A revival of a quirky classic.
After a two-year hiatus, Audemars Piguet has relaunched the Code 11:59 Starwheel time travel complication. The latest addition to the collection installs a unique complication in the Code 11:59, a model initially criticized but now often praised, and combines it with a blue aventurine dial that complements the two-tone black ceramic and white gold case .
The reintroduction of the Star Wheel in Code 11:59 was a very interesting proposition, and well timed.
It’s interesting because it combines the modern proportions and style of the Code 11.59 case with a once-overlooked complication. In this sense, the watch embodies a key direction in contemporary watchmaking: reinterpreting vintage classics for today.
While the formula is familiar, the new Starwheel is very different and will no doubt be polarizing. The relatively large case diameter of 41mm compared to the compact models of the 1990s means that the new model may not appeal to fans of the original, but it will certainly bring a new audience to the complication (and possibly Will expand Code’s customer base 11.59).
It’s good timing, as Starwheel fake watches from the 1990s have grown in popularity over the past two years as interest in watches of all kinds has exploded. As such, the brand’s revival of the Starwheel reflects its awareness of today’s tastes. It also suggests that the AP is watching the comings and goings of the secondary market, where older Starwheel models have been climbing in value — at least until the recent market turmoil.
The Starwheel retails for CHF 48,000, which is reasonable considering its built-in features and overall AP pricing. While slightly more expensive than a comparable Code 11:59 chronograph, the Starwheel has one of the more interesting and rare complications. The retail price is also more or less in line with the secondary market value of vintage Starwheel models.
While the new Code 11:59 Starwheel has a strikingly modern aesthetic, it is a descendant of the Starwheel watches made by Audemars Piguet in the 1990s, which date back some four hundred years.
Wandering Time was invented in the 17th century by the clockmakers, the Campagni brothers, and debuted as part of the “Night Clock” designed for Pope Alexander VII. Since the Pope had trouble sleeping, he needed a clock that would run without ticking. The Campani siblings built a chronograph driven by a movement that required a continuously rotating disc to indicate hours and minutes.
This complication was later used in pocket watches with graduated minute scales for improved legibility. However, it was quickly superseded by jumping hour displays popular during the Art Deco era in the early 20th century.
It was then all but forgotten until 1989 when one of Audemars Piguet’s watchmakers discovered the complication in a trade magazine. This eventually led to the first modern starwheel, ref. 25720, introduced in 1991.
According to fake Audemars Piguet, the model name may have been derived from the visible star-wheel that drives the hour disc. Over the ensuing 12 years, some 30 Starwheel variants were produced until the model was discontinued in 2003.
While the front of the Code 11.59 case is usually circular, it is an interplay of shapes. Its shape is enhanced by overlapping geometries – the bezel, back and dial are circular, while the middle of the case is octagonal.
Like several other Code 11.59 models, the Starwheel features a novel combination of ceramic and gold: white gold for the bezel, lugs and case back, while black ceramic for the case middle and crown.
The result is a high-contrast case that emphasizes shape and finish. Remarkably, the case middle is finished with polished and brushed finishes that meet at a perfectly defined boundary, demonstrating the precise hand-finishing of the case.
Below the crystal is a highly detailed dial. The hours are indicated by three aluminum discs with white numerals on a matt black dial against a blue aventurine glass dial. Further contrast is provided by white markings on the peripheral black minute scale on the dial.
It is also worth noting that only the highly complication watches in the Code 11:59 collection are equipped with aventurine glass dials. The material also appears on the dials of the perpetual calendar and tourbillon, where it complements the star wheel.
While wandering time isn’t the most intuitive way to display it, it’s easy to get used to. The Starwheel shows the time exactly like its predecessor. It relies on a central pinion to complete one revolution every three hours, orbiting the hours and indicating the minutes. The current hour numerals on the disc also point to the minute scale, assisted by small arrows on the dial carrying the disc.
But the new Starwheel differs from earlier models in one key way: it now has a second hand, something past Star Wheel watches didn’t have.
New code 11:59 powered by cal. The 4310 was developed exclusively for Starwheel. The movement boasts a respectable 70-hour power reserve and is derived from the cal. 4309 introduced in 2021 as the brand’s large-diameter workhorse movement. The caliber here has been reconfigured to accommodate the roaming time mod.
As expected from Audemars Piguet, the movement is well made. It features Côtes de Genève and prominent milled bevels of the bridges, as well as a solid gold oscillating weight.
Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Starwheel 41mm
Material: 18k White Gold and Black Ceramic
Water resistance: 30 meters
Movement: Cal. 4310
Functions: Walking hours, minutes and central seconds up
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 70 hours
Strap: Black patterned rubber with white gold pin buckle