featured 28, Apr 2017 05:50pm
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Claude Emmenegger, Creative Director, Audemars Piguet

Openwork dials are an essential part of haute horology today but back in the day not many watchmakers were familiar with the art. Audemars Piguet is one of the few brands to have mastered this over the last century. To know more about the fascinating concept and the brand's long association with artistic crafts, we caught up with Claude Emmenegger, Creative Director, Audemars Piguet. Excerpts from the interview:

WTI: A lot of brands are making skeleton timepieces these days. What's the USP of Audemars Piguet?

CE: The art of openworking has been a focal point for Audemars Piguet since the 1930s. The emphasis has always been on retaining the handmade and hand-finishing techniques of the past while designing them for the future. When you examine an openworked Audemars Piguet, all the interior angles – and there are hundreds of them – are the work of women and men achieving the aesthetic by hand.



WTI: What are the challenges involved in the assembly of an openwork timepiece?

CE: Designing a timepiece involves a delicate balance of the primary elements – the case, the dial and the movement. In an openwork timepiece where the movement becomes the dial of the watch, it is even more difficult. Even when a watch has a beautifully designed and crafted case and bracelet, if the openwork of the movement is not visually impactful, the watch is unlikely to be a success.

WTI: The tapiserrie guilloché design has long been a trademark of Audemars Piguet, so much so, that the art has been passed down from one generation of watchmakers to the next. What is the process that goes behind making these dials?

CE: Indeed, the guilloché design requires a skill and savoir-faire that are no longer taught in schools, but which live on at Audemars Piguet as watchmakers hand down the skill from generation to generation. From the engine-turning process used to create the guilloché pattern right through to the final finishing, Audemars Piguet crafts the signature Petite and Grande Tapisserie dials from beginning to end. It takes seven hours to prepare the dial and its "Tapisserie" motif using a rare in-house expertise. Its complex manufacture demands dexterity and follows several distinct stages, 12 in total. The exact surface of one "Petite Tapisserie" square is 0.49MM2.

WTI: What are the various gem-setting techniques used in the making of the Diamond Outrage and Diamond Fury timepieces?

CE: Audemars Piguet artisans have used the snow-setting technique for both Diamond Outrage and Diamond Punk creations where stones are set so close together that the white gold frame housing each stone virtually disappears. In addition to this, we have also included three baguette-set spikes on the full diamond version of Diamond Outrage using a rare technique - the invisible setting. Here, linear-cut diamonds appear to float, held perfectly in place as if no setting were required.

Finally, for Diamond Fury, the second piece of the trilogy presented in 2016, we have used a traditional gemsetting technique but in a forward thinking blueprint. The Audemars Piguet Diamond Trilogy is unconventional, as the cuffs blur the lines between watches and jewellery by becoming a statement of power, independence while still remaining elegant. These are the 21st century jewellery armours.

WTI: Does your partnership with Art Basel serve as a two-way street, when it comes to gaining inspiration from the various concepts of art and design?

CE: Watches are products of culture and the design codes exist as much between categories as they do within categories. For example, an Art Deco Audemars Piguet watch can be readily identified as a product from its era by anybody with a strong sense of Art Deco aesthetics. The shape of the case, style of the numerals, etc., all reflect this broader aesthetic. Art Basel does not directly affect our watches, however the great creativity and energy of the artists that we work with have an influence on our watchmakers' work, while our artisans also inspire the artists during their immersion into our world. It is truly a two-way inspirational experience!

WTI: What are some of the oldest restoration techniques which have been used by Audemars Piguet? Are those valid even today?

CE: Audemars Piguet has a dedicated restoration workshop where master watchmakers restore historical Audemars Piguet watches, utilising the techniques and tools from the past. Components are made by hand from raw material in very much the same way that Jules Audemars and Edward Piguet would have done themselves. There is open dialogue and collaboration between the master watchmakers that specialise in both our oldest and newest creations.


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