Audemars Piguet - The Geneva Watch Auction: XIX featuring the Guido Mondani Collection Geneva Saturday, May 11, 2024 | Phillips
  • Manufacturer: Audemars Piguet
    Year: 1960/1983
    Reference No: 5538
    Movement No: 64'804, "secret number" 3'135 below mainplate
    Case No: B 3207
    Material: Platinum
    Calibre: Manual, cal. 13JSM on LeCoultre ébauche, jeweled
    Bracelet/Strap: Platinum Jean-Pierre Ecoffey for Audemars Piguet bracelet , max length 195mm
    Clasp/Buckle: Platinum Jean-Pierre Ecoffey for Audemars Piguet clasp stamped "6"
    Dimensions: 36mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement and clasp signed by maker, clasp further signed by bracelet maker
    Accessories: Accompanied by Audemars Piguet Extract from the Archives confirming the present watch is a piece unique, the presence of the hidden number "3185" on the base plate, its production on December 16, 1960, and its bezel and bracelet transformation in 1983

  • Catalogue Essay

    It is intriguing how the concept of rarity varies with perspective, and only rarely assumes an objective meaning. Today, a 300-pieces limited edition from the most prestigious brand is considered highly limited. Back in vintage time, the entire production of a model could amount to a few dozen pieces (Patek Philippe two crown worldtimers come to mind - see lot 55). The present piece however represents a completely different tier of rarity. When it comes to vintage Audemars Piguet minute repeaters, one has to assimilate the outlandish concept that a total of 7 wristwatch - not 7 models! - were made from the end of WWII to the 1990s, of which one was transformed into a pendant watch, leaving 6 extant watches.

    The present piece can be arguably considered the most impressive of the 7: it is the very last vintage repeater produced by the brand, one of only 2 made in platinum (ironically this last one, and the first one produced), and the only one of the 7 to be fitted with a bracelet. In fact, even considering the entire history of the company, only 3 minute repeating wristwatches are recorded to have left to factory with a bracelet: the present watch, a rectangular piece sold in 1924, and a lady’s bracelet watch from the early twentieth century.

    The numbers above alone are sufficient to classify the watch as one of the most important wristwatches ever made in the history of the brand, but when looking at the aesthetics of the watch and the movement breathing life into it, the appeal of the piece is, no matter how impossible it seems, further amplified.

    The icy beauty of the piece is simply sublime, especially when combined with the discreet diamond-set numerals and the outstanding Jean-Pierre Ecoffey bracelet, a work of art in itself, but the history of the piece is as intriguing as its looks.

    The watch was lost to time for nearly half a century, before resurfacing in 2016. Audemars Piguet confirms its production in 1960 as a special order. So peculiar an unusual were minute repeaters within the catalogue of the company, that they had to outsource the ébauche, as AP was not producing chiming movements anymore at the time. The choice fell on a LeCoultre & Cie. ebauche made at the beginning of the 20th century, which Audemars acquired from Vacheron Constantin. This calibre feature an intriguing “secret number” 3185 etched onto the mainplate (hidden by a bridge when the movement is assembled). The ébauche was finished at Audemars Piguet, and the final result is a technological masterpiece featuring straight bridges and hammers close together.
    A case with a diamond-set bezel was produced and with it a bracelet featuring two rows of diamonds at the edges. The unique reference number 5538 was used for this marvel, and it was delivered to a Spanish client through the Madrid retailer “Joyeria Grassy”. And here ends the “first act” of the watch’s history.

    The second act opens two decade later, in 1983, when the watch returned to Audemars Piguet. Fashion had remarkably changed in the short span of twenty years, and the watch felt probably a bit too flamboyant. Thus, the diamond-set bezel was swapped for the current plain one, while the bracelet was entirely changed: the old “brick links” bracelet with diamond sides was substituted with the currently much more modern one, featuring an interwoven design interspaced by bold horizontal triple bands. This new bracelet (featuring its own reference number: 573) was realised by Jean-Pierre Ecoffey, one of the most respected case and bracelet makers of all times. At the same time, the piece was serviced and restored by Francisco Pasadin, one of the historical and most skilled Audemars Piguet watchmakers. Once the job was done, it went back to its owner, concluding its “second act” and disappearing in the fog of time for 35 years.

    The last leg of its journey is less eventful - for the joy of the connoisseur. It was purchased at auction in 2016 by the current owner - an important collector who treated it with the respect a watch of this importance and in this condition demands: they only admired, wound and operated it from time to time, never wearing it once. This means that the exceedingly impressive condition the watch had when it appeared in 2016 have been perfectly maintained until today.

    The cardinal importance of this watch in the overall production of Audemars Piguet cannot be overstated and it is testament to it the fact that the piece is prominently featured in “Audemars Piguet 20th Century Complicated Wristwatches”, a publication realised by the brand itself and considered the “bible” when it comes to scholarship about vintage complicated AP timepieces.

  • Artist Biography

    Audemars Piguet

    Swiss • 1881

    A specialist in the manufacture of complications since it was established in 1881, Audemars Piguet never ceases to impress with a rich history of creating bold, even audacious, timepieces underpinned by traditional watchmaking at its finest. This Le Brassus-based Swiss manufacturer is one of only two major manufacturers still owned by the founding family. Since its earliest days, AP is considered a leader in the field of minute repeaters and grande complication pocket and wristwatches. The brand is devoted to preserving the history of watchmaking in the Vallée de Joux, showcased at their superb museum in Le Brassus.

    Today, the brand is best known for its Royal Oak models, a revolutionary luxury sports watch launched in 1972. Other key models include early minute repeating wristwatches, vintage chronograph wristwatches, such as the oversized reference 5020, perpetual calendar watches and the Royal Oak Offshore, first introduced in 1993.

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Ref. 5538
A unique, superbly attractive and extremely important platinum minute repeating wristwatch with diamond-set numerals and Jean-Pierre Ecoffey integrated bracelet - one of 2 in platinum

36mm Diameter
Case, dial, movement and clasp signed by maker, clasp further signed by bracelet maker

CHF200,000 - 400,000 

Sold for CHF533,400

Contact Specialist

Alexandre Ghotbi
Deputy Chairman, Watches, Head of Watches, Europe, and Middle East

+41 79 637 17 24

Tiffany To
Head of Sale, Geneva

+41 79 460 55 88

The Geneva Watch Auction: XIX featuring the Guido Mondani Collection

Geneva Auction 11 - 12 May 2024