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JP C.Calimbas

The Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet

Where History is a Work in Progress

“The Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet is a unique place of discovery, learning and conviviality where knowledge and savoir-faire are passed on to the next generation. The technical complexity of its architecture and scenography connects it to the highly complicated movement of a Grande Complication.” 
Sébastian Vivas Audemars Piguet’s Heritage and Museum Director

In 2014 Audemars Piguet hosted an architectural competition with the aim of expanding their historical premises. The purpose of erecting a museum-workshop was to offer a unique perspective of Vallée de Joux and a glimpse into watchmaking history as well as bring visitors in close proximity to AP’s craftspeople; where the Swiss manufacture’s cultural past intertwines with the present and future. The building design should also embody AP’s free spirit and devotion to the perpetuation of Haute Horlogerie in the valley and beyond.

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BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) won the architectural competition Audemars Piguet hosted to expand its historical premises. The firm designed a contemporary spiral-shaped glass pavilion to complement the company’s oldest building, where Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet set their workshop, technically a start-up of the old times, in 1875. This architectural combination symbolizes the blend of tradition and forward thinking at the heart of the brand’s craftsmanship, while honoring its deep-rooted origins in the Vallée de Joux. BIG’s high-concept spiral, seamlessly rising from the ground, offers a pristine setting for the masterpieces of technicity and design which have taken shape, year after year, in this remote valley of the Swiss Jura Mountains.

The scenography that the Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet represents the company’s rich legacy exemplified by a selection of AP’s emblematic heritage time and contemporary yet iconic timepieces. Tasked to design a space where visitors can experience crescendos, highpoints and contemplative moments, German museum designer Atelier Brückner propositioned that the exhibition be akin to a musical score. Interludes, including sculptures, automata, kinetic installations and mock-ups of intricate mechanical movements, give life and rhythm to various aspects of horological technique and design. Visitors are also invited to try their hands at some of the ancestral techniques perpetuated by Audemars Piguet’s finishing experts, such as satin brushing and circular graining. The visit culminates at the center of the spiral with the display of Grandes Complications.

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The showcases spanning over two centuries of history display more than 300 watches, including feats of complication, miniaturization and unconventional designs. These watches of exception tell the story of how modest nineteenth-century artisans from an isolated valley at the heart of the Swiss Jura produced creations that caught the eye of metropolitan clients abroad and continue to captivate watch enthusiasts today across the world.

The Manufacture’s complicated masterpieces are located at the center of the spiral, where the architectural intensity is at its highest. The astronomical, chiming and chronograph complications that have been at the core of Audemars Piguet since its establishment are orbiting around the ultra-complicated Universelle pocket watch from 1899. Inspired by the solar system, the spherical showcases of this section evoke the astronomical cycles of time at the heart of watchmaking. The watch exhibition ends on a rich collection of Royal Oak, Royal Oak Offshore and Royal Oak Concept.

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Complementing the display of complicated timepieces, the Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet showcases the Manufacture’s ancestral savoir-faire through two specialized ateliers situated at the heart of the spiral. The first is dedicated to the Grandes Complications, where each watch composed of more than 648 components spends from 6 to 8 months in the hands of a single watchmaker before leaving the workshop. The second workshop hosts the Métiers d’Art, where Haute Joaillerie creations are conceived and crafted by highly skilled jewelers, gem-setters and engravers. Looking at the past, present and future, these two ateliers, where some of Audemars Piguet’s most intricate creations are still produced today, embody the Manufacture’s uncompromising spirit.

“Watchmaking like architecture is the art and science of imbuing metals and minerals with energy, movement, intelligence and measure to bring them to life in the form of telling time.” – Bjarke Ingels BIG Founder and Creative Director

As for the Musée Atelier’s structure, the new building reflects AP’s commitment to architectural innovation in both manufacturing and cultural projects. The Musée Atelier’s spiral-shaped pavilion, designed by BIG and realized by the Swiss architecture office CCHE, seamlessly rises on walls of structural curved glass. A feat of engineering and design, it is the first construction of its kind to be built at such altitude. The curved glazing entirely supports the steel roof, while a brass mesh runs along the external surface to regulate light and temperature. The green roof further helps regulate temperature, while absorbing water.

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The spiral has been designed to perfectly integrate the surrounding landscape. The floors follow different slants to adapt to the natural gradient of the land and provide the basis of the museum’s inner layout stretched into a linear continuous spatial experience. Inside, the curved glass walls converge clockwise towards the spiral’s center, before moving in the opposite direction: visitors travel through the building as they would through the spring of a timepiece.

Then, there’s the historical house where visitors are welcomed to a world of ancient woodwork and stone. At the top of this historical house with an abundance of natural light, stood the original workshop of Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet in 1875. This Atelier was saved and re-established at the top floor where Audemars Piguet debuted thanks to sensitive construction design and careful construction intervention.

The Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet is slated to welcome visitors in early 2021.

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