The Quantième Perpétuel
In the late ‘70s, complicated wristwatches were exceedingly rare. The Quartz Crisis had decimated the watchmaking industry, with the number of watchmakers in Switzerland having dropped from 1,600 to 600. Against all odds, three watchmakers at Audemars Piguet decided to develop the world’s thinnest automatic perpetual calendar movement. The project was carried out in secret, with the manufacture’s upper management completely unaware of what was going on. The watchmakers worked in their free time, often meeting at night to discuss their work.
In 1977, they surprised George Golay, the CEO of Audemars Piguet at the time, with the finished calibre. A risk-taker who’d already released the Royal Oak a few years prior, Golay was confident that the manufacture could successfully commercialise the automatic perpetual calendar. When it was launched in 1978, the Quantième Perpetuel was the world’s thinnest automatic perpetual calendar. To put things in perspective, in 1984, only 1,066 perpetual calendars were produced in Switzerland. Of those, Audemars Piguet made 675.
Though the Royal Oak often gets credit for helping Audemars Piguet survive in the wake of the Quartz Crisis, evidence suggests the Quantième Perpetuel played a much greater role. According to the manufacture, 7,219 perpetual calendars were made over a fifteen-year period, including some which were integrated into the Royal Oak case. A canvas to experiment with different designs, 70 different models were produced, with around 200 variations documented. The reference 25657 was produced between 1982 and 1993. During that period, 1,821 pieces were produced, with only 362 of those being in rose gold.
A Classic Design
The lines of the Quantième Perpetuel were penned by Jacqueline Dimier, who is considered by some as the protégé of the legendary Gérald Genta. The perpetual calendar indications are laid out in an intuitive manner. The date and day are shown at three and nine o’clock respectively, with the months displayed at twelve o’clock. A moonphase indication is placed at six o’clock, with graduations for the moon position just above. The “Audemars Piguet” font is flat and restrained, imbuing this piece with a certain vintage appeal. Later versions of the same reference are known to have the more contemporary font, giving them a distinctively more modern appearance.
All of the subdials are recessed, with only a single inner black line, which gives a satisfying level of depth to the overall design and creates some interesting effects when it interacts with the light. This is another subtle feature which is lost in subsequent iterations. Evidence suggests that the dial was manufactured by Stern Créations, the storied manufacturer which also produced dials for the Patek Philippe Nautilus and the Rolex “Stella” models, among others. The applied rose gold indexes provide excellent legibility against the white background.
At 36mm in diameter and less than 8mm thick, this 25657OR sits comfortably on the wrist. On the reverse of the rose gold case, the watch features circular graining, along with finely-engraved markings, confirming the watches individual case number.
This Quantième Perpetuel Automatique is powered by the Caliber 2120/2, derived from Jaeger-LeCoultre’s legendary ultra-thin JLC 920 movement. The Caliber 2120 was an initial project of Jaeger LeCoultre in 1967, funded and contributed by Audemars Piguet, and famous for its adoption by Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin.
The ultra-thin automatic 2120/2 calibre features 38 working jewels, a Gyromax balance and four ruby wheels to support the full-diameter rotor, which runs on a beryllium rail for stability. The rotor is decorated with Geneva stripes and edged with 21-carat gold, to increase the oscillating mass. The movement remains the thinnest full-rotor self-winding movement in the world, considered by many as one of the most technically refined wrist-watch movements ever made.
This Quantième Perpetuel 25657OR comes with its outer box, inner wooden box, manual and Certificate of Origin (which confirms sale at Harrods in London). It also comes with an insurance valuation letter from Harrods, from 2003.
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