Audemars Piguet Code 11:19 Flying Tourbillon 26396NB.OO.D002KB.01
I’m glad we’re all sitting down, because this is first time we’re reviewing an AP that isn’t a Royal Oak or a derivative of the Genta design.
In 2019, Audemars Piguet released a completely new line of watches that they named Code 11:59.
The new model line was 7 years in development and was AP’s new take on a round watch with an AP twist and billed as their contemporary evolution of a round watch.
Response to its launch was, muted, shall we say. Largely because AP and the Royal Oak have become so synonymous that anything new was likely to be assessed against the legend and found wanting, which is a real shame actually, because the construction of the Code 11:59 is really quite brilliant and doesn’t deserve to stand in the shadows of its older, more dominant stablemate.
The architecture and construction of the case is complex and blends a circular bezel and rear framing an octagonal mid-case, a shape which ties all of the AP lines together.
The lugs are hollowed as well for a view of the lines and curvature of the watch, a nice touch.
The mix of rounded and angular elements is a real pleasure to observe in detail from the sides, while from the top, the Code looks like a relatively formal old school round watch.
It reminds me of the saying “business at the front, party round the back” which although it was used to describe mullets in the 90s, does seem terribly appropriate when discussing this particular line.
The 11.59’s sapphire is another fantastic touch which features a double curved crystal that creates some wonderful deliberate distortions of the dial when viewed at different angles. Rather than being an irritation, these are really fascinating and engaging to look at. I have to say, the sapphire is one of my favourite features.
From the faintly damp squib of initial release, the Code model line has grown and evolved to offer some serious knockout pieces, which brings me nicely to the subject of this review. The flying tourbillon “Onyx”.
The Onyx has a white gold outer case with a ceramic mid case, and is a very reasonable 41mm in size.
The contrast of the metal and ceramic is spot on, and it rather cannily avoids looking overly monochromatic and clinical with the use of rose gold hands, text, and tourbillon frame.
Its very much an exercise in less is more with no indices and text beyond its AP branding. I suspect that the restraint is used deliberately to draw attention to the dual stars of the show, the flying tourbillon, and the dial.
There is no turned tapisserie, no fancy gradient, nada.
What there is, however, is a gloriously smooth sliver of ONYX, a semi precious stone which has been polished and set over the baseplate and allowed to speak for itself with no additional frills bar the addition of AP’s signature in rose.
The end result is a deep gloss jet black dial with the kind of tone shifts and richness that can really only ever be achieved with the use of natural stones.
It is absolutely plain bordering on austere but in equal measure, absolutely gorgeous.
As stone dial production is a tricky process with a high rate of rejection, AP used Someco, a specialist dial company to cut, create, and polish the onyx.
Given that the structure of the case is so complex, as is the tourbillon, a busier dial would be a detriment rather than an asset, so AP have really played a blinder there.
The watch is equipped with AP’s calibre 2950. A 27 jewel in-house movement that offers a 65 hour power reserve and made its debut in 2018 via the Royal Oak.
An lovely touch on the flying tourbilon is that its bridge has been black coated to contrast with the dial.
The standard 11:59 double sapphire is present, and offers both a crystal clear top view and deliberately distortion from the side, particularly around the chapter ring.
It’s a bit of an AP magic trick that once you get used to it becomes a charming characteristic.
Its difficult to describe the way that the crystal interacts with the dial, so I’m glad that we’re able to show you in the sapphire, so to speak.
The strap is surprisingly casual. I would have expected alligator as that tends to be custom with top of the line models, but in this case AP have gone with a rather sporty looking rubber coated strap. It’s an unusual choice, but one that I feel is an excellent one. Alligator may have added additional formality and texture to a watch that almost seems to pride itself on minimalism.
That said, rubber on a 20m wr watch? Possibly a little incongruous, but visually it works a treat.