Limited Editions and Their Inspirations: Audemars Pigeut and More
Limited editions are a very special category of watch that deliberately march to the beat of a different drummer, occupying a special place, even within their own brand’s catalog. They’re special timepieces – and make their wearers special, too. Brands only make a limited amount of these watches, which in some cases can turn them into interesting investments.
Limited editions however are so much more than just watches, because behind every edition you’ll find a unique story. Enthusiasts with a passion for other enjoyable things in life find one-of-a-kind watches that are often inspired by art and culture. After all, there’s nothing better than having two things you love at the same time on your wrist: a great watch, and the inspiration for it.
Special Edition or Limited Edition?
With this in mind, have you ever heard about special editions? These are not only limited to a specific number of pieces, but are released for a specific market and/or only for a limited amount of time. Just two examples include the Seiko Prospex US Collection and the green TAG Heuer Carrera.
This article will be talking about limited editions. Why? The small quantities in which they’re manufactured make them rarer and more sought-after. Join me on my journey into some of the most unique limited watch editions out there today.
Tattoo Inspiration: Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu II Black Magic
Limited to 250 Pieces
Hublot is known not only for its horological masterpieces, but for blazing new trails, and even the occasional provocation. It’s no wonder then that their inspirations for watches come from places that other classic brands simply don’t opt to go. The best example of this is their work together with Swiss tattoo artist and graphic designer Maxime Plescia-Büchi. Sang Bleu (blue blood) is the name of his tattoo parlor, lifestyle magazine, as well as the watch collection he designed – the Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu. Now, these are not so much watches as they are sculptures in watch form, with dials featuring a unique three-dimensionality, containing three rotating plateaus for the hour, minute, and seconds. Their interplay creates a new geometric form at every moment of the day. Yes, arrows do in fact indicate the time, but with this watch, that plays a more secondary role.
Hublot has for years been a master of displaying time this way. Their All Black collection released in 2006 sparked a revolution with its entirely black watches, off of which it is very difficult (if not downright impossible) to read the time. You could say that the Hublot Sang Bleu II Black Magic descends from these timepieces, with its design taking things a step further, being reminiscent of so-called blackout tattoos where entire skin surfaces are inked black. These have a special “otherness” effect that for some might come across as a bit frightening, while for others it is a unique expression of creativity – with both the watch and the tattoo.
Inspiration Design – Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Carolina Bucci
Limited to 300 Pieces
A watch brand working together with a designer at first glance may appear to be anything but extraordinary. But the cooperation between Audemars Piguet and Italian jewelry designer Carolina Bucci is a great example of how both parties can evolve through this kind of work together. Their first cooperation was in 2016 to celebrate the 40-year anniversary of the women’s Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, garnishing it in her signature “frosted gold.” Achieving this is done with a diamond-tipped tool to create tiny indentations into the gold that sparkle like diamond dust when completed. A number of Royal Oak variations would follow in “frosted gold” with different complications – and without the trademark Royal Oak “Tapisserie” dial, opting for mirrored dials instead.
The 50th birthday of the Royal Oak was another occasion for Carolina Bucci to create a one-of-a-kind design for Audemars Piguet. This time, however, instead of “frosted gold,” black ceramic was the material of choice. For the first time in the history of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak by Carolina Bucci the brand and designer executed the Royal Oak’s iconic Tapisserie geometry as a relief pattern on the black dial. Bucci now used a mirrored effect which, depending on the light, lets it shine in all the colors of the rainbow. This is done via elaborate manual handicraft, meaning that no dial is identical to another; all of these 300 watches are one-of-a-kind. These timepieces are evidence of how both Audemars Piguet and Carolina Bucci took the less-traveled path to achieve something extraordinary. It’s rare in the world of watches to find such a bold, radical anniversary edition that nevertheless so successfully pays tribute to the timepiece being celebrated: the Royal Oak is revolutionized and stylishly rung into the modern era, while still maintaining every ounce of its elegant heritage.
