BY HARLAN CHAPMAN-GREEN
Audemars Piguet is on a roll this year, and so our coverage of it continues. Today, we’re looking at the Royal Oak Concept, which is a range of super-futuristic watches in the theme of a Royal Oak. We’ve seen watches with lap-timers, tourbillons, repeaters and all manner of complications. Minute repeaters and chronographs are some of the most complex features that can be added to a wristwatch, turning that chronograph into a split-seconds chronograph dials that complexity up a notch, but it seems that Audemars Piguet is not afraid of making such watches.
Lots of people love Richard Mille watches for their futuristic looks and experimental watch design. I think that Audemars Piguet can match that when it wants to. Perhaps, though, this is not a surprise, as Richard Mille is a customer of Audemars Piguet’s skunkworks, which is called Audemars Piguet (Renaud et Papi), and makes some of the most technically striking (no pun intended, mostly) watches ever.
Featuring a 43mm x 17.4mm made from titanium and with 50m of water resistance, this new Royal Oak Concept pushes the barrel forwards in design terms. The case is slightly curved from one lug to the next to help it hug smaller wrists despite its large size. The titanium will help keep the weight down, so it doesn’t feel ungainly, and the pushers and crown are made of ceramic.
The open-worked dial of the new Concept draws the eye in with its details, such as the coloured hands in the subdials or the large date window at 12 O’clock. The hands and markers are made of white gold, as you’d expect, and there’s plenty of lume. You might be wondering where the GMT display is in all this, it’s the yellow hand in this case. The hand makes a rotation every 12 hours, while the black and white day/night disk next to it makes a rotation every 24 hours. If it seems like a complex way of displaying the GMT function, that’s because it is.
But this is a complex watch. The calibre 4407 has 638 individual components within and a thickness of 9mm and diameter of 32mm. The beat rate is 4Hz, and the power reserve is 70 hours. This is the first time Audemars Piguet has combined self-winding with its split-seconds in a Royal Oak Concept watch. Like the Michael Schumacher collaboration a few years ago, the chronograph of this watch has a dedicated chronograph pusher which stops the split-seconds hand to record a lap time but can also reset the split-seconds back to the continuously running chronograph hand. It’s a difficult concept to get your head around, but it allows the watch to time continuous laps using its split-seconds function rather than just one lap at a time. The split-seconds mechanism is displayed at the centre of the platinum oscillating mass around the back of the watch.
This watch also displays the first usage of interchangeable straps in the Royal Oak Concept collection, and the watch is supplied with a choice of straps upon purchase. And the price of the watch? CHF170,000, which is a lot but could be worse for what you get.
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