Meet the Designer Responsible For Audemars Piguet’s Legendary Royal Oak Concept
Claude Emmenegger is the designer responsible for the legendary Royal Oak Concept during his stint at the Swiss luxury watch maker Audemars Piguet between 1999 and 2003, and many other collections before that, with brands ranging from Longines and Gucci to G Watch. After spending more than a decade running his own design consultancy, he returned to Audemars Piguet in July last year as Creative Director. He spoke to MW about his approach to design at Audemars Piguet, and what the future has in store.
Can you elaborate on the new watches that Audemars Piguet has launched at SIHH?
The Millenary launch for women, which took place last summer in Paris, is a new chapter for Audemars Piguet. This year, there are two additional models presented in this collection — an onyx piece with diamonds on the dial called Hypnotic Design Watch, and the other has pearls set on the dial — Magnetic Pearls. It’s an evolution; it’s an extension. It explores a field where Audemars Piguet has been present at the origin, when watches were designed for ladies. Then there is the Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked, which highlights the skills we have in skeletonisation, in finishing and in doing something that others don’t with the same level of perfection.
As the creative director of the brand, can you tell us about the common design thread that runs through these watches?
What links all those products is not necessarily a genetic chord you would see in the Royal Oak collection or the Millenary. What links them all is the spirit in which they have been crafted and executed. There are no shortcuts at Audemars Piguet. What’s technically possible, what watch makers are able to do, we try and do everything. Another point that links all the collections is the origin of Audemars Piguet. We have always been based in the Vallée de Joux in Switzerland. Its proximity to nature and its climate influences everything.
You were the creator of the Royal Oak Concept in 2002, which since then has gone on to become an iconic line. A few weeks ago you launched the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in classical yellow gold. What are the other innovations we can expect?
For us, that’s not an innovation; it is doing something that we have not done before. As far as the other innovations, we have worked on a schedule for the next 10 years – on the design side, how the watches are going to look, and on the technical side, what we’re going to put in our movements and how it is going to look. So the concept will remain the playground of Audemars Piguet. We won’t necessarily keep surprising everybody, but will stabilize things, focus on details and focus on getting more sophisticated. We look at the Royal Oak more as a piece of art or a jewel than a toy.
What are the advancements that we can look forward to from Audemars Piguet in two other areas – chiming watches and open worked watches?
Pretty much everything. Sooner or later, we’re going to look at how to skeletonise and to make it look more appealing. It is not an easy task and we don’t take shortcuts. We challenge ourselves all the time. The Supersonnerie is a stunner on its own. It took eight years of research. Last year we came up with the prototype, and the product itself was launched this year. While the movement is presented under the Royal Oak concept, it is something that can hold its own. The innovations that went to making it can and will be used for other movements and other collections.
The development of the women’s category seems to be one of your main objectives. So will we see more high jewellery watches from Audemars Piguet?
Last year, Audemars Piguet launched the Diamond Punk; this year, it’s the Diamond Fury. There are other projects in the pipeline already for the next year and for the year 2018. There is logic behind the path we want to follow. Right now, we have about 30 per cent of the watches addressing women, and we’d like to keep that going, if not increase it.