Four long years have passed and the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Selfwinding is still the new kid on the block, but it has grown out of its weird-looking bald baby phase. The core of the watch remains the same as what AP released in 2019; the Selfwinding houses the 4302 movement, and the Selfwinding Chronograph, the 4401. But it is growing into a more appealing toddler whose parents are dressing it up in smart new outfits.
These new releases offer three new colors in stainless steel cases. They have guilloche dials with a concentric circle pattern, and each version comes in a deep, dark green, a dark blue (Bleu Nuit, Nuage 50, which is a popular Royal Oak shade), and a smoked beige. The blue and green are made entirely of steel, and the smoked beige watches have a ceramic middle case.
Both watches would feel more or less the same as their predecessors in the dark, with a thin bezel octagonal case middle and a domed top and those much-discussed lugs, which are only attached to the upper part of the case.
These refreshes to the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Selfwinding are about color and detail. On the three-handed watch, the blue dial has a gray inner bezel, the green inner bezel is the same tone as the watch, and the smoked beige goes black toward its outer edge.
On the chronograph models, the blue has two-tone blue and gray counters at three and nine o’clock and a gray small seconds counter at six o’clock. The green is mostly monochromatic, with rhodium plating on the counters. The smoked beige chronograph is accented with various tones of black.
Two obvious changes: the Arabic numerals that have been on every three-handed model since the launch of the Code 11.59 are gone and have been replaced with hour markers in white gold which are thicker and have more definition than on earlier models. The date window has migrated from 4:30 to 3:00.
In both the three-handed and the chronograph, the inner bevel has been widened and smoothed, and the seconds scale is more detailed, for better precision and more modern styling.
We will not fully rehash the arguments made when Audemars Piguet released the Code 11.59 in 2019 and the watch world exploded. In a nutshell, some people hated the watch. Some people who hated the watch were upset that it was not the Royal Oak and some people merely hated it on its own terms. Other people liked it! My sense was that skeptics were never too terribly disappointed about what was inside of this thing, they just thought it was funny looking. As you can see for yourself below, that very first white three-handed Code 11.59 did indeed resemble Daniel Wellington. But the designs have improved and continue to do so with these latest steel iterations.
I guess I prefer the lacquer, personally. What I’d really like is to see those new hour markers on the lacquer and also that new date window location, and given AP’s propensity for iteration I am sure eventually I will.
That said, the stainless probably looks better with these colors. What does stainless add to this collection, other than making it cheaper? It makes it more sporty and less luxe, but then stainless is also a vibe, a little less showy and more under the radar.
I had the odd experience of seeing a Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Selfwinding before I really knew what a Royal Oak was, and honestly, at the time, what I liked about the watches was the deep color of the lacquer dial and the diamonds on the dial of the other one I saw. But in retrospect — and I could not have known this at the time, was too new to the game to know or care — likely much of what I liked about those dials is the way that they looked under this specially designed crown, with all its arching and angling, much discussed when the watch launched.
To me, the Code 11.59 is a great-looking watch with lots of beautiful details and now that AP has had more time with it, and is working with more materials and more colors, it is putting out something that rivals its more famous sibling.
I’m not saying that no one is allowed to dislike the Code 11.59, nor am I arguing that it’s the world’s greatest watch, or better than the Royal Oak. All I’m saying, and I would hardly be the first to do so, is that if you have been loving, wearing, coveting, worshipping, whatever it is that you as a watch lover do with the Royal Oak (b. 1972), if you are truly honest with yourself, you cannot separate that relationship from how you look at the new 11.59 (b. 2019).
I wish that I could have somehow rented out space in my brain for a real watch lover to have the experience of seeing an 11.59 in real life before seeing a Royal Oak in real life. Oh well, hindsight is 2020. And years from now when the 11.59 is just as beloved as the Royal Oak I have no reason not to suspect this that phrase will be employed, and I will be able to tell my story to the point 0002% of people in the world who would find it remotely interesting. People get ready.