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A Stunning Tribute to Watchmaking

A Stunning Tribute to Watchmaking

Anne Kurian
  • Audemars Piguet showcases history, craftmanship, passion for mechanics and design, its free spirit together with their people at the newly unveiled Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet. Anne Kurian speaks to Sebastian Vivas, Heritage and Museum Director, to get to know all about this remarkable new work of splendour

An exemplary homage to heritage, craftsmanship and knowledge, the Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet brings together the Swiss manufacturer’s past, present and future under one roof. The Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet, now open to public, provides an immersive experience that encompasses the journey of the brand, the history of watchmaking, the stories of the craftspeople and experts, and an enthralling collection of timepieces, among other highlights.

The modern spiral-shaped glass edifice complements the company’s oldest building, where Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet set their workshop, technically a start-up of the old times, in 1875. This architectural combination symbolises the blend of tradition and forward thinking at the heart of Audemars Piguet’s craftsmanship, while honouring its deep-rooted origins in the Vallée de Joux.

Sebastian Vivas, Heritage and Museum Director, takes us on an enlightening journey of Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet, from idea to reality, what a visitor can expect and the inspiration behind the design.

How did the idea to create Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet come about?

Since the beginning of the project, our dream has been to offer each visitor an unforgettable experience as well as to express the most important facets of our brand— its history, craftmanship, passion for mechanics and design, its free spirit and of course: its people—in the most exciting and interesting way. Audemars Piguet’s oldest building, where Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet set their workshop in 1875, is connected to a futuristic spiral-shaped glass pavilion, which faces the pristine landscape of the Vallée de Joux. The Musée Atelier has also been conceived as a living museum with live ateliers at the centre of the spiral to bring visitors in closer contact with our craftspeople.

What can a visitor to the Musée expect to see and experience?

The first surprise of the Musée Atelier is its architecture, as complex as a Grande Complication watch. The German museographer ATELIER BRÜCKNER has imagined the visitors’ journey as a musical score, with themes introduced by surprising and interactive interludes. Visitors are first immersed in the origins of the Vallée de Joux. They discover how a network of talented watchmakers has transformed raw material into masterpieces of complications in workshops established in their homes.

In the following sections, visitors learn about watches’ mechanical hearts and discover some of the Manufacture’s most complicated watches. They also see screws so small that they look like dust before experiencing a parallel history of Audemars Piguet and the world. Visitors are then invited to try their hands at some finishing techniques before encountering a collection of over 90 Royal Oak models spanning from 1972 to today.

Based on that, we hope that everyone, from the most experienced watch collectors to amateurs of architecture and tourists discovering our beautiful region, wherever they come from and whatever their age is, finds something that will move them. We hope that they say “wow” a few times and experience something surprising and memorable.

How long did it take to plan, design and create the masterpiece, that is the Musée?

We decided to set up an architectural competition as we wanted to allow for a wide variety of ideas. Our brief was simple: to expand the historical premises and illustrate the soul and historical resonance of Audemars Piguet. We were aware that this could take many forms and we didn’t want to limit ourselves to one architecture firm from the get-go. We invited five architects to participate in the competition, all based in Europe, all of whom submitted high quality creative designs. Each had to include a museographer into the project, as the competition included the museum content as well.

In 2014, BIG won the architectural competition. The firm designed a contemporary spiral-shaped glass pavilion to complement the company’s oldest building, Additionally, we chose it for its capacity to play with the landscape and really become part of it, for its ability to think forward while respecting the history and for its integral attention to the finer detail.

What is the inspiration behind the stunning design of the Musée?

In perfect contrast with our oldest building where the company was born in 1875, it symbolizes the link between the past and the future. It plays with the landscape, emerging from the green soft slopes and playing with them. Technically very innovative, full of complex details, its ability to find the perfect balance between aesthetics, craftsmanship and engineering is really close – as mentioned – to an Audemars Piguet Grande Complication watch.

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