Luxury watchmakers are always looking for ways to push the limits in their craft. Swiss company HYT recently released a watch with a fluid-filled case while Montblanc created a timepiece that shows all 24 time zones. But Audemars Piguet decided to go back in time to make their latest showstopper: a chiming watch with a bespoke enamel dial crafted by Anita Porchet and her atelier.
The Swiss haute horlogerie manufacturer is releasing five Grande Sonnerie Carillon Supersonnerie timepieces as part of The Code 11.59 collection. What makes the watches so unique is that only a handful of watchmakers are trained to assemble a Grande Sonnerie, which features a unique chiming mechanism that dates back to the 14th century.
A Grande Sonnerie timepiece strikes on the hour, quarters, and minutes on request like a traditional minute repeater. But it can also chime on the hours and every quarter-hour without any involvement from the wearer. A carillon means that it sounds with three gongs and hammers instead of the standard two, causing three successive notes (high, middle, and low) to ring every quarter-hour. The chiming can be deactivated in silent mode and has the acoustic capabilities of a pocket watch. All of this patented technology is thanks to eight years of research in collaboration with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL).
“The Grande Sonnerie is the acme of chiming watches,” Lucas Raggi, Development Director, told Departures in a statement. “Like an orchestra, the synchronization of components has to be perfect to guarantee the automatic chiming of the hours and quarters. It took us four years to meet the challenge of combining this traditional mechanism with our Supersonnerie technology, which we endowed with the Carillon function (3 gongs).”
To celebrate this remarkable technology and historical skillset, Audemars Piguet collaborated with renowned Swiss enameller artisan Anita Porchet to handcraft “Grand Feu” enamel dials. She created three versions using antique gold spangles over a century old. For the other two versions, clients can request a personalized enamel dial created by Anita Porchet’s atelier.
“What fascinates me with this craft is the 360-degree of possibilities and creations it offers, like a painter in front of a blank canvas,” Anita Porchet, Swiss Enameller, said in a statement. “By collaborating with Audemars Piguet, I benefited from a larger freedom in the exploration and contemporary reinterpretation of the ancestral ‘paillonné’ technique, which has provided me with an enriching vision.”
The price of owning a rare modern piece of history? The Grande Sonnerie watch retails for $775,000.