By Brian Jones
At this point, there really isn’t much that we don’t know about Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak. Dreamt up by one of the greatest to ever don a loupe, the Royal Oak is just about as iconic as they come: a living legend that forged its own category, boasts a history marked by a laundry list of world-firsts, and is effectively responsible for making the manufacture what it is today. Those are the cold, hard, unquestionably impressive facts. That being said, we do live in an era of #fakenews, in which such facts are often met with a heaping helping of skepticism. However, if there were any doubts out there regarding the line’s innovative chops, the manufacture absolutely obliterated them at this year’s SIHH when it presented a barrage of exceptional new novelties including a pair of Royal Oaks whose technical excellence made them the talk of the event.
We’re speaking, of course, of the Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph and, arguably the belle of the SIHH 2018 ball, the RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin. Let’s take a closer look at what makes these watches such worthy additions to AP’s iconic line.
The Royal Oak RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin
Milestones have become almost routine for Royal Oaks, whose penchant for envelope-pushing innovation continues to rewrite the record books.
The Royal Oak RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin represents a bold new chapter for the line. That’s because, at a mere 6.3mm thick, the second product of AP’s “RD” mini-series (following 2014’s Royal Oak Concept RD#1 minute repeater) is the thinnest self-winding perpetual calendar that the world has ever seen.
Yes, here we have a complicated watch that’s a great deal thinner than both the time-only, 8.1mm-thick Royal Oak Extra-Thin (also known as the Jumbo), as well as the 9.5mm-thick Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar. So how did AP manage to pack a premium perpetual calendar — and all the functions that come with it — into a Royal Oak that’s slimmer than any other currently out there? In a word, dedication.
Developing the movement that would ultimately make it possible for the watch to cut such a svelte silhouette — the new, 2.89mm-thick caliber 5133 — took AP’s artisans a full five years. In the end, in order to whittle the perpetual-calendar movement down to its impossibly slim dimensions, they compressed what began as a three-storey movement — the caliber 2120 — into a single level.
To successfully pull off such a radical redesign, AP cleverly rearranged and combined functions that would typically require their own, distinct mechanisms.
According to the brand, streamlining the movement in this way has boosted overall efficiency, and allowed AP to bolster this ultra-slim piece with a sturdy design.
The watch features a 41mm platinum case and a blue Grande Tapisserie dial that displays hours and minutes, and whose perpetual calendar includes indications for the day, date, day/night, astronomical moon, month and leap year. Its movement boasts a 40-hour power reserve.
The Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph
The Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph is another milestone AP release, but of a slightly different variety.
Like the 2018 Royal Oak Offshore re-edition, the Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph was released in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the line’s landmark first model. While it’s true that the Tourbillon Chronograph doesn’t feature record-breaking specs, what it does offer is a glimpse of the line’s next evolution: a bold new vision for the future that introduces cutting-edge design cues and technical advancements, while remaining unwaveringly faithful to the line’s DNA.
Classic Royal Oak cues, including the octagonal bezel and angular case, are retained, as are the customary eight hexagonal screws.
However, each trademark trait has been ever so slightly tweaked. The bezel, for instance, is thinner, yielding a more spacious dial, while the 45mm case is the largest that the line has ever seen.
Those screws, meanwhile, find themselves serving a different function altogether. Although they’re typically used to seal the case, here, they’re used to hold the Tourbillon Chronograph’s movement in position. They’re also, interestingly enough, placed below the sapphire crystal rather than embedded into the bezel.
The Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph comes in a choice of 18K pink gold or stainless steel. Both are available in a limited release of 50 pieces.
The skeletonized bridges extend inward from the screws, evoking a modern, balanced aesthetic that makes the in-house caliber 2947 movement appear to be suspended from the bezel. The movement is a robust one (to say the least), and is powered by two massive barrels that provide 173 hours, or just over a week’s worth of juice. They’re visible on the right side of the dial, beneath the 30-minute counter at three o’clock and opposite the tourbillon at nine.