Explore the historic building and soon discover a new brand museum – a visit to the Le Brassus watchmaker is a memorable experience. This way please!
Paradoxically, time seems to stand still at Le Brassus in the Vallée-de-Joux, birthplace of Swiss fine watchmaking. Among its renowned firms, Audemars Piguet is the oldest still in the hands of its founding families, for it was started by Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Piguet back in 1875. Since then, generations of watchmakers and artisans have worked in the original building that today houses the museum chronicling 250 years of creative watchmaking and 1300 timepieces.
Avant-garde tuned into tradition
But make no mistake, if tradition is intrinsic to this watchmaker, ground breaking and innovation are no less a part of its genetic makeup, as proved in 1972 when the Royal Oak, the first luxury steel watch, designed by Gérald Genta, revolutionised watchmaking's codes. Following innumerable iterations, the iconic octagonal case has this year been revisited in yellow gold. “To break the rules you must first master them” is a motto applied to the letter by each and every one of the impassioned artisans working here. Masters of advanced complications, applied arts, history, restoration... work hand in hand keeping alive a unique expertise never better showcased than by the Diamond Fury ladies' watch presented at the SIHH. A few metres from the brand's historic heart, the factory houses every stage in manufacturing, from crafting the simplest components to assembling the most sophisticated complications. The staff all work with the same passion. “I wouldn't give my job up for the world,” you hear time and again from the likes of master watchmaker Joëlle, who has been crafting the advanced complications since 1997 in the dedicated workshop. A recent challenge tackled by the most highly skilled artisans was the Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie, a minute repeater unparalleled in its acoustic intensity and clarity.
The Maison des Fondateurs, a new emblem
The meticulous manual work may still be essentially the same as in the past, although sometimes assisted by machines developed in-house, but Audemars Piguet has its eyes set on the future. Soon the windows of the historic building dating from 1868 will look out onto a new museum: the Maison des Fondateurs (Founders' House). This 2400m² building is the work of the BIG architecture practice, which has designed it to blend into the surrounding natural landscape, snow-covered in winter. Housing exhibition and reception areas, workshops, archives and the Foundation, this architectural masterpiece takes the form of a swirling overlapping spiral. “As a place to share our passion for watchmaking and a new emblem for Audemars Piguet, the Maison des Fondateurs will symbolise not only the brand's profound attachment to its origins but also its independent and avant-garde spirit,” explains Jasmine Audemars, president of the Board of Directors.