Audemars Piguet, one of the Holy Trinity, has a long history in watchmaking and a very long register of every watch they ever produced to show! The brand produced its first watch in 1875 and in 1882 they began to register each serial number up until today. That's my cue to grab this data and show you all how AP's production evolved over the last Century up until today. How much did the brand really produce and when did it grow the most?

April 18, 2023

Audemars Piguet's Historic Production - 1892 to today


Marcus Siems     Marcus Siems @siemswatches
    Collector, Author, Data Analyst


The Behemoth from La Brassus The numbers are in and Audemars Piguet is again the #4 in 2022 sales revenue among Swiss watchmakers. And it has done so with the second highest price-per-unit out of all Top20 brands (only behind Richard Mille). So it seems that AP is doing quite well by selling less... Is this a traditional strategy of the brand or more of a modern preference? The good thing about AP is that their heritage department is offering very good insights so let's have a closer look and find out been the strategy all along.


Audemars Piguet once again had a record-breaking year selling watches for over 2 billion CHF in 2022 for the first time in history[1] and improving to 2021 by 27%[2]. And the brand from La Brassus achieved all of this by selling "only" about 50,000 watches. A little head-scratching though is that about 90% of their 2022 revenue came from the (in)famous Royal Oak[1].

It's been the 50th anniversary year, I'll give you that but it still seems that these numbers can hardly represent the long tradition from the Swiss watchmaking powerhouse, one of the "Holy Trinity". Looking back the brand produced its first watch in 1875 and in 1882 they began to register each and every watch they produced up until today[3-5]!


historical Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 5402ST number A2The workhorse of the brand today and arguably a design masterpiece. This here is the historical Royal Oak number A2, the second Royal Oak ever made! This is the piece that actually went to Basel and was presented to the public in 1972. Photo Courtesy of Phillips 2022.


Well, that's my cue to grab this data and show you all how Audemars Piguet's production evolved all over the last Century up until today. How much did the brand really produce and when did it grow the most?


Annual Production of Audemars Piguet between 1892 to 1975Figure 1. Annual production from Audemars Piguet between 1892 to 1975. Production in year 1891 corresponds to the accumulated production prior to 1892 - indicated by the asterisk in the table.


You really can't argue with a well-kept archive! Between 1882-1891 AP produced 4340 pieces and from then on we can actually track the annual production over the next 80+ years up until 1975[3-5]. Over the first 50 years of existence the company seemed to have ben expanding almost year by year - producing over 500 watches the first time in 1902, over 1000 in 1906 and over 2000 in 1918 and stayed at a stable point throughout the 1920s.

But as we all know and as we've also seen with other brands (for example Cartier[6]) in 1929 the great Depression hits and the production of luxury goods comes almost to a complete halt. In 1932 AP produced merely two(!) watches. Between 1931 and 1936 the total output of the brand was below 350 timepieces! Only about 10-15 employees were left yet the watches produced/cased were mainly equipped with high complications[7-8] - I guess the credo was "Go Big or Go Home"!


unique Audemars Piguet chronograph N524 sold to Astrua in 1936One of the most unique Audemars Piguet designs of the time if not ever - the N524 chrongraph produced in 1933, and sold subsequently to Astrua (Turin, Italy) for 400CHF in 1936[8].


And with the start of World War II it again became tough to sell luxury goods to the world. But Audemars Piguet didn't stray from their path and stayed a manufacturer of high-quality timepieces rather than compromising for a stronger market share. Yet production gradually climbed back up and reached over 1000 produced watches back in 1945 and over 2000 already a year later in 1946.

However, production kept at a stable level until the mid 1950s until AP finally started to increase production noticeably. 1956 marks the first year with over 5000 watches produced annually and over 10,000 pieces were produced in 1970.


wristshot attractive vintage Audemars Piguet 9674 from 1955A statement of excellence in 18k white gold with a creamy dial and diamond hour markers... A rare and beautiful Audemars Piguet ref. 9674 from 1955 - one out of only 1880 watches produced that year. Photo


If you want another example of how rare early Audemars Piguet pieces were we can take deep dive into the brands philosophy. Every piece was seen as so unique - because of its artisanal execution - that reference numbers were not implemented until 1951[3]! A lot later than other watch manufacturers like Patek Philippe for example (late 1920s). Similarly, case numbers were only introduced the very same year.

