Audemars Piguet Millenary

If you were to group Audemars Piguet with brands like Rolex and Paneria that have built their reputation on sports watches, you wouldn't be far off. Signature Audemars Piguet timepieces, like the big, bold, angular Royal Oak Offshore, continue to be a favorite of the upper echelon when they venture to the beach in Saint-Tropez or onto their yachts in Newport. But you should prepare to encounter Audemars in more formal venues, as the Swiss maker tries to capture the dress-watch market with this year's introduction of its Millenary line.

It is such a departure for the company that representatives use phrases like "a statement for us" and "so radical for Audemars Piguet." But it is fascinating to see how something so radical can be so elegant and refined. Its distinct curving oval shape debuted in 2004, when a limited-edition watch celebrated the Maserati 90th anniversary. Now Audemars has spun off 15 different renditions for both men and women, including a top-of-the-line, hand-wound, open-faced tourbillon chronograph in a platinum case.

The men's line includes a half dozen types, ranging from a classic pink gold case with a white face to a trendier powder blue face with white gold case (shown). A number of the women's models are loaded with diamonds, and could be described as bling. In fact, a recent trend has been that more and more women wear the Audemars Piguet watch in its many versions. All the watches are self-winding and water-resistant to 65 feet. The men's watches also have a calendar function. Prices for the Millenary line start at $18,900 for men's models. Women's start at $11,300.

The tour de force, however, is the MC 12, named after Maserati's 700-horsepower super car. Audemars Piguet is a sponsor of the car in GT competition across Europe. It's a watch that combines much of the same elegance and function that you'd find in an Italian sports car —or, as the Audemars Piguet people describe it, it is "a new blend of performance and aesthetics, classicism and modernity." For you watch tech-heads, Audemars Piguet created a new movement for the MC 12—the Audemars Piguet caliber 2884. It's an oval, hand-wound movement with a double barrel that maintains a 10-day power reserve, as well as the chronograph and tourbillon. A handful of MC 12 models will be coming to the States in December. The watch will retail for about $227,000.