Inspired By Nature – Grand Seiko Heritage Collection SBGW289
Limited to 1,200 Pieces
Although we humans do our fair share of artistic creation, nature remains the undisputed number one when it comes to beauty and inspiration. Grand Seiko is more than aware of this, with some of its watches beautifully inspired accordingly. Just one example is the limited edition Grand Seiko SBGW289 that was released to celebrate the 55th anniversary of the iconic 44GS. It takes its inspiration from the phenomenon known as “Sakura-kakushi,” when new cherry blossoms are covered in snow in the early spring. A beautiful play of light occurs when the sun shines upon them: the delicate pink of the blossoms and glistening of the ice crystals radiate a nearly magical effect.
The Grand Seiko Heritage Collection SBGW289 understands the play of light like just about no other watch. Every detail, from its case to its indices, is created to reflect even the tiniest ray of light. The result is a gorgeous interplay of light and shadow that changes every time you move the watch. As can be expected by Grand Seiko, the timepiece is of impeccable quality, which in this rare case is a secondary matter: the star of the show here is how the watch captures light to create fleeting moments of absolute beauty, while at the same time reminding us of our transience as human beings. I can’t think of a more perfectly fitting notion when it comes to a watch.
Classic Car Inspiration: Chopard Mille Miglia 2022 Race Edition
Limited to 1,000 (Stainless Steel) and 250 (Two-Tone) Pieces
It’s no secret that Formula 1 has been an inspiration to major watchmakers. Chopard however seeks inspiration from the days of yesteryear and its vintage car rallies. There are all kinds of car races, but only one is referred to as “la corsa più bella del mondo,” the legendary Mille Miglia, an approximately 1,000-mile open-road motorsport endurance race across San Marino, Rome, Sienna, and Florence. Today, this course is driven exclusively by classic and vintage cars; it’s a race for car lovers and aficionados who are less concerned with speed and more into driving in and of itself. See and be seen. Most of all, the Mille Miglia is about a passion for automobiles, and sharing this with like-minded others.
Ever since 1988, the Chopard Mille Miglia series has put the spirit of this race on the wrists of those who love it. It unites elegance with the right touch of dolce vita in a retro look. 2022 saw the release of two chronographs paying tribute to this year’s race, the Chopard Mille Miglia 2022 Race Edition. Both models, one in stainless steel (limited to 1,000 pieces), and the other as a rose gold two-tone edition (limited to 250 pieces), simply shine with their silver dials and intensive blue highlights. There are red tips on the seconds hand and subdial hands at 12 and 6 o’clock, giving them an added racing touch. Sporty? Retro? Timeless? All of the above? That’s left up to the wearer to decide. No matter what, this is a timepiece that not only fans of vintage cars will love, but everyone else who appreciates taking time for the good things in life.
Inspired By Literature: IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Annual Calendar Edition “Le Petit Prince”
Limited to 250 Pieces
IWC’s first watch in its Le Petit Prince series was released in 2013. It was a pilot’s watch based on the Mark XVII, with a blue dial and retro look. IWC’s connection to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry has been in place for much longer, and is the product of so much more than just the author’s passion for flying. Both IWC and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry place great importance on humanitarian values, with IWC supporting the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Youth Foundation. Watch auctions are held there on a regular basis, with proceeds being donated to the Foundation to support children and young people in disadvantaged circumstances.
If you ask me, this series’ most beautiful piece is 2016’s IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Annual Calendar Edition “Le Petit Prince”. There’s no question about this being a watchmaking masterpiece. It perfectly captures the spirit of the little prince, the adventurousness of the early days of aviation, and even has something fantastic in store that you won’t discover while this watch is on your wrist. Take it off, and you’ll see through the sapphire crystal case back the rotor that has the shape of the little prince standing on top of his world. It’s a great watch for people who, like the prince himself, still dare to see that which is beautiful and true in life. And it’s the perfect watch for everyone who still dares to dream and wants to change the world.