Apr 29, 2017
Announced just before this year’s SIHH, the new perpetual calendar watch by Audemars Piguet is one of the main talking points among watch enthusiasts and collectors.
Perpetual calendars are part of Audemars Piguet history. The innovation this year is in the case and bracelet, which are now in hand-finished black ceramic, with a titanium Audemars Piguet folding clasp, which gives it a look different from that of its siblings made of steel and precious metals.
Creating this watch was no mean feat. Audemars Piguet says the watch required 600 hours of research to develop, and that the bracelet alone takes 30 hours of machining, polishing, hand-finishing, assembly and quality control. The same process for the stainless steel bracelet of a Royal Oak takes only six hours.
Black ceramic is virtually unscratchable, and can withstand high temperatures and thermal shocks. It is extremely resistant to ageing. The watch is also lighter on the wrist, which wearers will appreciate if they don’t like the heavy weight of a gold watch.
The rest of the watch retains the same features as the line of perpetual calendars introduced in 2015. The case is 41mm in size and 9.5mm thick. The watch is powered by the same automatic calibre 5134, giving a 40-hour power reserve, which you can stare at through the glare-proofed sapphire caseback. The day, date, week of the year, month, moon phase and indication that the year is a leap year are perfectly legible on a slate grey dial with a Grande Tapisserie pattern and black counters, fitting well with the colour scheme of the watch.
Audemars Piguet will make only 100 examples a year. Seeing how much interest the watch attracted at SIHH, you can expect the waiting list to be long.
Another novelty by Audemars Piguet this year is the Royal Oak Frosted Gold. The watch celebrates the 40th anniversary of the first Royal Oak for women, designed by Jacqueline Dimier, who re-imagined Gerald Genta’s classic watch in 1976. The new version was announced last year, in time for the 40th anniversary, but released only this year at SIHH.
What is frosted gold? At first glance you might think that extra material was sprinkled on the case and bracelet to give them their rough look, but the frosting process is much more delicate than that. The gold is hammered with a fine, diamond-tipped tool, making tiny indentations in the metal. This process, called the Florentine technique, is widely used by jeweller Carolina Bucci, who collaborated with Audemars Piguet in creating this new Royal Oak model. The Florentine finish makes the watch shimmer and sparkle in the light like a diamond.
Coming up with the right finish on the Royal Oak Frosted Gold required more than simply applying the technique. It had to be done without altering the lines that define the shape of the Royal Oak. That was the challenge for the Audemars Piguet craftsmen, and it took months of trial and error to find the right way to make the gold sparkle while keeping the Royal Oak bracelet comfortable and flexible.
This year being the anniversary of the original Royal Oak in yellow gold, Audemars Piguet is celebrating by including a version in its current collection. This is the Royal Oak Extra-Thin Jumbo, reference 15202, in 18k yellow gold. The model has two new, distinct Petite Tapisserie dials, in blue or champagne. Each dial has its own matching date wheel. Yellow gold hour-markers and hands with luminescent coating complete the picture.
Audemars Piguet completes this year the series of haute joaillerie diamond watches that the Diamond Punk began in 2015 and the Diamond Fury continued last year. The last in the series is the Diamond Outrage. The watch is a cuff watch, like its predecessors. It is made of 18k white gold and comes in two versions. One version is fully set with diamonds. The other has blue sapphires set on glittering spikes. Each watch sports about 65 carats of precious stones.
The cones are made to look like stalactites —a reminder of the icy winters in the Vallée de Joux, Audemars Piguet’s home. The snow-setting technique is used to set diamonds so close together that the white-gold frame is rendered almost invisible. Another series of three watches should begin to see the light of day next year, but Audemars Piguet will find it challenging to do better than it has done with these diamond timepieces.