Discovering A New Friend: Audemars Piguet Jules Audemars Chronometer With AP Escapement
When the weather starts getting colder I often like to curl up with a good book, something with a lot of depth and adventure. Or possibly begin a movie marathon of my favorite films where I like to dig deep into the narrative and see things from new angles and in interesting ways.
Sometimes the best way to find something new is to look at something you’ve been looking at for years, simply from a new angle. Let’s take, as an example, the film The Hustler starring Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason. I was young during my first viewing, early high school age, and I saw it as a tale about a drunken pool hustler who made bad decisions, hurt people, and didn’t know when to quit.
For years I watched it as such, and only upon reaching adulthood and facing an entirely different world than I had imagined could I see the story any differently. Where before I saw bad decisions and a lack of morals, I now glimpsed a man hiding behind a tough exterior because he was terrified to be himself, especially if that person wasn’t the best pool player around.
Suddenly, the story took on an entirely new meaning and I saw an incredible amount of depth I had never noticed before. This can happen in everyday life as well: rekindling a past romance only to realize it was a much deeper connection than you had ever known or visiting a town you used to always disregard, but which now pulls at your heart like a second home you never knew.
Things have a way of changing on you while you aren’t looking, so that when you come back to them, a new level of appreciation can blossom.
Level of understanding
This happens with timepieces as well, once a new level of knowledge and understanding is gained or some new insights are made clear, you will fall in love with a watch all over again.
This happened to me recently when I was perusing the archives of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. I came across the winner of the men’s watch category in 2009 and knew that I needed to take another look.
For those of you (like me) who don’t memorize all the past winners for every category, the 2009 winner was none other than the Audemars Piguet Jules Audemars Chronometer with AP Escapement, or ChronoAP for short.
Oh, yes, if you forgot about that piece due to all the incredible watches of late, then I suggest you take another look because I sure did and I found love.
It didn’t take me by surprise exactly, but I was still delightfully enthralled as I reread about the ChronoAP and all the technology and design that went into it.
The Audemars Piguet Jules Audemars Chronometer with AP Escapement debuted with much fanfare at the 2009 edition of the SIHH. Deservedly, it came with the high frequency, lubricant-free AP Escapement, which was unveiled in 2006, The beautifully finished movement has a stout power reserve and is C.O.S.C.-certified, but perhaps more importantly, the movement stands by the purpose of the AP Escapement in the first place: improved accuracy.
The AP Escapement is really a marvel and quite interesting considering improvements to escapements are generally not seen as often as improvements to, well, almost every other area of a watch.
So the AP Escapement burst onto the block in more ways than one. First off, and probably most significantly, it is of the direct impulse variety. This latter element was only made possible thanks to improved precision now available in manufacturing combined with a two-hundred-year-old design.
The AP Escapement is directly inspired by the Robert Robin escapement invented in 1791.
Improving upon that escapement in many ways, the AP Escapement takes the concept of a single direct impulse with passive locking pallets and brings it into the twenty-first century. It solves the problem of shock sensitivity and reduces the amount of energy absorption over the standard lever escapement. It also reduces the sliding friction by trimming the sliding distance from 0.4 millimeters to 0.05 millimeters.
This reduction has a second benefit as well. With hardly any sliding contact, the requirement for lubrication is eliminated, making the escapement lubrication-free and requiring service less often. When lubrication is eliminated, new avenues can open as well.
Making things go faster
You can make things go faster if you want. Well, technically you can always make things move faster, but there are consequences. If you have a standard escapement moving faster than, say, 36,000 vibrations per hour, then the lubrication can be flung off the moving parts and into other areas of the mechanism, possibly causing things to seize or become gummy.
Without lubrication to get in the way, you can push the oscillation speed higher. Audemars Piguet has created a balance wheel that vibrates at 6 Hz (43,200 vph) and utilizes two hairsprings.
Mounted 180 degrees opposed, the twin hairsprings allow for easier regulation of the balance and for the compensation of any defects in the hairsprings and the equilibrium of the balance. his keeps the balance and springs as symmetrical as possible while providing a much faster rate, which in turn improves isochronism (uniform period of oscillation.)
Now take that amazing escapement and meld it with impeccable Audemars Piguet design and you have the Jules Audemars Chronometer with AP Escapement. Simply put, it is a beauty to look at. Designed to look like a combination of vintage pocket watch with touches of a grande sonnerie and an open-worked layout, Caliber 2908 is stunning.
In addition to twin barrels and a balance and escapement positioned so as to be mirrored by a power reserve indicator, the in-line elements of the dial provide incredible depth and variety in perfectly finished symmetry.
The movement on center stage
Every element is treated well; even the base plate is completely covered with guilloche. Turning the piece over to view the rear side of the movement brings even more fun, with a variety of wheels, a sprung ratchet wheel, more guilloche, and open-working for bridges and wheels alike.
The variety of finishes found on the various components is terrific, touching on pretty much every finish you can think of in some way or another. Glory and honor is given to the movement, and adequate space to view it all is provided by the case and dial set-up.
This movement is a feast for the eyes, and the case design allows it to take center stage. I think I looked at this for at least three hours before I even thought to take notice of the simple and restrained case, which allows for the watch to have intense depth and yet remain classic and timeless.
In the second iteration of the ChronoAP, Audemars Piguet chose to do away with the guilloche and switch to snailing, and increased contrast with a pink gold and black enamel dial, and treated plates and bridges.
Personally I cannot choose which one is my favorite as I absolutely love monochromatic watches, while pink gold pulls at my emotions.
Either way it’s a win-win with these pieces; they really stand second to none.
Returning to this timepiece after so many years and having seen and learned so much in the intervening time, I was able to take a fresh look at the ChronoAP. No longer was it just a cool watch with some cool features, it was now a fully mature and complicated entity containing more than meets the eye (which is still spectaculawesome).
I am so glad that I stumbled across it in the archives of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève because it reminded me of the grace and style for which I love Audemars Piguet. To me, this piece is unlikely to be overshadowed in the brand’s collection any time soon and that is including the Millenary Minute Repeater (increditastic) or even the grand complications in any category.
The Jules Audemars Chronometer with AP Escapement takes the cake.
Mmmm, cake. Dangit, there goes my diet. Let’s just break things down instead!
• Wowza Factor * 9.39 The movement design and sheer effort in finishing make this thing wow at every glance.
• Late Night Lust Appeal * 140.5 » 1377.834m/s2 More than a sprint missile this watch has the force to keep you planted in your chair to lust into the wee hours of the morning.
• M.G.R. * 68.8 Just look at this three-dimensional piece of Audemars Piguet horological beauty. Need I say more?
• Added-Functionitis * Moderate Once again the ever-useful power reserve. Never gets old and in this piece it adds to the balance of the whole. I recommend normal-strength the Gotta-HAVE-That cream for the well balanced swelling.
• Ouch Outline * 11.87 – Getting your shoelace caught in your bicycle spokes Any young boy or girl probably has had this happen, and hopefully just once! But still, for a chance at this piece, I would let both my shoes become forever entangled!
• Mermaid Moment * Immediate There is no lapse of time between first seeing it and first falling in love. Seriously, call the minister because I am ready to say “I do!”
• Awesome Total * 864 Remove the extra zeros off the frequency (43,200) and multiply it by the number of hairsprings and you come to our awesome total. Totally justified.
For more information, please visit www.audemarspiguet.com.
Case: 46 x 12.7 mm, platinum or pink gold
Movement: manually wound Caliber 2908
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; power reserve
Price: $350,000 in platinum