The public exhibition Shaping Materials will be on display from June 3 to June 16, 2024, at the Piazza del Quadrilatero of the Portrait Milano, in the heart of Milan. This immersive journey into the universe of the Manufacture pays homage to the bold and innovative spirit that has driven generations of watchmakers and artisans to bring forward new ideas and shape the world of Audemars Piguet.

After the opening of the new AP House Milano in the brand's building in the former Garage Traversi on Via Bagutta, the exhibition strengthens Audemars Piguet's ties with Milan, a city with which it shares a strong commitment to heritage, creativity, and modernity. We visited the exhibition for you to capture the essence and the experience of this unique homage to craftsmanship and innovation. Below, we present some of the most important dates and watch designs that the exhibition invites us to discover in the history of Audemars Piguet.


The exhibition pays tribute to the spirit of innovation that guides Audemars Piguet in the quest for new territories of expression, whether centered on materials, technique, or aesthetics. Nestled in the Swiss village of Le Brassus, Audemars Piguet creates masterpieces, combining ancestral expertise and a pioneering spirit. Since 1875, the manufacturer's watchmakers have been crafting the future by working with materials and playing on the language of shapes and colors.

Exploring Materials

The first room is dedicated to exploring the materials used to make Audemars Piguet watches. Settled on lands rich in iron ore, the first inhabitants of the Vallée de Joux developed their metallurgical skills. This expertise provided a solid foundation for the development of watchmaking techniques in the 18th century. Since 1875, Audemars Piguet has used noble, traditional materials such as gold and platinum to produce its watches. From 1940 onwards, Audemars Piguet's artisans innovated by incorporating steel into their creations.

Innovative Use of Steel

This material was even ennobled in 1972 with the creation of the brand's iconic watch, the Royal Oak. Without making any compromises, the artisans found a way to apply high-end finishes to a material that is much harder than gold. Subsequently, titanium, alacrité, rubber, ceramic, carbon, and many other materials were incorporated into Audemars Piguet timepieces. The choice of materials involves combining each material's ergonomics and physical characteristics with the overall watch design.

Pushing Boundaries

In this quest to noble materials, the artisans and engineers at Le Brassus have found solutions, created new tools, and adapted their expertise in a constant quest to push existing limits.


The Evolution Begins

Round! That's the instinctive answer to the question, what shape is a watch? However, that's not always the case. The first watches in the 16th century featured an ovular shape that earned them the nickname "the rumble egg." For more than a century, Audemars Piguet's artisans have been experimenting with the language of form and design in almost every conceivable way.

Golden Ages of Design

The Art Deco period of the 1920s and 1930s and the 1960s were the golden ages for the exploration of new design and shapes. These periods borrowed aesthetic codes from cars, aviation, architecture, painting, and fashion, integrating them into the world of watches. Watch cases adopted traditional geometric shapes, such as round, square, and rectangular, as well as sometimes less conventional ones, such as the triangle, trapezoid, and octagon. These shapes were used independently or combined to add complexity and diversity to the language of shapes.

Post-War Innovation

The periods of economic prosperity after World War II were propitious to new developments and innovations. Every conceivable way of doing things was leveraged, both within the confines of watchmaking and sometimes even outside them. Many designs never got beyond the project stage.

Breaking Symmetry

Another milestone was reached when watch designers erased the boundaries of symmetry. The asymmetrical watches of the late 1950s represented a high point in the search for new shapes and never ceased to inspire Le Brassus watchmakers. The cases featured simple, traditional geometric shapes such as round, square, or rectangular, along with sometimes less conventional ones, such as the oval, tonneau, cushion, or octagon. The latter was to become a brand signature with the Royal Oak.


In 1927, Audemars Piguet set the record for the smallest mechanical movement in the world, the caliber 57SB. This caliber, known as 'baguette' due to its elongated shape, is roughly the size of a peanut and powered watches that were primarily jewelry for the wealthy women of the Belle Époque. The model presented here, adorned with emeralds and diamonds, is a perfect testament to this period. On such a bracelet, the time becomes secondary. Given its small size, the fabrication of this mechanism was extremely complicated, making the production of these watches very exclusive.


The rectangular Jumping Hour wristwatch adopted the Streamline style, a branch of Art Deco from 1925 to 1935. Its satin-brushed metallic surface without a dial and the side bezels are reminiscent of the aerodynamics and futurism of the period's planes, trains, and cars. The arched lower aperture, carved into the white gold case, indicates the minutes, while the square-shaped upper aperture displays the hours. The disc that rotates behind this aperture jumps instantly from one hour to the next, making it easier to tell the time. That's where this watch gets its name, Jumping Hour.

