Now Reading
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Novelties 2024: John Mayer, Sand Gold And Flying Tourbillons

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Novelties 2024: John Mayer, Sand Gold And Flying Tourbillons

14. March 2024

The time we spend the rest of the year waiting for is nearly here – Watches and Wonders. Audemars Piguet, however, does things according to its own set of rules. On Thursday at the new AP House in Milan, CEO Ilaria Resta hosted the unveiling of over ten new models to the catalogue. The highlights were unsurprisingly the Royal Oak models, which consisted of new dials, new colours, and even new materials.

Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar ‘John Mayer’ Ref. 26574BC.OO.1220BC.02

Let’s start with the most obvious and perhaps unexpected release, the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar produced in collaboration with big time watch enthusiast and singer song writer John Mayer, in that order.

The dial of the new 26574BC is a never-before-used texture called ‘Crystal Sky’, which is almost like a rocky and faceted spin-off from the classic hand hammered Tuscan finish that we have seen on various vintage Royal Oak Perpetual dials. At first glance it looks incredible, and I have no doubt that photos do it little justice. Upon the gorgeous dial, Mayer decided it would be appropriate for the weekly indicator hand to be finished in blue, as well as scrapping the red ’31’ on the date subdial for an uninterrupted view into the depicted crystal night sky. In order to still allow the wearer to recognise the difference between the ’31’ and ‘1’ on the date subdial, the 3 and the 1 from ’31’ are superscripted and subscripted respectively. These are some of my favourite discreet touches, and the decision to keep the dial blue in its entirety is something I find very attractive. The watch is also the last Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar to house the infamous calibre 5134, which upon its first use in 2015 represented the beginning of a modern era of perpetual calendars for Audemars Piguet.

Ultimately, everything about this watch is a vision that comes right from the heart of John Mayer, having initially proposed it (or something similar) as a unique piece. The then-CEO Bennahmias returned the suggestion of a producing it as a limited edition run, which is where we ended up today. Only 200 of these masterpieces will be made and if you have any chance of getting hold of it yourself, you probably know who you are.

41mm case in 18-carat white gold, water resistant to 20 meters.
Powered by calibre 5134 with 40 hours of power reserve. Retail price: 150.000 CHF.

Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Openworked Ref. 26735SG.OO.1320SG.01

When the brand unveiled this reference in stainless-steel two years ago, it was to mark the 50th anniversary of the Royal Oak. Even in stainless-steel, it was impressive to say the least and, if I remember rightly, commanded a retail price around $200,000, which is a fair chunk.

This time AP have brought a new tone of gold to the reference, which they dub ‘Sand Gold’. It’s hard to quite grasp the colour from images as sometimes it looks like white gold, and other times it looks like rose gold. But I guess that’s the point; it’s neither and both at the same time. This shade is great to bridge the gap between those who wear all metals and materials and those who avoid anything that isn’t white (steel or platinum etc). In order to achieve this sandy hue, silver was removed from the gold mix and instead replaced with palladium.

41 mm case in 18-carat sand gold, water resistant to 50 meters.
Powered by calibre 2972 with 65 hours of power reserve. Retail price: 250,000 CHF.

Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Extra-Thin (RD#3) Ref. 26660BC.ZZ.1356BC.01

Another spectacular flying tourbillon has also joined the party. The Research and Development team at AP have a tough job of creating innovative and revolutionary advancements in watchmaking through rare and limited production pieces. Number 3 in that series (RD#3) was the joining of forces between the Ultra-Thin calibre and the flying tourbillon. This was first brought to a ‘Jumbo’ 39 mm case in early 2022 and then even more impressively to the 37 mm case later on in 2022.

Ref. 26660BC brings the 37 mm RD#3 to a new level with a vibrantly smoked blue tapisserie dial adorned with 12 baguette-cut diamonds as well as a bezel consisting of a further 32 baguette-cut diamonds. A total of 2.2 carats of diamonds shine on this white-gold beauty, which appear much more noticeable when compared to a larger case, such as a 41 mm. Perhaps unexpectedly, this may just be my favourite of the releases.

