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Audemars Piguet's Secret Weapon


Audemars Piguet and Papi’s director is one of the most respected men in the watchmaking industry. Giulio Papi was named Best Watchmaker at the Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix in 2008 and has contributed countless complications to both Audemars Piguet and his own workshop, Audemars Piguet Renaud and Papi, over his decades-long career. In town for a special event at Bal Harbour Shops, we caught up with Giulio Papi to discuss his favorite topic—watch complications.

What initially attracted you to Audemars Piguet?
When I was a teenager and a student at the technical school learning watchmaking, we learned stories of each brand, beginning with Audemars Piguet for the letter "A" and finished with Zenith for "Z." I always liked Audemars Piguet because they are the leader in complications.

When you developed Renaud and Papi, your own manufacture, did you strive to implement the same complications as Audemars Piguet?
After my technical school I worked for Audemars between 1984-86. I wanted to work in their complications workshop, but I was told I have to wait 20 years before I can work on complications. When you're young like I was then, it's impossible to wait 20 years for anything! I decided to leave and create my workshop with another colleague to make complications myself.

We launched our company Renaud and Papi in 1986. At that time everyone else was using old models of complications designed prior to 1930. We created new complications when we launched in 1986. We had a lot of success with our new complications, which we developed with computer programs, which was novel at the time.

When you won your award for Best Watchmaker in 2008, what was the first things that went through your mind?
I don't work to win prizes; I work because I'm passionate about it. It's good for the brain to know you've won something, of course. It's a nice reward for the work for sure! But, I work to make the best product and that's what I focus on.

Was there a timepiece when you were younger that led you into this industry?
There wasn't a particular piece that sparked my interest, but I've always loved technical things. I love mechanisms. Cars, boats, airplanes -- everything is about mechanics. For me a watch is a little machine.

What would you consider the ultimate timepiece?
A watch that we could repair forever, using technology with low energy consumption, to make mechanisms with a high degree of decoration and to make the best product in terms of design with reliability would be my ideal timepiece.

How do you incorporate technology into watchmaking?
I use high technology to design and to cut components with lasers. With Audemars Piguet we use traditional materials, like steel and brass, but for the bridges and main plate we can use titanium or aluminum or even natural stone. But we never use new materials for mechanical components, like the silicon escapements, as other companies do—at least not for now. We don't use it because it's impossible to repair, so it goes against our philosophy that we can repair any part of the watch.

I understand you're working on a masterpiece that may be revealed in the near future?
Yes, I've been working on making all of the complications of a watch completely flat.

And that's been in the process for a long time?
Yes, it's been something I've thought about and working on for most of my career. To make a flat watch with flat complications that is strong and reliable is a challenge.


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