This past Thursday October 25, 2014, I attended the AP Watchmaking MasterClass in Beverly Hills at The Peninsula in The Verandah Room. Start time was 9:30am so I had to miss a day of work and endure a 2.5 hour morning drive in rush hour traffic. I believe a total of 10 or 12 people from various press / media outlets were invited, so this event was an intimate experience.
After we checked in, we had time to munch on various breakfast treats and drink the morning coffee and juices. I hadn’t eaten anything since getting up at 5:15am, so I was really glad to be able to take in some calories after being stationary in my car for such a long time.
The morning started with Mr. Claudio Cavaliere (pictured below), AP Global Ambassador, giving us a PowerPoint presentation and introduction to the background history of Audemars Piguet.
Here are some interesting facts that I want to highlight from Claudio’s presentation:
- AP is still under ownership by the founding families which is something relatively rare these days.
- Vallée de Joux is a great source of iron in the rocks.
- At AP, movement decoration represents 30% of the overall movement value.
- The Royal Oak watch has 162 Chamfers polished by hand.
- Forged carbon which was introduced in 2007 is AP’s exclusive technology.
- AP makes 33,500 watches per year with an average retail price of $32,500.
After the presentation was over, we were split into 2 Groups. My group was going to have a tour of select historic vintage timepieces and current production pieces while the other group went ahead with the Watchmaking class. Afterwards, both groups would rotate sessions.
There were 2 trays of historic timepieces brought in for us to see, hear, and enjoy.
Mr. Michael Friedman, AP Historian, led the historic lesson off. Here’s a picture of him below passionately explaining to us the history of these pocket watches.
I snapped a brief video below of one of the minute repeater pocket watches in action. Isn’t the chiming a sound from heaven?
Below is a tiny ladies’ repeater. Looks how miniscule it is!
Below is a beautiful perpetual calendar pocket watch which I would love to have if I collected vintage pieces.
Did you know the AP watches produced before 1950 basically are unique pieces? AP really didn’t use standard model numbers until the 1950’s.
And below is AP’s first ultrathin production tourbillon automatic wristwatch where you can see the movement jewels on the rear caseback.
Here’s an original A-series Royal Oak for you Royal Oak lovers.
Afterwards, we had a look at current production pieces which were now displayed in their respective vitrines.
Here’s Claudio giving us background info on the Jules Audemars Chronometer with AP escapement. Around only ~100 of these watches in total have been produced since debut at SIHH 2009.
Below are other various AP watches that I took photos of.
And below is an AP forged carbon case and black ceramic bezel. Notice the forged carbon case is solid and not a metal substrate coated with carbon.
The other group finally completed their watchmaking session, so it was finally our turn. Save the best for last right?
We were greeted by Mr. Gary Cruz who is AP’s Technical Trainer for both North and South Americas.
On our watchmaker bench, we were greeted by the AP 3090 caliber manual wind along with a set of screwdrivers and a tray of screws, wheels, and plates that we were going to be assembling ourselves onto the movement.
I’ve taken the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Class maybe 2-3 years ago, so this was my 2nd time at a watchmaking class like this. I hope my hands are more steady this time than at last time!
Gary begins with his introduction and gives us a brief rundown of what we will be doing for the next hour (I didn’t keep track of the time but I believe we were in this room for 45 minutes to an hour I believe).
I take a few more photos to capture the ambience before I strap the loupe around my head.
Above is a labeled tray with various parts for the 3090 movement. And below is a partially assembled 3090. We’ll be starting from here as I’m assuming much of the difficult work has already been done
I strap on my loupe, grab the bronze tweezers and plastic stick (is this the correct name?) and begin. Gary tells us to assemble some parts and here is how the 3090 looks so far. I take a breather and admire the beautifully finished anglage and perlage. I love how the light makes the movement sparkle.
Next I screw in some screws to secure the plate.
Then Gary gives us instruction on how to assemble the gear train bridge, slide in the escape wheel, and assemble the escape wheel bridge.
That wasn’t too difficult and then I screw in 2 more screws to secure the gear train bridge.
Here’s a photo of another journalist giving his try at movement assembly. Look at his intense concentration!
Does my movement work? Let’s see if it does. I wind the crown to see if the gears start moving… Below is a video (fyi, speed is slowed down to 2x) to see if I assembled the parts correctly.
Yeah it works!!
We run out of time, and Gary shows us how to assemble the pallet fork, pallet fork bridge, and balance bridge. The balance bridge seems to be a difficult piece to install for a novice like me!
Below is a photo of me taken by the photographer covering the event. Some of my friends say I look like a mad scientist at work here! LOL! AP printed out photos of each of us and included them with our framed AP Watchmaking MasterClass diplomas. This is a nice souvenir that I will proudly hang on my wall.
After the class, we had a nice lunch at the neighboring outdoor patio before we all headed out. I had a great time at the Audemars Piguet Watchmaking MasterClass. Events like this just make me appreciate watchmaking in general as a whole and makes me enjoy my AP watches even more. Here’s a big thank you to AP for inviting me to experience their class, and I hope each and every PuristS can experience one of these watchmaking classes someday in the future. It’s a memorable experience for sure!
Thanks for taking the time to read my report!
This message has been edited by AnthonyTsai on 2014-10-27 07:40:34 This message has been edited by AnthonyTsai on 2014-10-28 15:50:07 Nice crash course on Watchmaking 101 there!
For me, getting the tiny ruby pallets into the metal pallet fork is often a very difficult and frustrating thing. On average, I lose one ruby for every two ruby pallet fork I assemble. 50% in loss!
What was your favorite and most difficult part?
The most difficult part this time was sliding in the escape wheel under another wheel. I’m sure it would be very difficult to put in the rubies in the metal pallet fork 😛 We didn’t get to experience that madness
At least this time I didn’t lose any screws or have anything fly in the air!
I felt like I was there!
I am glad you got your Caliber 3090 up an running. That must have felt really cool.I enjoyed reading it and looking at your photos and the video
It’s always funny when others take photos of us during watch making classes… We tend to look very serious like a mad scientist indeed :pYou look great though
CheersRobin Very nice nad very instructive!
I wish I could do it!!
thanks for sharing
We didn’t disassemble anything but disassembling is usually always much easier
Great way to spend a day, Anthony!
Thanks for taking us along. I remember the couple of times I have taken JLC´s Master Class I have been so absorbed by working on the movement that I merely but took a few photos. Having said that, yours are much more appreciated as I know it´s not easy doing both things at a time.
Cheers and many thanks,
I no longer find myself lugging around my DSLR to watch events anymore. The past 2 events I covered, all I brought was my phone and that was good enough to get decent photos.