Audemars Piguet Explores Its Roots at Thoroughly Modern Anniversary Tour Kickoff

By Jim Shi March 23, 2012, 6:02 PM EDT

Audemars Piguet took over the Park Avenue Armory's Wade Thompson Drill Hall to host an exhibition devoted to and celebrating the 40th anniversary of its Royal Oak timepiece. Following a black-tie dinner for 200 guests on Wednesday night, the retrospective opened to the public for four days.

Photo: Nadia Chaudhury/BizBash

Audemars Piguet 40th Anniversary Kick Off
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To celebrate the 40th anniversary of its iconic Royal Oak timepiece—considered one of the world's first luxury sports watches—Audemars Piguet hosted an artistic black-tie dinner for 200 on Wednesday, March 21. Held at the Park Avenue Armory, the exclusive affair from the Swiss manufacturer was designed to showcase the brand's historical roots in a thoroughly modern fashion.

Carine Bauvey, C.E.O. of the New York-based creative consultancy firm MA3 Agency, worked with the Audemars Piguet team for 18 months to plan the event, with the New York dinner and exhibition as the first leg of a multicity global tour that includes stops in Milan, Paris, Beijing, Singapore, and Dubai. “Tonight, Audemars Piguet stepped into the world of art in a progressive manner,” said Bauvey.

Although the teardown took two days following the conclusion of the four-day public retrospective, the build itself took four days due to the delicacy of the artwork. Installations included enlarged imagery, fragmented display vitrines, a forest of metal pipes, and a live-video piece that rose 45 feet in the air. “There is no typical decor here,” said Bauvey. “We had to make three different artists' work cohesive and, at the same time, hark back to the Audemars Piguet roots, yet show their brand in a modern fashion.”

To do that, Bauvey's team played up the Royal Oak timepiece's geometric shape. For example, all the displays were cast in angular formations, with the combination of walnut and steel—a contrast woven throughout the exhibit—providing a link between the brand and the product. “Walnut projects a warm color, and where the brand is from is surrounded by woods and forests,” said Bauvey. “Walnut is a color that also goes well with steel.”

Even the music, pumped through strategically placed speakers, was a custom blend via a multichannel installation. Near the center of the exhibit, there was the distinct sound of a watch ticking; machine noises emanated from the watchmaker's station; and by the pool was the sound of water drops. In total, the producers devised eight different channels of music to create an all-encompassing sensory experience.

Dinner tables featured prairie-like centerpieces evocative of the Swiss watchmaker's hometown of Le Brassus. Caterer Olivier Cheng served a three-course meal with Swiss influences, including a salad of hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, frisée, and pine nuts with a white balsamic vinaigrette; a twice-baked Etivaz cheese soufflé with roasted rainbow cauliflower and pumpkin seed oil; and a main course of baby lamb chops with sweet onion soubise, parsley puree, sunchokes, and asparagus, with an edible wild flower as garnish.

Following dinner, the crowd took in a live show by the Irrepressibles, a British performance orchestra.

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