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Audemars Piguet opens its horological museum

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Switzerland’s early and highly effective handling of the Covid-19 pandemic has seen the average number of new daily cases of virus drop to under 20 for the past fortnight.

That has allowed Audemars Piguet to open its new museum this week, just two months later than its planned ribbon-cutting at the end of April.

The spiral-shaped museum is not just a gallery of historic models and storytelling, it is an integral part of AP’s Le Brassus manufacturing facility, with working watchmakers within the space.

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“I don’t think you have many museums where you actually see people work on very complicated watches. We wanted humans to be at the centre of the exhibition,” Francois-Henry Bennahmias, chief executive of the brand, told Reuters.

The opening ceremony of the Audemars Piguet Musee Atelier, is on Thursday.

A combination of watch displays, live watchmaking and animated displays will plot the history of the 145-year-old atelier.

Many of the watches on display are thought to have been sold back to Audemars Piguet by Time Products in the UK, which was the exclusive distributor for the brand until 2017.

In the year that partnership formally ended, Time Products recorded a £17 million spike in sales, much of that believed to have been from Audemars Piguet buying back stock and historic references.

Marcus Margulies, chairman of Time Products, sold his entire collection of Audemars Piguet watches to the brand in 2016.

Among this collection was a renowned ultra-complicated pocket watch no 6142, called the “Universelle”, which is displayed at the centre of the museum’s spiral (below).

At the time of the sale, Jasmine Audemars, chairwoman of the AP Board of Directors, said: “This acquisition is the most important in the history of the Audemars Piguet Heritage collection thanks to the incredible quality of the pieces representing a high concentration of major historical achievements for the brand.”

Speaking about the acquisition of Mr Margulies’s collection, Mr Bennahmias added: “We are delighted to welcome these vintage pieces back home. It represents a great milestone for the heritage department and a huge contribution to our patrimony. Marcus Margulies is very happy, as he has always believed that the right home for the collection was with the factory in Le Brassus.”

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Rob Corder

The author Rob Corder