Audemars Piguet Minute Repeater Tourbillon – new watch case manufacturing

Alternative casing for complicated Audemars Piguet timepiece

We will talk about a really complex Audemars Piguet Swiss watch, the minute repeater model. Why is this watch so clever? Because the tourbillon turns the oscillating system around its axis once in a minute, consequently compensating the non-ideal accuracy, that can depend on gravity. The movement can decrease the running time, or reads the hours and minutes from the hands, to make them into the hammers beating on the gongs. Nearly each man (including watchmakers) cannot imagine how this thing works or how to hide and fit it into a compact wristwatch case, but especially how to manage the pleasant melodic sound, to ensure its reliably. Lots of effort was put into this watch, therefore we can call it smart and complex. The minute repeater is one of the ‘smartest’, most clever and hardest devices in realization.

The Swiss company Audemars Piguet is one of the best ones. Audemars Piguet minute repeater watch is the one that people dream of. What is wrong with the watch? Do we need to fix any problems? It’s simple. The watch is a bit too small on a man’s wrist, it doesn’t have enough weight and you want the same thing only bigger. How do you make it bigger? Maybe you need to make the watch bigger by a few mm here and there to make it comfortable to wear. Is it too complicated to manufacture a larger model of the watch?

Watch repair? Restoration? Nope, rebuild!

The initial aim of the project is to make a quite small 40mm watch fairly bigger. How much will the consumer pay for each extra mm of the size to ensure that he is satisfied with its size, fully fitting his wrist and giving good weight?

Introducing the project of manufacturing the new case for the repeater-tourbillion by Audemars Piguet, the model Jules Audemars Repetition Minutes Tourbillion. We’ll have a brief look at how it is made, at the outcome, and at the most of the production nuances we kept in mind while manufacturing the wristwatch case.

On the left, you can see the new case, while on the right there is an original old one. At first, you cannot see much difference which is good as this keeps the original Audemars style, while receiving a significant increase in size.

As you can see the volume and the weight of the watch have increase significantly. The diameter of the previous case was 40 mm, while the new casing has a diameter of 43.8 mm.

How to make gold wristwatch case 

So, first of all, a 3D model is created (CAD model). It represents the masterpiece virtually, but then it is converted for a program used by the CAM. We will need to purchase a set of milling cutters and design and drill all clamps for every thin piece of the case. You will need to calibrate the result, maybe spoil 3 to 5 ‘blank’ parts, until you get a perfect result from the machine.

Luckily, while developing another case experiment, we managed to make a case for an old Audemars Freres movement. The previous knowledge of the process and stages of it helped us greatly during this project. Although, because of the slight difference in the sizes of the different movements, we still had to make all new tooling work for each part in order for it to fit correctly, so we had to ruin a few testing pieces using cheap metals in order to make the movement to fit correctly. Only the final take was made in gold.

At first, a brass case is made to represent how the movement fits inside the case and the compatibility of the parts.

Raw case after the brief polishing, with the lugs applied.

The assembly with the repeater slider, the crown, and the slider adjustment.

The movement placed into the new case. The case became significantly bigger and the face now seems smaller: not quite proportional. This problem is solved by an extra outer minute track.

We are now extending the face with a ring containing fine minute track. It does not catch the eye as much, but it rather just adds volume to the face.

But how shall we deal with the case back containing gold hallmarks and the Audemars Piguet branding? Original caseback fits the new case, even the serial number kept the same…

The crown required a few tries; we needed to make a few plastic models. The computer design seemed to be complete, while the physical model needed a few adjustments.

We have just got a unique Audemars Piguet masterpiece, a real Unique Pieace, “Piece Unique”( French ) – a unique, only piece.

Piece Unique watches

‘Jules-type’ case polishing and refinement

Surface polishing and refinement is quite important in the watchmaking process. Many private master jewelers don’t pay good attention to polishing and development of the surfaces. One must imprint the linear pattern and the micro-grooves, showing the shape and creating the attractive light play.

The Jules Audemars series has an original and well recognizable polishing method. In the process of repairing and polishing of the case a good amount of attention and detail should be given to the linear side pattern, while frontal surfaces are mirror – polished. After this process is complete, the case is covered in rhodium for a solid, bright finish.

Combining the frontal mirror-smooth with the satin on the side surfaces.

The case back cover is placed to new case from the old one.

The hardest part was treating the surface near non-flat areas, as it is very important to keep the quality at least as good as the original and maybe even better.

“Jumbo” Jules Audemars

The process of creating the new case is even harder than repairing the same mechanism, while some stages forgot to be photographed.

P.S. Does the ordered watch upgrade make it an ‘elite’ class masterpiece? The answer is uncertain, although it is still not the aim of the process. In this case, the watch belonged to a top class, although this can be done just for you to make it more convenient for your wrist as this is the most important thing.