first new Audemars Piguet of 2020: the [Re]master01. Described by Michael Friedman (Head of Complications) as “a contemporary remastering of a past creation”, the [Re]master01 is a self-winding chronograph that combines heritage design with cutting-edge engineering; and is being released ahead of the much-anticipated opening of the Audemars Piguet museum this June. The first press images began circulating online yesterday and, we have to say, it’s a definite heel turn from last year’s forward-looking (if polarising) CODE 11.59 collection.

Audemars Piguet

Although brand representatives have been careful to emphasise that the [Re]master01 isn’t a blow-for-blow remake, all key design elements of the ref. 1533 have been retained for this release. The lugs are shaped in the distinctive teardrop style, evoking the golden age of Art-Deco design; the case features peripheral elements in steel and pink gold; and the typefaces used throughout the various scales are virtually identical to what you’ll find in the ref. 1533. This studied approach carries over to the dial, which sports a gilt finish (itself a neat allusion to the only ref. 1533 manufactured with a champagne-gold dial).

Each handset is also faithful to mid-century design codes: with each colour denoting a particular function. Gold is used for current measures of time (e.g. hours & minutes) whereas blued steel is reserved for the chronograph totalisers. What’s more, wearers who are mainly acquainted with the modern ‘AP’ logo are likely to be surprised by the [Re]master01’s branding. Here, the signature closely follows the one you’ll find on the ref. 1533 and consists of multiple lines which read ‘Audemars, Piguet & Co/Genève’. Complete with a stylised ‘o’ on the end of the first line, this signature encapsulates this release’s charming throwback energy as a whole.

There can be very little contention that Audemars Piguet intended to create a watch with strong historic credentials, but upon closer inspection you’ll also find traits that identify this as an extremely contemporary exercise in watchmaking. The less immediately discernible of these is the case size. The [Re]master01 measures 40mm x 14.6mm, and it’s likely these proportions will wear even larger thanks to the shape of the lugs, pushers, and crown. That alone lends this watch enough of a visual distinctness from the ref. 1533, which comes in noticeably smaller at 36.5mm.

That creeping sensation of a modern timepiece graduates to a full-blown shout when you start looking at the movement. Dubbed the calibre 4409, this is Audemars Piguet’s latest integrated in-house chrono, built similarly to other high-end examples in the genre; and partially inspired by a movement introduced as part of the CODE 11.59 collection. There’s the usual column wheel/vertical clutch control system, a power reserve which the brand’s engineers have managed to ratchet up to 70 hours, and a flyback mechanism that allows wearers to continue timing without a full reset. While we know a lot of enthusiasts were hoping for a manufacture grade remake of the original manually-wound movement (the Valjoux 13VZAH) the calibre 4409 is another extremely handsome addition to Audemars Piguet’s growing stable of in-house chronographs.

Audemars Piguet

The Audemars Piguet [Re]master01 self-winding chronograph will be sold as a boutique exclusive in a limited run of 500 pieces. It is priced at (approx) HK$398,000 and will be available from the end of March. To learn more, visit Audemars Piguet online.

Randy Lai
Having worked in the Australian digital media landscape for over 5 years, Randy has extensive experience in men's specialist categories such as classic clothing, watches and spirits. He is partial to mid-century chronographs and a nice chianti.