Audemars Piguet is a member of watchmaking’s “Holy Trinity,” alongside Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin. As befits blessed royalty, AP has a “grail” watch: the Royal Oak. A watch that rode the pandemic roller coaster all the way to the top. At the [maybe temporary] end of that ride, desirable pre-owned Oaks still pull twice retail – or more. The Audemars Piguet Code 11.59? Nope. It’s a flop . . .
watchcharts.com tells the tale. On average, a pre-owned example of Audemars Piguet’s Code 11.59’s standard bearer – the 41mm white gold/blue dial introductory model (1521OBC) – is selling for $4686 below retail. And has been for over a year. Chrono24.com has one in Very Good condition for $23,499, $9101 off retail.
It’s the same only more so for the Code 11.59 self-winding Chronograph in white gold. You can buy a pre-loved one for $14,258 below retail. Or less! There are even better/worse examples. A Code 11.59 Perpetual Calendar in rose gold retails for $94,600. Pre-owned market average? $78,774. A savings of $15,826. Or more!
Remember: even though the pre-owned luxury watch market has tanked, almost every Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is still above water – including some of the most of the most “challenging” designs (e.g., the Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph (26170ST)).
Truth be told, I had bad bad feeling about the AP Code 11.59 from the moment the Swiss watchmaker trotted-out their mondo-bizarre advertising campaign – for a watch named after . . . I’m still not entirely sure.
To say I was unimpressed with the Code 11.59’s debut would be like saying I am impressed by the women of the IDF. I pronounced TOD on what was supposed to be AP’s entry-level watch back in September 2020 (AP Code 11.59 – Dead Model Walking).
In fact, it’s a horological zombie army. The Code 11.59 now compromises 30 models, including diamond-encrusted watches that, on the face of it, put the lack of “there” there in stark relief. Literally.
At the top of the Code 11.59 tree: the Self-Winding Tourbillon Chronograph. The limited edition (50 pieces) 18-carat pink, gold and black ceramic-cased watch retails for a cool $250k.
That’s assuming you exclude the $860k one-off Code 11.59 Grande Sonnerie Carillon Supersonnerie. A watch so exciting that the [weirdly non-chiming] video above – showcasing the cheaper, holier, discontinued version – garnered 18k views in the last two years.
Who’s counting? I’m thinking no one. I’m thinking Audemars Piguet has dug itself a deep hole trying to stable something other than their one-trick-pony. The situation is actually worse now then when the Code 11.59 first arrived. AP now makes 119 different Royal Oaks.
To paraphrase the Noble Bard (via Marlon Brando), I come not to praise the Code 11.59 but to bury it. The case is a tour de force. AP’s movements have never been better. But it’s a dud. Time to move on guys.
I know: creating a new high-end watch requires an enormous lead time. But I sincerely hope that AP is on the case (so to speak). A member of The Holy Trinity with only two basic watches, one of which brings new definition to the word meh? C’est insupportable!
Meanwhile, I wonder why it took so long for family-owned Audemars Piguet to show CEO François-Henry Bennahmias the door, and why he isn’t walking through it until the end of 2023. This is the celebrity-lovin’ exec who created the brand-defiling $160k 42mm Limited Edition Royal Oak Concept Black Panther Flying Tourbillon.
But you know what? While AP’s BPFT watch is an aesthetic affront, that bad boy is now selling for a bit less $500k. Maybe Frankie should have gone to Hollywood and made more Marvel misegos. God knows there are enough characters “worthy” of a AP. Which is not something that can be said about the Code 11.59.