Swiss Only, Full Bracelet 5548 Audemars Piguet Quantieme Perpetual
As Patek’s 3945 is the 3940, so this extravagant, full-bracelet, engraved 5548 is the ‘standard’ 5548 (if there is such a thing). AP demonstrated with this precise reference that they are the masters at, and the last bastion of, mechanical horological artistry. Yet, this precise QP take that notion a step further in every detail. A first series or ‘swiss’ only dial, woven case engraving, and one extremely intricate integrated bracelet. This may not be what pops to mind with the phrase integrated bracelet, no. But it is what pops into my mind currently for the phrase ‘QP as an art form’ (I’m aware contrasting mainstream watchmaking with art is faux pas and I simply do not care).
AP’s first Perpetual Quantieme, the 5548, was conceived in secrecy during the height of Switzerland’s quartz crisis. At the time, the marque was struggling and contemplating leaning more on quartz for future models. Three senior watchmakers within AP (Michel Rochat, Daniel Golay, and Wilfred Berney) developed an ultra-thin auto perpetual calendar movement that would become an icon. They feared executives would not allow spending on development and so spent extra hours in this passion project. Their foresight and determination placed Audemars Piguet in a position of watchmaking prowess when mechanical luxury returned to dominance. It may be a mild hyperbole to state that this reference saved AP from the crisis. But it was certainly one of handful of watches to play a major role in resurrecting AP. This reference inexorably tethered AP to the perpetual calendar in the minds of many collectors, a complication which AP still commands today.
Yet, this particular 5548 has been elevated by the artists at Audemars Piguet with a breath-taking woven texture engraving across its outer bezel. This alternating pattern is echoed in the full 18k gold integrated bracelet, seemingly braided by the heavens themselves (in reality entirely engraved and assembled by mortal hands). Moreover, the dial on this example is signed ‘SWISS’ only, marking it out as one of the earliest production 5548s. 2066 examples of the 5548 were made in this yellow gold, but far, far fewer with this treatment. Whoever ordered this Quantieme Perpetual in the late-70s/early-80s knew precisely what they were doing; every detail is perfect.
Moreover, this example sports minimal wear across the delicate case. Even the caseback shows signs of wear only across its highly polished extremities. The bracelet is still tight and shows minimal markings around its clasp. The porcelain dial is correct and nothing appears out of place. It comes recently serviced as a naked watch from a well-regarded Singapore retailer.
Find this 5548 here from 2Tone Vintage listed as POA.