Floating yet rooted; functional yet sculptural — the new Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet is a study in contrasts. A tribute to the DNA of the Swiss luxury watchmaker, it perfectly embodies the brand’s free spirit, ceaseless dedication to breaking rules and respect for high craftsmanship.
Designed by Danish architectural firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and realised by Swiss architecture firm CCHE, Musee Atelier Audemars Piguet’s intertwined spiral-shaped pavilion is a feat of engineering and design. The striking landmark has been skilfully integrated into the hilly landscape of Vallee de Joux in the Jura Mountains, with walls of structural curved glass supporting a landscaped roof, while a wide brass mesh runs along the external surface. Aiding in water collection as well as light and temperature regulation, these features also help fulfil the requirements of the Swiss Minergie certification in terms of energy efficiency and are a testament to Audemars Piguet’s commitment to sustainability.
Inside, visitors travel through the building as they might around the balance spring of a timepiece, with exhibition sequences conceived as a linear continuous spatial experience. Curved glass walls converge clockwise towards the spiral’s centre, before moving in the opposite direction.
“Watchmaking, like architecture, is the art and science of invigorating inanimate matter with intelligence and performance. It is the art of imbuing metals and minerals with energy, movement, intelligence and measure — to bring it to life in the form of telling time,” says Bjarke Ingels, founder and creative director of BIG.
Visitors to the museum, which will house more than 300 timepieces, will be led through a sequence of spaces directed towards the centre of the spiral. In this area, astronomical, chiming and chronograph watches are displayed around the Universelle (1899), the most complicated watch ever produced by Audemars Piguet with over 20 complications and 1,168 components for its movement. The tour is complete with a rich collection of Royal Oak, Royal Oak Offshore and Royal Oak Concept watches.
Complementing the display of complicated timepieces, the new museum will also showcase the watchmaker’s savoir faire through two specialised ateliers: one is dedicated to Grandes Complications, where each watch featuring more than 648 components spends six to eight months in the hands of a single watchmaker; the other hosts Metiers d’Art, where high jewellery creations are crafted by highly skilled jewellers, gemsetters and engravers. These ateliers demonstrate Audemars Piguet’s devotion to the perpetuation of haute horlogerie, offering a unique opportunity for visitors to better understand the full scope of its savoir faire.
There are also traditional workshops, where visitors can observe Audemars Piguet’s watchmakers and craftsmen at work on some of the brand’s latest creations. You can also try your hand at some of the decorative techniques, such as satin brushing and circular graining.
The new exhibition space is connected to the existing museum building where the original workshop of Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet was once located. Today, this historic building has been extensively restored to its original 19th-century form and now houses the company’s restoration workshop.
“We want visitors to experience our heritage, savoir faire, cultural origins and openness to the world in a building that would reflect both our rootedness and forward-thinking spirit. But above all, we wanted to pay tribute to the watchmakers and craftspeople who have made Audemars Piguet what it is today, generation after generation,” says Jasmine Audemars, chairwoman of the board of directors at Audemars Piguet.
This story first appeared in the May 2020 issue of A Magazine.