The analogies between a mechanical watch and music practically create themselves. Each must carry a steady beat or else mess up the timing; all moving parts advance in synchronicity to serve a coherent orchestration of the whole; and both exist through movement and motion in time. A watch could even be considered a musical instrument. Audemars Piguet clearly sees the natural association and previously teamed up with Grammy-award winning artist John Legend on the John Legend Millenary watch to raise money for Legend’s “Show Me” organization.
Audemars Piguet’s latest charitable endeavor is with music luminary Quincy Jones. Together they created the special edition Quincy Jones Millenary watch, limited to 500 pieces. The proceeds from the sale, along with an $1.5 million contribution from Audemars Piguet, will benefit Quincy’s Project Q, an initiative aimed at raising awareness among politicians, and the general public, of young people’s need for self-expression, and providing the means to help them fulfill their potential.
An evening in Los Angeles
In celebration of the timepiece and Quincy Jones as their new brand ambassador, Audemars Piguet hosted an evening at the SLS hotel located in Los Angeles. Francois-Henry Bennahmias, President and CEO of Audemars Piguet North America, presided as master of ceremonies. In an overall thematic sense the Quincy Jones Millenary watch and Project Q fit “like a glove,” says Jones. While the values of the family run Audemars Piguet match Jones’s own, he also sees a natural congruence with music and horology. “They are both structured and aesthetic, a combination of science and soul,” he says.
Jones came of age in the bee-bop generation, where dressing well was all part of making the scene. A timepiece was an essential element in a man’s dress. “You needed some cool kicks, fine vines and a nice watch, Jones affirms. The watch is the final touch, you gotta be hip.” And Jones certainly has a sharp sartorial style. He was decked out in a crisp black suit and tie, the tint on his glasses perfectly matching the glossy magenta hue of his shirt. Jones says the process of designing the Quincy Jones Millenary watch was a collaboration, with a back and forth communication. The final result captures a quintessential instrument in Jones’s repertoire, the one that changed his life at the age of 11 and led him to a career in music.
Characteristic of the Millenary series, the dial features the off-centred hour zone accompanied by a date window at 3 o’clock. Against the high black gloss reminiscent of a grand piano, white gold Roman numerals stretch to fit the dial, while the minute circle resembles the piano’s keys. Audemars Piguet’s equipped the timepiece with the in-house Calibre 3120, a self-winding mechanical movement.
Listening to the music
Jones has an oeuvre of songs spanning 50 years. I asked him if he could play one of his songs on his watch, which one would it be. With a chuckle, he answered: “Get Me to the Church on Time, by Sinatra.” Then, he discounted that answer as too obvious. After taking a few moments to contemplate he said “Just Once” with a wry lift of the brow.
Jones and Bennahmias have a true rapport. “We are real brothers, Bennahmias says, throwing an arm around Jones. We may have different color skin but we are related.” When asked how the alliance came about with Jones, Bennahmias relays that it started on the dance floor. Apparently, Bennahmias can cut a mean groove. With a bit of prodding from the audience, he and Jones gave a demonstration of their moves to the accompaniment of Cuban pianist Alfredo Rodrìguez, one of Jones’s protégés. And boy can Rodrìguez tickle those ivories. The audience got the treat of hearing him play Crossing the Border, the first song he wrote upon arrival in the United States last year.
“Your music can’t be more or less than you are as a human being,” Jones says, summing up his philosophy. This sentiment might seem vague or simple at the outset, but if you examine the artists Jones chooses to combine his talents with, you get a rich picture of his life and passions. Jones continues to make his music too. As a special surprise, he allowed us to hear some songs from his new album Soul Bossa Nostra, due to be released in spring 2010. Listening closely to the music and examining the Audemars Piguet special edition Quincy Jones Millenary watch, you get an idea just how remarkable the man is.