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Audemars Piguet. An extremely fine and important, large and heavy, possibly unique 18K pink gold hunter case Grande and Petite Sonnerie striking trip minute repeating two-train keyless lever chronograph clockwatch with perpetual calendar, central minute counter and moon phases
On lots marked with an + in the catalogue, VAT wil… Read more AUDEMARS PIGUETExceptional & Important Grande Complication WatchThe Property of a Lady
Audemars Piguet. An extremely fine and important, large and heavy, possibly unique 18K pink gold hunter case Grande and Petite Sonnerie striking trip minute repeating two-train keyless lever chronograph clockwatch with perpetual calendar, central minute counter and moon phases

SIGNED AUDEMARS PIGUET & CIE. AND AUDEMARS, GENF, “GRANDE SONNERIE À MINUTES, CHRONOGRAPHE, COMPTEUR DE MINUTES, CALENDRIER PERPÉTUEL ET PHASES LUNAIRES”, THE MOVEMENT ATTRIBUTED TO LOUIS ELISÉE PIGUET, NO. 4289, SOLD TO E. FRANCILLON & CO. ON 14 DECEMBER 1895

Details
Audemars Piguet. An extremely fine and important, large and heavy, possibly unique 18K pink gold hunter case Grande and Petite Sonnerie striking trip minute repeating two-train keyless lever chronograph clockwatch with perpetual calendar, central minute counter and moon phases
Signed Audemars Piguet & Cie. and Audemars, Genf, “Grande Sonnerie à Minutes, Chronographe, Compteur de Minutes, Calendrier Perpétuel et Phases Lunaires”, the movement attributed to Louis Elisée Piguet, no. 4289, sold to E. Francillon & Co. on 14 December 1895
Movement: cal. 19 ½ ’’’, manual, two-train with tandem winding, jewelled to the centre, cut bimetallic compensation balance with gold and platinum adjustment screws, blued steel balance spring with Phillips terminal curve, swan-neck micrometer regulator, striking and repeating with two polished steel hammers on two gongs, chronograph work on the back plate, the column wheel with screwed cap, signed on the dial plate
Dial: white enamel, calendar in German, Louis XV hands, signed Audemars
Case: four-body, the front cover engraved with a foliate monogram “HW”, repeat slide, chronograph button and hand setting button in the band, the buttons locking when the cover is closed, levers in the bezel for Strike/Silent and Quarters/Hours and Quarters selection, numbered 4289 and with case maker’s mark P+P, German gold mark, hinged gold cuvette signed and numbered and engraved with the technical details, German gold mark, 60 mm. diam.
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Lot Essay

The Archives of Audemars Piguet confirm that this watch, number 4289, a "19 ½’’’ Horloge chronographe, quantième, savonnette” was sold to E. Francillon & Co. on 14 December 1895.

The emergence of this entirely fresh to the market Audemars Piguet “Grande Complication” watch, consigned by a private collector and in excellent overall condition, is an exciting event. As one would expect, it is of extremely high quality and finish, with some extra touches of sophistication, such as the locking of the chronograph and hand-setting buttons when the front cover is closed, the glazed cover over the movement to allow viewing of its mechanical ingenuity which, in turn, is covered by a gold cuvette engraved with a list of the watch’s complications.

The movement itself would almost certainly have been supplied to Audemars Piguet by Louis Elisée Piguet (1836-1924) of Le Brassus. Very complicated watches such as the present watch naturally required immense skill and experience to make, subsequently only a handful of watchmakers were capable of producing them. During the last quarter of the 19th century, most of the great watch houses including Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin bought either finished movements or part-finished ébauches for their high complication watches from outside workshops. Arguably the most famous of these was Louis Elisée Piguet, one of the most talented watchmakers of the period who, amongst other things, improved the keyless winding system and chronographs and invented the fixed star repeating mechanism.

A total of 40 Grande Complication watches with a minimum of Grande Sonnerie, minute repeating, chronograph and perpetual calendar were made in Louis Elisée Piguet’s workshops and then supplied to several of the great watch manufacturers. The close collaboration between Audemars Piguet and Louis Elisée Piguet at the time shows the increasing importance of watches with strike and repeating mechanisms in the company’s production programme and their popularity with customers.

The present watch is early for a signed Audemars Piguet Grande Complication and is most likely unique for a signed watch of this configuration. It displays several characteristics in its construction indicating that the ébauche was made by Louis Elisée Piguet: watch number 4289 fits precisely into Louis Elisée Piguet’s known production for 1894 for Grande Sonnerie, repetition minutes, chronograph watches; the “wavy line” decoration of the calendar plate is typical of Piguet (see fig. 1); the unusual cap plate secured with screws on the chronograph column wheel (fig. 2) and the keyless system with small cone-shaped wheel for the setting/winding (fig. 3) have not been seen before in any other of Audemars Piguet’s signed watches but are features that are sometimes found in Louis Elisée Piguet's watches made for other manufacturers.

One of the most important markets for high-grade Swiss watches was Germany who were the principal customers for some of the most complicated watches, many of which employed L. E. Piguet movements. For example, Audemars Piguet supplied 35 complicated watches to Glashütte Union between 1895 and 1912, a large part of the ébauches for these watches were made by Louis Elisée Piguet. The German market preferred their watches to be fitted in heavy-gauge, usually pink gold cases in a style loosely called “Louis XV” with typical high stepped covers and prominent bow. Traditionally therefore, many of the complicated watches supplied to Germany were cased locally. The present watch was certainly made specifically for the German market with German days of the week calendar and the signature on the cuvette “Audemars, Genf”. The case is not signed by Audemars Piguet but is fully numbered and bears German gold marks.

The present "Grande Complication" furthermore impresses with no less than 11 complications (in addition to the essential timekeeping functions such as hours, minutes and seconds which are not considered complications):

1. The perpetual calendar
2. The days of the week
3. The months
4. The days of the month
5. The phases of the moon
6. The chronograph
7. The central 60-minute register
8. The minute repeating
9. The grande sonnerie
10. The petite sonnerie
11. The twin barrel bi-directional winding

Francillon & Co. were, along with Cartier, Breguet, Golay Fils & Stahl, Gübelin and Tiffany, very special customers of Audemars Piguet. The businessman Ernest Francillon (1834-1900) was a major figure in the watchmaking world during the 19th century. He took over his uncle’s company, Agassiz and founded Francillon-Longines in 1867 which in the course of time became the Longines Watch Company.

An extremely similarly constructed movement with grand and small strike, minute repeater, chronograph and centre minute counter is illustrated in: Audemars Piguet, Brunner, Pfeiffer-Belli and Wehrli, 1993, p. 46. A similar watch made by Louis Elisée Piguet for Lange & Söhne is illustrated in: Louis Elisée Piguet, Six générations d’horlogers de la Vallée de Joux, Fritz von Osterhausen, 2014, p. 83.

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