Luxury watch brand Audemars Piguet recently teamed up with Forbes Travel Guide to give timepiece lovers in San Francisco the ultimate learning experience. On April 28 and 29, Audemars Piguet took over Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The St. Regis San Francisco’s presidential suite and put on quite the interactive showcase. With a 20th-floor location featuring spectacular views of the city from all sides, the stylish space was transformed into a watch museum on one side and a watch factory on the other.
AP historian Michael Friedman was on hand to take guests around to each of the cases so they could admire the various timepieces from different eras. There was a stunning pocket watch with an open back that revealed the delicate pieces that make up the intricate machine. Some of the newer standouts included a chunky rose gold number with an elegant white time face; a classic silver watch with a sleek black time face; and a thick, all-white beauty with a Roman numeral-emblazoned front.
However, the highlight of the event wasn’t getting a close-up look of the iconic watches, but rather an inside peek at how they are made. AP technical trainer Gary Cruz led a select group of invitees into a dark and quiet room for a watchmaking master class. Screens depicting the mountainous scenes of Le Brassus, the village in Switzerland where Audemars Piguet watches are handcrafted, covered the windows of the hotel. Tall dark wood desks (with plush elbow rests and a brightly lit work surfaces, of course) awaited each of the novice watchmakers. Backless stools appeared too low for the desks, but Cruz pointed out that this was necessary for the watchmaker to build at eye level.
Cruz and his team of two walked us through the process of building the perfect wristwatch. The ancient profession that requires tweezers, a loupe eyepiece and an incredibly delicate demeanor was fascinating to experience firsthand. Each numbered piece — be it a shiny wheel, a polished plate or tiny screw — had to be lightly placed and checked to ensure it functioned correctly. After just a few minutes on the job, it became clear that making an AP timepiece was essentially like creating a work of art.
The class was followed by a meet-and-mingle with AP’s warm and passionate team. Glenmorangie distillery offered a sampling of scotches while Billecart-Salmon Champagne was served by the glass. Renowned professional golfer and television commentator Nick Faldo, who was in town for the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Match Play, sat down with Friedman to discuss his golf career, his partnership with AP and being a Royal Oak Offshore line ambassador. During the lively chat, Faldo revealed that he’s designing several luxury golf courses around the world. Gaining insight from a PGA legend while also learning the intricacies behind watchmaking made this master class an experience we wouldn’t hesitate to revisit whenever it’s offered again.