Art Deco began in the 1910s. It was a worldwide artistic movement that came into its own in the 1920s and the 1930s. At Audemars Piguet, it coincided with the greatest acceleration in design that the brand had experienced since its creation. The Art Deco aesthetic is defined by pure geometric shapes and bold, modern lines. Audemars Piguet watches in this style featured shapes such as cushion, tonneau, square, and rectangular. The latter made it easier to attach straps and bracelets at a time when wristwatches were becoming more widespread and gradually replacing traditional pocket watches.


The 1950s heralded a return to formal watches and stylistic research. Opposing geometric shapes, such as round and square, were now combined. When used in watches, this complex geometry has created something entirely new. Another milestone was reached when watch designers broke the boundaries of symmetry. Making the most of curves and angles, as well as straight lines, the asymmetrical watches of the early 1960s represent a high point in the quest for shapes. Even today, this golden age continues to inspire Audemars Piguet watchmakers.


Part of the richness and diversity of Audemars Piguet designs stemmed from the fact that every creation was unique in that no two watches were exactly the same. In 1951, Audemars Piguet introduced model numbers and watches began to be produced in series. Nonetheless, even after this period, creativity and variation in terms of design continued to develop. Model 5093, also known as the “Disco Volante,” is a perfect illustration of this era. The bezel was deliberately widened to accentuate the idea of combining two round shapes. Seamlessly integrated into the case, the bracelet avoids the need to create lugs and preserves the purity of the round shape.


Audemars Piguet asymmetrical watches first appeared in 1959. A symbol of this period, brutalist architecture reveals materials through radical lines that often play on asymmetry. This architectural movement inspired and influenced watchmakers in the 1950s and 1960s. Testifying to a period marked by economic expansion and a quest for radical modernity, the watches feature a design free from conventions. In the space of five years, at least 34 unconventional models were created, 30 of them between 1960 and 1962. Most were produced in less than five-piece editions. The models were conceptualized by independent designers or case manufacturers.

Model 5159 presented here was probably made by Georges Crosier, a case manufacturer in Geneva. Crosier was one of the first important production case makers, starting his business in Geneva in 1870. In addition to making gold cases, Crosier pioneered the creation of ‘Staybrite’ steel cases for fine watchmakers. Seven examples were sold between 1960 and 1961. The case as a whole was designed to encourage the wearer to experience a clear break with classical geometric shapes.


Unconventional and totally unexpected, the Royal Oak was introduced in 1972. Conceived by legendary watch designer Gérald Genta, this is a milestone in the history of 20th-century watches.

Prior to the 1960s, this unconventional watch introduced new aesthetic codes and is now a watch design icon. Its large octagonal bezel with visible screws, tapestry dial, and tapering bracelet are the DNA of this iconic design. The chosen material was also central to the development of this chic, elegant sports watch. Produced in stainless steel, it led the artisans in Le Brassus to develop the skills required to satin brush and polish this watch as if it were made of gold.

Although often described as the first luxury sports watch, it actually changed watch-wearers' habits. In the evening out, on the beach, or on a tennis court, the Royal Oak can be worn in any circumstance. After elevating steel, starting from 1977, the Royal Oak integrated traditional materials like gold, and later it would become the playground for Audemars Piguet’s design.


The first feminine Royal Oak, model 8638, also known as Royal Oak II, was launched in 1976. It retained all the attributes of the men's model – octagonal bezel, visible screws, tapering bracelet, mechanical self-winding movement, and stainless steel. The only difference was its 29mm diameter size. The original 1972 Royal Oak already had a feminine side, since its designer was Gérard Genta, a goldsmith by training who envisioned it as a multifaceted diamond playing with shimmering light effects.

Launched at the height of the quartz crisis, a period of profound transformation conducive to new ideas, the small Royal Oak overturned the feminine aesthetic codes applied to watchmaking at the time. This creation is the work of Jacqueline Dimier, one of the watch industry's first female designers, whose collaboration with Audemars Piguet lasted almost a quarter of a century.


Born in 1997, the Royal Oak Mini measured just 2cm in diameter. As early as the 1800s, Audemars Piguet was producing small women's watches that expanded the boundaries of miniaturization. The Royal Oak's success led to a considerable increase in Audemars Piguet's production. At the same time, Asian manufacturers were flooding the market with extremely reliable quartz movements.

In order to meet market demand, Audemars Piguet adopted this new technology alongside traditional mechanical movements. Smaller than a 1 euro cent coin, Calibre 2601 would be used in the brand's miniature and jewelry models. This production was entirely in tune with the creative rebellions of 1990s design. Calibre 2601 was again chosen in 1997 when Audemars Piguet created the smallest Royal Oak measuring just 20mm in diameter. In just three years, the mini Royal Oak was produced in 27 different models.


In 2024, Audemars Piguet is introducing a new women's line in the Royal Oak Collection, the Royal Oak Mini. This precious trio reimagines the 20mm Mini Oak launched in 1997 by revisiting the shape and proportions of the manufacturer's iconic model.