Watches: Audemars Piguet Millenary Quadriennium (+live pics)

By Thierry Ané on December 12, 2014

The last quarter of 2014 has been truly eventful with many interesting watch releases from the major Swiss players and ever since Watches & Wonders I have been struggling to prioritise the timepieces I want to discuss on Watch Agora. So much so that some amazing creations are still on stand-by on my long “to-write-about” list, being constantly queue-jumped by the latest models introduced just because they are more recent.

One such timepiece is the Millenary Quadriennium unveiled by Audemars Piguet during Watches & Wonders 2014. It should not have been wait-listed, though, as the watch is truly exceptional in all the meanings of the word. Literally first, because the Le-Brassus Manufacture usually focuses more on the Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore lines and new introductions in the Millenary collection are truly rare. Then, because the technical specifications place this Haute Horlogerie model way above most competing introductions and, lastly for the divine beauty that exudes from the combination of the refined Millenary case and the 3-dimensional openwork structure of the dial/movement.

The elegance of the Millenary Quadriennium starts with its 47 x 42 mm pink gold case and its distinctive oval shape that has always fascinated me. I find it so understated and original at the same time that I really do not understand why it has never been more successful. As far as I am concerned, there is not a single Millenary model that I would not be overjoyed to wear. It is here mounted on a hand-stitched brown alligator strap secured by the famous “AP” folding buckle and despite a thickness of 15.80 mm would look wonderful on all wrist sizes.

Obviously, the real novelty lies inside the case but, as usual with the high-end Millenary models, is fully apparent on the multi-level openwork dial. This new Millenary is powered by the manually-wound 2905/B01 calibre. Needless to say, this marvel of technology and innovative construction has been entirely developed and manufactured in the Audemars Piguet workshops. With 168 hours of power reserve and a leisurely frequency of 21,600 vibrations per hour, it features the same oval shape as the case, a true sign of refinement and attention to details when most brands place round movements in all sorts of case shapes.

Then, like several Millenary models before it, the 2905/B01 calibre boasts the famous “AP escapement” patented by the brand in 2000 and first introduced in the “Millenary tradition d’Excellence N°5” in 2006. Traditional and progressive at the same time, this escapement is inspired by an eighteenth century device initially developed for Marine Chronometers. Entirely crafted in traditional materials (no silicon here) it works without lubrication thanks to its improved geometry and relies on a double hairspring to compensate for potential poising flaws ensuring the same accuracy as a tourbillon. It is proudly placed in plain sight under a large and beautifully finished bridge at the 9 o’clock position.

This time, this remarkable regulating organ is paired with an unusual complication: a “quadrennial calendar”, something between the more basic “annual calendar” and the highly complicated “perpetual calendar”. Unlike the former that has to be adjusted once a year in February, the “quadrennial calendar” only requires an adjustment on leap years, that is every four years. Basically, on an “annual calendar”, the cogs of the gears are shaped to affect 30 or 31 days to each month in alternating sequence. Hence the correction needed every February 28th (3 years in a four-year cycle) or 29th (leap year). The systems of gears is more sophisticated here as months alternate between 30 or 31 days except for February that always counts 28 days before switching to March 1st. A quadrennial correction is therefore required on leap years to move back from March 1st to February 29th.

Aesthetically now, the watch features the off-centred time display traditional of these high-end Millenary models making them so appealing. The small seconds is placed in a small white-lacquered sub-dial at 6:30 with Arabic numerals at the cardinal points and index markers. A much larger white lacquered dial seems to float at the 3 o’clock positon and provides the usual hours and minutes indications thanks to a black railway track and oversized and stylised Roman numerals. An inner ring circled in gold close to the centre of the dial provides the date thanks to a small red hand and two discreet windows placed above the “XII” and below the “VI” Roman numerals respectively provide the day of the week and month indications.

This tried-and-tested open view on the movement is as jaw-dropping as usual and creates an unbeatable sense of depth. It also gives the watch an extremely technical appeal that works beautifully with the refinement of the Millenary case. As always with this very high-end Manufacture, the finish is simply outstanding from front to back (there is a sapphire crystal there obviously), and to put it simply, the Millenary Quadriennium clearly epitomises everything there is to love about Fine Watchmaking.

For more information please visit the Audemars Piguet web site.

For a technical description of the timepiece and additional pictures: