History of Audemars Piguet

written by YWH team 1 January 2016
History of Audemars Piguet logo

History of Audemars Piguet
Founded: 1875
Founding place: Le Brassus, Switzerland
Founded by: Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet
Current headquarters: Le Chenit, Switzerland
Owned by: privately held
Official name: Audemars Piguet Holding SA

The history of Audemars Piguet starts in 1875 when Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet join forces. They start their own watchmaking workshop in Le Brassus, in the Vallée de Joux in Switzerland. In 1881 they register the company as Audemars Piguet & Cie., Manufacture d’Horlogerie. However, the history of Piguet is even older as there is a pocket watch created between 1740 and 1760 that is signed ‘Joseph Piguet – Le Brassus’. And the AP museum has a pocket watch from 1769 by Joseph Piguet. It is believed that Joseph Piguet is a direct descendant of Edward Auguste Piguet.

Jules Louis Audemars (1851–1918) and Edward Auguste Piguet (1853–1919) become friends in their twenties. They know each other since their youth as they live in the same area and they are around the same age. Both Piguet and Audemars come from families with a background in watchmaking and develop their own specialties.

Before working together Audemars creates complicated ebauche movements for other watch makers. And Piguet is specialized in the regulation of watch movements. With their own workshop they start producing together, for other watch makers and under their own name. Between 1882 and 1892 they manage to produce nearly 1,600 (pocket) watches. In the meantime they divide the workload: Audemars does the production and technical aspects of watch making and Piguet focuses more on sales and management.

Audemars Piguet gains recognition for their complications

In this late 19th century, the brand gains recognition for producing high-quality, precision timepieces. The company specializes in complex mechanisms, such as minute repeaters, chronographs, and grand complications. Almost 80% of the aforementioned 1,600 watches have at least one complication.

In 1892 for instance, they create their first minute repeater wristwatch. And in 1899 the brand releases its first Grand Complication pocket watch known as the “Universelle”. This masterpiece is designed by Louis Elisée Piguet (1836-1924), who worked for AP as well. He is probably a direct family member of Edward Auguste Piguet. Although we could not find proof of that. What we know is that Louis Elisée also creates complicated ebauche movements for other watch makers, already since 1858. And his legacy leads to another well-known brand.

The Piguet-Blancpain connection

Louis Elisée Piguet is credited for creating the first perpetual calendar, and his company is renamed Les Fils de L.E. Piguet in 1905 by his sons. They take over their fathers company, and later one of them buys all the shares and renames the company in Frédéric Piguet, or F. Piguet. They supply high-end movement to many renewed companies, like… Audemars Piguet. In 1977 Jacques Piguet inherites the company.

In 1992, the Swatch Group purchases Piguet and Blancpain, and in 2010 F. Piguet was renamed Manufacture Blancpain, supplying movements for Blancpain. Basically the company is merged into Blancpain.

Audemars Piguet in the 20th century

Back to the Universelle. This pocket watch was made for Union Glashütte in Dresden and has 1,168 components, including 316 screws and offers 26 functions. And it has 19 complications among which a chronograph with split-seconds hand, minute repeater, alarm, perpetual calendar, and deadbeat or jumping seconds. In its case the watch weighs more than 600 grams. The Universelle is on display at the Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet. At the end of the 1910s both Audemars and Piguet pass away. The sons Paul Louis Audemars and Paul Edward Piguet continue the company.

The history of Audemars Piguet develops into the 20th century where they employ between 10 to 30 watch specialists until the 1950s. During that time AP creates some remarkable and advanced watches. In 1921 for instance, they release the world’s first jumping-hour wristwatch. In 1934 they produce their first skeleton watch. And in 1946 they introduce the world’s thinnest wristwatch of that time, with a thickness of 1.64 millimeters. But then, in 1972, it kind of explodes with the introduction of the Royal Oak.

The Royal Oak boosts the brand from a small independent watch maker to a large producer

The Royal Oak will become one of the most iconic and influential timepieces in the watch making industry. The model is designed by Gerald Genta and is seen as the world’s first luxury sports watch made of stainless steel. It is very recognizable with its octagonal bezel and exposed screws that contribute to its unique and bold design.

Building on the success of the Royal Oak, in 1993 Audemars Piguet launches the Royal Oak Offshore collection. These models feature a larger and more robust design, catering to a sportier and contemporary aesthetic.

Audemars Piguet has remained an independent, family-owned company throughout its history. The founders’ families and their descendants have been involved in the management and ownership of the company, preserving its heritage and commitment to craftsmanship. Nowadays the company employs around 2,000 people worldwide.

The history of Audemars Piguet

1851 – (28th of March) Birth of Jules Louis Audemars
1853 – Birth of Edward Auguste Piguet
1875 – Audemars and Piguet start working together
1881 – Their business is registered as Audemars Piguet & Cie
1892 – AP creates their first minute repeater wristwatch
1899 – Creation the the Universelle pocket watch with 19 complications by Louis-Elisée Piguet
1918 – (15th of October) Jules Louis Audemars departs
1919 – Edward Auguste Piguet departs
1910s – 2nd generation with Paul Louis Audemars & Paul Edward Piguet run the company
1921 – AP creates the world’s first jumping-hour wristwatch
1946 – Introduction of the thinnest watch of that time
1960s – 3rd generation with Jacques Louis Audemars & Paulette Piguet run the company
1972 – Introduction of the Royal Oak
1990s – 4th generation with Jasmine Audemars & Olivier Frank Edward Audemars run the company
1993 – Introduction of the Royal Oak Offshore

The full list of oldest watch brands in the world might interest you…

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