Famed as one of watchmaking's most successful risk-takers, Audemars Piguet is rightfully renowned for incredible avant-garde timepieces that push horological boundaries far beyond what most would consider reasonable. While the Royal Oak springs to mind as a whacky release given the prevailing market conditions that surrounded it due to the Quartz Crisis and the general lack of stainless steel in most luxury brands' portfolios, the watch I have here is probably even more interesting due to the sheer originality of its design and novel display. Nicknamed the "Star Wheel," the ref. 25720BA has influenced modern brands like Urwerk with its unique layout and thus grown a cult following for its place within AP's hallowed halls as yet another industry trend that they can lay claim to.
Launched in 1991, the Audemars Piguet ref. 25720BA "Star Wheel" was a rather unconventional timepiece in the 90s (given the shift growing towards sports watches) that now seems to have been far ahead of its time. Taking inspiration from the wandering hours complication that dates back to the 17th century, the Star Wheel displays the time by using three sapphire disks that rotate along the top of the dial.
The minutes are displayed on a separate linear track in the upper portion of the dial, as highlighted by the white backdrop over which the black numerals on the disks and chapter ring are legible. As each hourly disk passes under the chapter ring, the very movement of time is realized, and the next hour slowly takes the previous hours' spot along the chapter ring.
Produced only in precious metals and in extremely limited quantities, the Star Wheel features a stepped bezel and an entirely-polished surface alongside a small winding crown and unimposing lugs to complete its physical construction. A wonderful watch on the wrist, the 18kt yellow gold ref. 25720BA that I have here measures 36mm in diameter and wears rather neatly. With its beautiful dial sporting a wonderfully hand-engraved section along its southern hemisphere, the ref. 25720BA is genuinely captivating in hand.
Powered by the automatic cal. 2224, which is visible behind an exhibition caseback, the Star Wheel continues the fine craftsmanship and attention to detail visible in its dial and case through to its movement in a rather unsurprising display of impressive watchmaking from Audemars Piguet. While we might expect it from the Holy Trinity member, it's always a pleasure to enjoy nonetheless.