The Audemars Piguet Jules Audemars Chronometer With AP Escapement stands at the intersection of art and science. As high-horology’s first daily-wearable direct-impulse escapement, the Jules Audemars Chronometer is a masterpiece two centuries in the making. Envisioned by watchmakers as a horological Holy Grail since its conception during the French Revolution, the direct-impulse escapement has been realized in the 21st century by Audemars Piguet.
Virtually every luxury watch constructed since the inception of the type has employed the time-tested Swiss lever. In observatory chronometer form, the Swiss lever (ironically, an English invention) has proved capable of incredible precision. But the clear drawbacks of the system were evident from its earliest days.
By its very nature, a Swiss lever wastes energy. The lever transfers power between the escape wheel and the balance wheel while metering the former and impulsing the later. Combining these two functions means that a great deal of energy is lost between the (mainspring-powered) escape wheel and the hairspring-propelled balance wheel.
In 1791, the French watchmaker/clockmaker Robert Robin conceived of a direct-impulse escapement wherein the balance interacts with the escape wheel directly. Critically, the lever is relegated to locking and unlocking the escape wheel exclusively; the lever no longer transmits any power. As a result, less energy is lost, and the potential precision of the watch increases dramatically. While Robin’s prototypes and countless follow-up efforts fell short of the required durability and component tolerances, the brilliant concept endured to tantalize generations of watchmakers.
The manual-wind Audemars Piguet caliber 2908 realizes this longtime dream. Not only does its direct-impulse escapement operate with less energy loss, but its increased efficiency means smaller contact patches between jewels and escape wheel teeth. This reduction allows AP to run the escapement at a blazing 43,200 VpH (6hz) and to do so without lubrication. Not only does the higher rate enable even better timing precision, but the absence of lubricating oil ensures that the watch will continue to keep excellent time for longer periods between overhauls.
Audemars Piguet compounds the advantage of its eponymous escapement by backing it with a 90-hour power reserve and a double hairspring for exceptional precision. The twin hairsprings are superimposed atop the balance wheel and positioned 180 degrees out of phase. In doing so, AP ensures that gravity’s effect on one hairspring will be cancelled by the opposing spring; in a physical position that induces one spring to speed up the balance, the opposing spring will be acting to slow the wheel. This solution offers an alternative to the pocket watch-specific tourbillon and helps to ensure COSC Swiss Chronometer precision.
And the AP caliber 2908 is a COSC Swiss Chronometer in every formal sense. Audemars Piguet put its pride on the line and submitted its mechanical masterpiece to the third-party evaluation comprising six positions, three temperatures, and two weeks of scrutiny. When a $350,000 watch lines up against $2,000 TAG-Heuers in a real-world test, anything short of a route in the AP’s favor would have been a humiliation. The result: AP’s Jules Audemars Chronometer cal. 2908 crushed the test, and this example from watchuwant.com is accompanied by its annotated COSC Chronometer test certificate detailing the huge margins by which it surpassed the test minima.
While cerebrally satisfying, technology without art is sterile; Audemars Piguet provides an embarrassment of the latter. All elements of the fully open dial are finished by hand in the grandest tradition of the Vallee de Joux. Mirror-grade anglage adorns every bridge; black polished wheel cocks explode and vanish on the dial side of the movement; the entire base plate of the caliber is a solid 18K white gold disc blazon with intricate Clous de Paris guilloche.
And to stun even the most jaded haut-de-gamme holdouts, AP crafts the primary dial at 12 o’clock from kiln-fired white enamel. Its railroad minute track, red accents, and heat-blued hands form a masterpiece in miniature.
Louis XV once remarked that platinum was the only metal fit for a king, and while the Bourbon dynasty didn’t survive the French revolution, both the Robin escapement and men’s reverence for fine platinum certainly did. Audemars Piguet cloaks its epic escapement in a 46mm platinum vessel that would have impressed even Louis himself. Alternating brushed and polished surfaces create contrast; compound curves exude elegance. The tapered lugs ensure an easy fit even on small wrists, and their teardrop profiles are achingly gorgeous.
Vindicate Robert Robin; experience the historic 46mm platinum Audemars Piguet Jules Audemars Chronometer With AP Escapement in high-resolution images on www.watchuwant.com.