This means that the first ~57,000 watches were "unique" pieces without the traditional classification of a reference system - so just a little over what AP produced last year.


Cumulated distribution of watches produced by Audemars Piguet between 1892 to 2022Figure 2.  Cumulated production of watches from Audemars Piguet between 1892 to today.


According to their archives AP produced their 5000th watch in 1893, the 10,000th in 1905, the 25,000th in 1920, the 50,000th in 1946, the 100,000th in 1965, the 250,000th in the 1980s and the 1Mio. watch in 2017[3-5].

However, there's a caveat to this calculation. It appears that not all of the serial numbers mentioned in the archives did ultimately end up as cased and finished watches[3]. Corresponding to AP's own research probably only about 50% of serial numbers until the 1950s can identify truly produced watches. When AP's serial numbers hit the 1Mio. ceiling in 2017 about 800,000 timepieces had indeed left the manufacture[3].


beautifully finished Audemars Piguet dress watch with Caliber 2003A stunning Audemars Piguet dress watch with the ultra-thin caliber 2003. Its serial number in the 88,xxx range dates this particular example to 1963 but was it really the 88,000th produced watch by the brand? Most likely its been rather in the 40-45,000 range (and one out of at most 2893 pieces that year). Really one of not many to quote another brand from the "Holy Trinity". Photo


So when we add this up with the Morgan Stanley reports of the last couple of years[1-2,9-10] this means that they might have hit the 1Mio. milestone just last year in 2022! In other words, AP produced in their entire history less timepieces than Rolex did last year... 

For me this means that owning an AP, really any AP, is a lot more special than owning a modern Rolex Submariner (you can quote me on that). Taking further into account how rare pieces from before 1950 or 1970 really are any vintage Audemars Piguet is somewhat of a rare bird.


vintage Audemars Piguet advertorial 1950sWhen a vintage advertorial can make your point in one sentence. "Audemars Piguet creations are produced in small series and intended for the true connoisseur of fine watches". AP - making ballsy ads since at least the 1950s. Ad Courtesy of HIFI archives.


So what did we learn? Audemars Piguet's philosophy indeed has been focused on quality rather than quantity. And that is even true in comparison to other traditional and historical Swiss watch brands like Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe[11]. However, I personally see it with a bit of a grain of salt that so many pieces sold and so much of the mainstream attention these days goes towards the Royal Oak.

AP - historically - has absolutely been more than a one-trick pony but it hardly shows these days. I guess it stays to show how the brand's strategy moves forward with the 50th anniversary year in the books and after the reigning CEO, François-Henry Bennahmias, will be stepping down at the end of 2023[12]. I personally would love to see more versatility but only time will tell.




[1] State of the Industry - Swiss Watchmaking in 2023; Watches by SJX;

[2] 2021 Watch Industry Results; Vittorino Loreto, ItalianWatchSpotter;

[3] Audemars Piguet Watch Numbering; Audemars Piguet Chronicles, Audemars Piguet;

[4] Audemars Piguet: Masterpieces of Classical Watchmaking; Gisbert Brunner, Brassus & Geneva: Audemars Piguet & Co;

[5] Date by Serial Number - Audemars Piguet; Josh Rankin, Stetz&Co;

[6] The Panther's First Steps - Early Cartier; Marcus Siems, Goldammer Vintage Watches;

[7] A Unique Watch From 1943; Audemars Piguet - Savoir-Faire;

[8] Audemars Piguet 20th Century Complicated Wristwatches; Sebastian Vivas & Michael Friedman, Audemars Piguet, La Brassus, 2018;

[9] Morgan Stanley Report On The Watch Industry's Biggest Problems In 2019 & Beyond; Ariel Adams, aBlogtoWatch;

[10] The 5 Largest Swiss Watch Brands by Market Share; Paul Altieri, Bob's Watches;

[11] The History of Audemars Piguet - The Early Days Part I & Part II;

Part I - Part II

[12] An Industry Insider's Take on Francois-Henry Bennamiahs' Success at Audemars Piguet; Watches by SJX;


All Rights on the text and graphics reserved to the Author. 

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