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This rare, pink-gold, Audemars Piguet chronograph from the late 1930s, features a double-signed dial by the original retailer, Gobbi Milan, as confirmed by the accompanying Archive Extract.
This watch was previously featured on Hodinkee’s Bring A Loupe and described by Ben Clymer in the following terms:
“This is a very early and interesting Audemars Piguet two register chronograph with a lot going for it. It is signed by Gobbi, a retailer in Milan, and comes in not yellow, but pink gold. A Gobbi-signed, pink-gold vintage AP chronograph? That, my friends, is class. Because I was so intrigued by this piece, I decided to research it with Audemars Piguet, who confirmed via their original handwritten archives that this watch was indeed cased in pink gold and indeed sold to Gobbi. On top of that, I now know it was made all the way back in 1939! This watch is insanely cool, in nice original shape (clearly defined hallmark is visible at 9 o'clock) and for less money than you'd pay for a yellow-gold 1579 (which are everywhere) you can have something far more rare and special.”
In 1875, Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet founded the Swiss watch manufacturing company Audemars Piguet in Le Brassus, Vallée de Joux. A specialist in the manufacture of complications since it was established, Audemars Piguet produced a number of unique chronograph wristwatches from the early 30s through to the 1960s, considered some of the most historically important ever made by the brand. Complications and miniaturisation were focal points for the founders, with many of the early-20th-century’s most under-appreciated watches, residing within the Archives of Audemars Piguet.
To suggest Audemars Piguet’s early chronographs are a rarity, would be an understatement. In the vintage era (1930-1962), the brand delivered a total of 307 chronographs - including calendars with phases of the moon, with unique variation. Throughout the early 1930s, Audemars Piguet’s watchmakers were given the freedom to specially modify each watch, reformulating technical and stylistic details along the way. As such, the individualistic aspects of each watch are not surprising, given each were tasked with only one piece at a time, often responding to singular requests from retailers and clients. These early examples are often referred to as “pre-models”, as they pre-date the introduction of model numbers in 1951.
Of these ‘pre-model’ chronographs produced, only 33 examples were cased in pink-gold (seen in this example), according to the manufactures Archives. Audemars Piguet’s case-makers used several varieties of alloy, with records showing requests for “or rose - pas rouge” or “pink gold - not red”, with other examples of the same period. Further, only 23 of these examples were produced between 1941 and 1942, making this piece (from 1939) one of only (circa) 10 pink-gold examples, made prior. With this, of the 8 chronograph wristwatches delivered in 1939, only 4 were cased in pink-gold. This example closely resembles archive reference 1522, found in Audemars Piguet’s“20th Century Complicated Wristwatches” publication. Further, the accompanying Extract identifies this example as “Photo No 513”. For these, the movements were made between circa 1930-1946 - later cased and sold, between 1930-1962. Since the origins of the company, each Audemars Piguet movement can be seen engraved with consecutive numbers.
This watch was originally sold by Davide Parmegiani (you can see it in his archive here) and can also be found illustrated in Peter White’s “I Chronografi da Polso”, volume 1 (p118).
Early examples take many forms, both in case shape and dial configuration, with this vintage Audemars Piguet chronograph featuring an “or vert” (green-gold) brushed dial, with large applied, Arabic and dot numerals. Sized at 33.5mm, it’s complemented by sharp, elongated lugs.
The watch is a two-register chronograph, with two sub-dials featuring the thirty-minute counter at three o’clock and a running seconds at nine o’clock. The engine-turned sub-dials have blued hands, matching the chronograph. The unrestored, green-gold dial also features a blue telemeter scale on the outer-section of the dial, while the inner-track denotes the chronograph seconds. Further to this, the dial also displays blued “Jonc” (bulrush) hands, with contrasting rose-gold Arabic numerals.
The dial exemplifies the highly-refined work of Audemars Piguet’s dial-makers, complimenting the narrow bezel and svelte lugs with delicate dial printing. An unusual, rarely-used alloy of gold, the “green-gold” dial exhibits a subtle, pale green/yellow hue, altering the coloration in varying lights. Oversized ’12’ and ‘6’ Arabic numerals highlight the vertical axis, flanking the Audemars Piguet signature. The hour counter and small seconds create a symmetrical effect, surrounded by an ultra-fine fifth-of-a-second scale, offset by the tachymeter.
The three-piece case is in excellent condition - retaining well-defined edges on the lugs and bezel - with a snap-back case, “navettes” (olive-shaped) pushers and an original winding crown. On the reverse, a hallmark at 9 o’clock is clearly visible, while the brushed finishing on the case-back still shows circular graining.
The 1930s saw incremental technical developments in the field of chronograph wristwatches, for Audemars Piguet. The first “pre-models” were equipped with 11-ligne calibres, supplied by “LeCoultre & Cie” (based near Le Brassus). From 1933, Audemars Piguet chronograph wristwatches utilised highly-finished, 13-ligne calibre movements supplied by Valjoux, who specialised in the manufacture of chronographs.
This calibre is described by the brand’s archives as “13CHRO”, “13CCV”, “13 CHRO CPT”, later becoming the “Calibre 13VZA”. At the time, these calibre references had a very specific meaning. In this ’13CCV’ example, “13” refers to the number of lignes (diameter), “C” for ‘Chronograph’ followed by “C” for ‘Counter’ and finally, “V” for ‘Verre’ or ‘glass’ (open-face). The first two-pusher wristwatches, adding the chronograph restart function, were produced in 1936.
This watch epitomises Audemars Piguet’s creative diversity in watchmaking - with varying dimensions, stylised case designs, highly-finished dials and exceptional column-wheel-chronograph movements.
During the late 19th and 20th centuries, Audemars Piguet produced fewer watches than the vast majority of other iconic Swiss manufacturers. Reference numbers with strict model specifications were only introduced by the company after 1950, rendering all watches made prior to this unique. Though Audemars Piguet watches made throughout the 1930s and ‘40s share many details, there’s always some variation in case and dial design, from one to the next…
Viewings can be arranged in Central London by appointment.
custom-made, grained leather strap with corresponding, period-correct pink-gold tang buckle
Box & papers:
Extract from the Archives
This Audemars Piguet chronograph is accompanied by an Extract from the Archives, confirming its register date as the 2nd of November, 1929. The pink-gold case is exceptionally well-preserved, with sharp lugs, clearly-defined hallmarks and circular graining on the case-back. The flat bezel also remains sharp. The inner-case-back correctly displays the watch’s unique serial number (44XXX), along with its hallmarks, below the manufacture’s signature.
The case shows superficial marks throughout (consistent with age), while the case-back exhibits minor scratches (visible in photography). The dial is similarly well-preserved, with no signs of previous exposure to the elements (or intervention). The dial of this Audemars Piguet chronograph is distinguished by the use of “or vert” (green-gold), which is vertically brushed. The 13CCV calibre movement of this vintage Audemars Piguet chronograph keeps excellent time and comes with a two-year warranty from A Collected Man.
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