A few weeks ago I received an invitation from an Autodesk customer – Audemars Piguet, a luxury watchmaker based here in Switzerland in the town of Le Brassus – to have a tour of their museum and production facility. So it was that yesterday I headed across to the Vallée de Joux with my friend and colleague, Francesco Tonioni, who works closely with Audemars Piguet.
We were welcomed by Denys, who took care of us throughout our day there. Our tour started in the Audemars Piguet museum, where Denys educated us about the rich history of the region and its watchmakers, as well as about the company itself.
It was a real treat, getting to see not only antique tools…
… but some incredibly historic (and valuable) timepieces.
Many of the timepieces made in the region – and by Audemars Piguet – have “complications”. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing (in fact, the opposite :-), it means they go beyond the basic features of displaying hours and minutes.
Over the years Audemars Piguet has had a number of “firsts”, in terms of breaking new ground in the watchmaking industry.
As an example, see how thin this purely mechanical movement is!
The company has an annual production of 40,000 watches, a significant portion of which are now versions of the Royal Oak line, first introduced in 1972.
After the public tour, we headed upstairs to learn about tourbillon movements, and to get a sense for the amount of time needed to handcraft a high-end timepiece. After that we headed across to the latest building housing Audemars Piguet employees in Le Brassus, where we learned more specific details about the process for assembling their watches.
After this – and a very nice lunch – we headed to an older building housing the departments that make cases and dials.
As a courtesy to our hosts I won’t be sharing pictures or details of the watchmaking process, but it was really fascinating to see the range of technology used, from manual (and incredible) artisanship to mechanical Lienhard pantographs to state-of-the-art CNC mills.
We wore smocks and shoe covers during much of our tour. Both Francesco and I are available for birthday and weddings, if you’re short of waiters. :-)
All things must come to an end: after a great day in Le Brassus, Francesco and I took to the road (in a vehicle made by another Autodesk customer) to travel back down from the Jura mountains towards Neuchatel.
Many thanks to all at Audemars Piguet for the wonderfully warm welcome. I really learned a lot about how technology is applied in the watchmaking industry, which was my primary goal for this trip.