Icons & Innovators: Audemars Piguet: Great Leap Forward

George-Henri Meylan, Audemars Piguet’s mild-mannered CEO, says he never intended to supplant traditional Swiss design when he tasked the watchmakers at complication specialty house Renaud et Papi (in which his company had a stake) to “open a new area of exploration” in the late 1990s. But as he stood surrounded by futuristic designs at last year’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, the annual Geneva watch show, it was clear that Audemars Piguet not only had strayed from tradition, but had become a leading proponent of modernist high-watchmaking, a style in which the mechanics, as much as the dials and cases, are design focal points. By championing this design movement, Audemars Piguet, one of the big three of complicated watchmaking (Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin round out the trio), lends legitimacy to a style that originated at Richard Mille, Urwerk, and other small, independent manufacturers. But Audemars Piguet is now leapfrogging all of those companies because of Meylan’s guidance and the resources and technical capabilities at his disposal.

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