Bonhams, London, 16 December 2016
If stealth watches are your thing, this beautifully understated Audemars Piguet might well seem like a must for your collection. One of a limited edition of 50 examples produced during the mid 1990s, its understated dial and modest, 39mm case belie what hides behind – and that’s a fabulous, hand-wound grande et petite sonnerie movement with trip repeat feature.
The latter describes the function of the button at the 10 o’clock position which, when pushed, activates the quarter repeater on demand. On the top right side of the case, meanwhile, are two levers – one controlling the petite sonnerie and silencing mechanism, the other controlling the grande sonnerie.
Winding the crown in one direction charges the mainspring, while winding in the other direction recharges the grande sonnerie power source sufficiently to give eight to 10 hours of operation. Despite the simple appearance of the watch, the mechanism is vastly complicated – and is made all the more subtle and mysterious by dint of the solid caseback, which offers better resonance than a sapphire crystal. This is a rare masterpiece that must surely rise in value.