Watches: Audemars Piguet Millenary Lady Hand-Wound (+live pics)

By Thierry Ané on March 4, 2015

This year, out of the 27 watches really introduced at the SIHH, 14 were for women. Out of the 13 male models, if you take aside the not-so-original versions of the Royal Oak Offshore Diver with an open case back, the vintage revival with the two-tone Royal Oak Automatic, and the myriad of Royal Oak Offshore Pavé models, the only novelties were on the very high-end Haute Horlogerie segment or even at the experimental concept stage: the two versions of the Royal Oak Concept Tourbillon Chronograph, the pair of Royal Oak 44mm Tourbillon Chronograph and the surprising Royal Oak Concept RD1 Acoustic Research!

In the ladies’ range, however, models covered the entire spectrum from the sporty two-tone Royal Oak Lady to the all pavé model, from the Haute Horlogerie tourbillon timepiece to the couture-inspired High Jewellery creation. It is thus safe to say that 2015 was a women’s vintage for the Le Brassus-based Manufacture. And with 8 creations out of 14 (almost 60%) belonging to the Millenary line, we can also add it was the year of the Millenary for ladies!

This gave rise to a general line of communication I really don’t like: the “Millenary” as THE epitome of the women’s watch design. Although the oval shape of the case may not appeal to all the male watch aficionados, there is no denying that Audemars Piguet produced some extremely masculine models in this collection, like for instance the Millenary Chronograph Tour Auto 2011, the Millenary Carbon One or the Millenary Maserati MC12 Tourbillon Chronograph. Not to mention the stunning Millenary 4101 in stainless steel or in pink gold presented in 2011.

With a good design team and some sense of style, I believe it is always possible to express the male or female side of every iconic watch design. Marketing it as the ultimate choice for a specific gender, though, wipes out all the effort you have previously made to make it appealing to the opposite sex. Unless they have decided that there won’t be any Millenary models for men in the future, which would be very sad news.

These introductory remarks being made, I would like to present the core of the new Millenary line for women. With extremely recognisable aesthetics and an emphasis on the horological component of the watch, these three models are the ladies’ flagships equivalent to the magnificent Millenary 4101 for men.

The new models obviously keep the smooth curves of this intriguing oval-shaped case. They adopt, however, a smaller size more appropriate for women’s wrists: 39.50 x 35.40 mm with a thickness of 9.80 mm. Just like the Millenary 4101, they house a brand-new movement entirely developed in-house for the specific shape of the case. Surprisingly though, the 5201 calibre introduced for the ladies’ watches is manually-wound and not automatic like the 4101 calibre, stressing even more its “watchmaking” side.

The general design is very similar, though, with an open-worked face featuring two overlapping sub-dials on the left-hand side for the off-centred hours and minutes and small seconds and a balance wheel revealed in full glory on the right. The element usually found on the back of the watch is given even more attention thanks to its beautiful pink gold bridge in sharp contrast with the rhodium colour of the rest of the main plate.

The mixture of straight and circular “Côtes de Genève” decorations, the perlage apparent on the base plate, as well as the perfectly bevelled and mirror-polished apparent screw heads give a very technical look to the timepiece but also prove how decorative beautifully-finished watch parts can be.

On the first two-versions, one in white gold, the other one in pink gold, the sub-dials circled with gold matching the colour of the case have been crafted with white mother-of-pearl to add a feminine touch and provide a welcome contrast with the technical side of the rest of the dial. On both models, a nice row of brilliant-cut diamonds runs all around the bezel and the lugs to bring an additional touch of light.

The last version of the “Millenary Lady Hand-Wound” presented at the exhibition plays on the “High Jewellery” chord with a white gold case fully set with brilliant-cut diamonds and the same setting for the hours and minute sub-dial or around the mother-of-pearl seconds sub-dial.

To make these stunning creations worthy of the woman’s wrist (and of any outfit), they are mounted on a luxurious large-scale alligator strap with sumptuous colours: beige for the white gold rendition, shimmering brown on the pink gold model, and pearly dark grey on the pavé timepiece.

Whatever the version, the “Millenary Lady Hand-Wound” is truly stunning. Had they been produced in the same size as the Millenary 4101, I would have bought one for myself regardless of its marketing “female” branding. I do hope that the elegance of this movement and the originality of this case will bring more women to Fine Watchmaking as these watches are infinitely more beautiful to look at on our partners than all the quartz models with diamonds everywhere to cover the crappy movement! A huge congratulation to Audemars Piguet for unveiling what I will remember as THE best ladies’ models of 2015!

For more information please visit the Audemars Piguet web site.