Founded in 1875, Audemars Piguet is widely considered one of the world’s most significant horological powerhouses. Originally specializing in high horology complications, after the 1972 release of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, a great shift occurred within the brand. Gravitating away from the high horology pieces of old, AP invested heavily in the expansion of the Royal Oak family to include the Offshore collection, chronographs, and tourbillons. This transition makes it easy to forget the legacy of Audemars Piguet, which really existed outside the realm of the sports watch. The Audemars Piguet Quantieme Perpetual Calendar with Tuscan Dial, reference PT25657/002, serves as a reminder of the traditional roots of Audemars Piguet, a brand that had established a mastery of complications and dress watches. The Quantieme Perpetual Calendar is not a Royal Oak— and perhaps this is the source of its inexplicable mystique and allure.
Within the world of high horology brands, each major maison had its specialty complication. In the case of Audemars Piguet, this was the perpetual calendar. Prior to starting Audemars Piguet alongside Edward Piguet, Louis Audemars went to watchmaking school. The culmination of the watchmaking education is the creation of a “schoolhouse piece” referred to in French as the “montre ecole”. For Louis Audemars, the schoolhouse piece he chose was a quarter repeating timepiece with deadbeat seconds and a perpetual calendar (this must have made the master slightly envious). Thus, the perpetual calendar is core and central to the Audemars Piguet legacy.
In 1955, Audemars Piguet made history with the release of the first perpetual calendar timepiece to feature a leap year display, the reference 5516. Then, in 1979, Audemars Piguet released arguably the most impactful perpetual calendar in their history, the reference 5548, an ultra-thin perpetual calendar. The 5548 was released in the midst of the quartz crisis, as a firm reassertion of the brand’s commitment to high complications. The piece was introduced during a transition period in the Audemars Piguet brand identity. Audemars Piguet had released the Royal Oak earlier in the decade, but hadn’t yet fully shifted to the Royal Oak dominated collection of the present. For many, the Royal Oak’s unconventional fusion of stainless steel and luxury was still too unorthodox to fully endorse. As a reminder of the brand’s well founded history and heritage, AP balanced the progressive Royal Oak with the 5548, reminding the collector base of AP’s legacy. In the following years, AP released several additional perpetual calendar references, including the 1991 Quantieme Perpetual Calendar with Tuscan Dial, limited to a mere 37 examples in platinum. Today we will explore what makes this piece so unique, and demonstrate why this may be a better alternative to the Royal Oak.
Since the very first perpetual calendar, Audemars Piguet has maintained the same dial layout and proportions on nearly every piece. A thin, stepped bezel borders a dial with slightly oversized subsidiary dials displaying the day, month, date, and moonphase. Small hour indices and hands further refine and elevate the piece’s execution, communicating a delicate and graceful aesthetic.
With a classical complication such as a perpetual calendar, brands have a proclivity for white or cream dials, favoring traditional color schemes, with the complication being given supremacy in the design. With this edition of the Quantieme Perpetual, however, AP has placed a Tuscan dial at the center of the design language, providing a rare combination for a classical complication from a mainstream brand. In order to achieve the unique effect of the Tuscan dial, AP’s craftsmen hammer the dial by hand, effectively making no two dials identical in appearance. It takes a tremendous amount of skill not to crack the dial substrate while hammering the metal plate, and the resultant dial topography is gorgeous. Additionally, the dial has been colored blue, which complements the platinum case tastefully. The remainder of the Quantieme Perpetual is very restrained and unoffensive, with traditional proportions and aesthetics. The dial adds just enough interest to distinguish this piece from other perpetual calendars, but doesn’t lose the identity of a traditional complication, by preserving the conventional and long-established layout, 36mm case proportions and slim case profile.
The Quantieme Perpetual relies on the impressive caliber 2120/2800 for the display of time, day, date, month, and moonphase. AP’s priority with the caliber 2120/2800 was certainly thickness. In order to preserve the thin, streamlined aesthetic of the case’s delicate 7.5mm case, the movement had to be a svelte 4.00mm. The 2120 base caliber is one of the most famous in the industry, utilized by Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, and Jaeger LeCoultre on various watches with various complications. AP added the perpetual calendar module to the 2120 to efficiently generate a slim automatic-winding caliber befitting of the Quantieme Perpetual.
The 2120/2800 has a power reserve of 40 hours, and features 38 jewels. Unlike some of AP’s other perpetual calendar movements, the 2120/2800 does not feature a leap year indicator. This was a conscious decision by AP in order to reduce the clutter of the dial layout, and in turn, provide the most necessary information without sacrificing legibility.
Versus the Competition
In the same period as the introduction of the Quantieme Perpetual for Audemars Piguet, the major horological brands simultaneously released various other significant perpetual calendar timepieces that are in many cases considered the best references in perpetual calendar history. The 90’s into the early 2000’s saw the transition of many pieces to in-house movements, and the quality of finishing expected in the modern age was solidified.
Within the Audemars Piguet catalog, the most logical alternative would be the standard Quantieme Perpetual. Shedding much of the character of the “Tuscan dial” limited edition, the Quantieme perpetual constitutes the most traditional manifestation of the Audemars Piguet perpetual calendar complication. Another significant selling point for the Quantium Perpetual is its relative affordability within the world of perpetual calendars. It is difficult to find a more significant calendar timepiece at this price point. Especially when considering what this amount of money would get you in a new watch or a pre-owned Rolex, the Quantieme Perpetual really sells itself.
Arguably the greatest perpetual calendar of all time (at least in my opinion), the Patek Philippe reference 3940 checks many of the same boxes as the Quantieme Perpetual calendar. The 36mm case diameter makes the piece a transitional size that wears comfortably on the wrist today, playing a perfect balance between the tiny watches of old and the behemoth pieces of modern tastes. The 3940 features the famous caliber 240Q, and was considered by Philippe Stern, president of Patek Philippe, to be his greatest contribution to the brand. The example linked above was the first series, characterized by its stepped sub registers and considered the most collectible. Later renditions such as this platinum example make use of dished subsidiary dials (replacing the style of the first series) that were found from the second series on. A significant reference in Patek history executed in a tasteful size, you cannot go wrong with the 3940, which is considered by many to be a serious enthusiast’s reference among perpetual calendars.
The Langematik Perpetual is another favorite of mine, based upon the drawings of genius Gunter Blumlein, who passed away in 2001. The key innovation of the Langematik Perpetual is its placement of the outsize date at 12. In logical fashion, Lange understood that the most used piece of information on the perpetual calendar is the date. Thus, the brand chose to place their emblematic date window in the primary position on the dial. Additionally, the Langematik Perpetual utilizes the beautifully finished Saxomat micro rotor movement. When placed next to the 3940, the Langematik Perpetual feels like a more efficient use of dial real estate, and represents one of the more unique interpretations of the perpetual calendar complication.
The Quantieme Perpetual “Tuscan Dial” is a piece that will be appreciated by many. This perpetual calendar is traditional enough to be enjoyed by a collector of complications, yet the Tuscan dial makes this timepiece a more modern interpretation of the complication. As mentioned earlier, having a blue hammered dial on a perpetual calendar is not a typical combination, yet it is still a relatively unoffensive choice. Some collectors may wish to purchase this piece if they have a standard Quantieme Perpetual calendar in an effort to start a collection of Audemars Piguet complications.
The perpetual calendar is an ideal choice as a daily wear piece, as unlike many other grand complications, a perpetual calendar often comes in wearable dimensions. In the case of this piece, that means 36mm in diameter and 7 and a half millimeters in thickness. These proportions allow for an enjoyable wearing experience under a dress cuff, or even with more casual clothing. The other impact of the dial is its greater versatility as this piece now leans less heavily into the dress watch category than its standard alternatives.
The Audemars Piguet Quantieme Perpetual “Tuscan Dial” is a nostalgic reference to a past era of Audemars Piguet, a time when the Royal Oak had not yet entered the picture. While the Royal Oak is undoubtedly a great watch deserving of much respect and admiration, with the brand’s almost overpowering reliance on the Royal Oak collection, it becomes refreshing to experience a piece such as the Quantieme Perpetual that serves as a return to AP’s roots. Whether this piece is to your taste or not, it is unquestionably an under-appreciated limited edition from one of the world’s most historically significant makers.