Was it only 14-odd months ago that Audemars Piguet released the 11:59? A watch which caused an expulsion of (mostly unwarranted, IMO) vitriol, going down in history as an ugly benchmark example of internet pack mentality? It turns out it was, and boy, what a difference a year can make. The 11:59 is sold out, and we’ve all got much more important things to be worrying about in our self-isolation. Thankfully that hasn’t stopped Audemars Piguet from offering up some sweet vintage vindication, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that AP has what it takes to make a belting watch that isn’t a Royal Oak.
The latest offering is the [Re]master01—an oddly named (albeit SEO friendly) chronograph that in some respects serves, on some level, as a sotto voce FU to internet haters by being a watch that lives up to its name. It is a masterful reworking of a masterful watch, and a very rare one at that. It’s also, the press release promises, not the last time we’ll see this sort of modern recreation of a historical piece from the brand. I can’t help but feel that this is (almost) a bigger story than the watch itself, as we’ve long been wondering how, or if, AP will finally break away from their current status of being solely known as the home of the Royal Oak.
Audemars Piguet only made 307 chronographs between the 30s and the 50s—rare birds indeed—but the watch this model is based on is more exclusive by a significant order of magnitude. The source watch was made in 1943, oversized (for the time) at 36mm, and cased in steel and pink gold. The brand reckons that only three steel and gold chronographs of this type were ever manufactured. This historically significant source watch now sits in Audemars Piguet’s collection, having been purchased at auction in 2015. Before we do the traditional side-by-side and specs analysis that is the norm for this sort of news, let’s take a second to consider how wild it was that watches like this were being made in mid-40s Switzerland, when Europe was literally burning. It’s even wilder to think that this watch was sold in 1943. What an origin story.
Back to the [Re]Master01. Unlike the original, this watch cannot be considered oversized — indeed the 40mm case is positively sedate by modern standards, not that I think you’ll find anyone complaining. What hasn’t changed is that case design. With some exceptional teardrop lugs (the sort that old auction catalogues would definitely describe as ‘fancy’), combined with that pebble-shaped case profile, and a pink gold bezel, crown, and pushers topping it off; this all adds up to a take on two-tone that is about as distinguished as it is possible to imagine. While there’s a lot of small details that you can fall for on this watch, for me it’s the crown and pushers that won me over. Again, modern re-creations of the original, but somehow they feel fresh and relevant … and now. The crown is broad and unsigned, perfect for winding a manual chronograph movement (of course this remaster is rocking an automatic), and the ovoid pushers are clearly custom and elegant as all get-out. They’re also an object lesson in the importance of proportion.
There’s a lot to like about the dial as well — it’s as crisp an execution as you’ll see anywhere. Audemars Piguet describe it as yellow gold-tone, and that pretty much sums it up. It’s yellower and bolder than champagne. It’s also great that they’ve introduced a third metallic tone into the mix. Maximalism for the win. With three slightly recessed subdials (and not a date in sight), the layout of this dial is neat as a pin, as is the printing. I was instantly drawn to that oh-so-mid-century’ 12′, and the accompanying elongated hour-markers, not noticing little details like the heritage AP logo, blued chronograph function hands and the unobtrusive red’ 45′ on the minutes marker (for half-time in soccer matches, obviously).
Then we get to the movement. The calibre 4409 is a no-date variant of the brand-new automatic chronograph movement launched in the 11:59 last year. It’s a solid technical calibre, beating at 4 Hz, and offering 70 hours of power reserve. It also rivals the front for prettiness, with nice finishing (it’s Audemars Piguet, so no need to be surprised there), and a lovely pink gold rotor.
There are a few things not to love about this watch — the fact that it’s limited to 500 pieces is one, and the 20 metres of water resistance is a little more authentically vintage than I’m comfortable with in 2020. Aside from that, the [Re]master01 is a critical hit in all the ways that matter. It’s (understandably) been a slow start for watch releases this year, but it feels like the heat is starting to turn up.
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