37 mm case in 18-carat white gold, water resistant to 50 meters.
Powered by RD#3 calibre 2968 with 50 hours of power reserve. Retail price: 240,000 CHF.

Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillons Ref. 26730OR.OO.1320OR.05 and Ref. 26730ST.OO.1320ST.05D

If you still want a flying tourbillon but having it openworked or Ultra-Thin is too much for you, then fear not, Audemars Piguet has a solution. I never thought I would hear these words leave my mouth, but two ‘normal’ flying tourbillons have also been added to the catalogue.

Ref. 26730 has always been at the upper echelon for the brand, and they have produced a variety of gorgeous variations. In 2020 a titanium version of the reference was unveiled with a sandblasted blue dial surrounded by a white minute track. The theme has been continued this year with the introduction of a rose-gold model boasting the same sandblasted dial but in light grey with an ivory minute track.

As well as this, AP has thrown in a stainless-steel version with a blood-red smoked dial, quite like the one we saw on the 16202XT, which was released last year. As myself and other purists will know, there is something strangely alluring about the absence of a tapisserie dial on a Royal Oak, and often it results in the watch being produced in much fewer numbers as well.

41 mm cases in 18-carat rose gold and stainless-steel, water resistant to 50 meters.
Powered by calibre 2950 with 65 hours of power reserve.
Retail prices: 180,600 CHF and 146,700 CHF respectively.

Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph Ref. 26240BA.OO.1320BA.02

One of 2022’s greatest releases in my opinion was the Ref. 26240 41 mm chronograph, which had an updated calibre and included a flyback function in the chronograph.

The recent introduction of this in yellow gold is a welcome addition and serves as the seventh different material variation for this reference, which is part of what makes it so great in my eyes. Available in steel, rose gold, black ceramic, white gold, frosted white gold, frosted yellow gold and now regular yellow gold, it’s probably the most varied reference in the entire catalogue – and that’s before we even consider the different dials and strap options available on each of these materials.

41 mm case in 18-carat yellow gold, water resistant to 50 meters.
Powered by calibre 4401 with 70 hours of power reserve. Retail Price: 77,300 EUR.

As well as the yellow gold case and bracelet, taken from the 16202BA is also a yellow gold tapisserie dial with a gradient black smoked effect that sees the indexes stand out clearly for increased legibility. For me, this dial is one of the most beautiful that the brand has released in recent years, and it pairs perfectly with yellow gold, which seems to be making a well deserved come back into the Royal Oak catalogue.

Royal Oak Jumbo Extra-Thin Openworked Ref. 16204BC.OO.1240BC.01

The 39 mm Ref.16204 has been a collectors dream since it came out in 2022, as it so perfectly combines two of AP’s most important and successful characteristics: the Ultra-Thin Jumbo and the highest level of movement open-working. Any collector knows that getting your hands on a Royal Oak at retail that ticks just one of those boxes is a huge success, so you can begin to imagine just how exclusive having both is.

The new addition comes in the form of a white-gold case and bracelet, and replaces the existing stainless-steel version, with it also being available in yellow gold and rose gold. Personally, I have always leaned towards gold over steel because of the heft and density they bring, even more so when it comes to openworked watches as they are even lighter by nature. I therefore think this is a great move from AP to only offer the 16204 in gold, especially considering it’s a particularly exclusive reference and one which commands a high price and client status. The white- and rose-gold versions differ from the steel and yellow-gold versions as they have dark grey movements, as opposed to movements that match the material colour.

39 mm case in 18-carat white gold, water resistant to 50 meters.
Powered by calibre 7124 with 57 hours of power reserve. Retail price: 126,400 EUR.

Royal Oak Frosted Gold Self-winding Ref. 15550BA.GG.1356BA.01

The 37 mm Ref. 15550 is often poised as a grey area because it fits both men and women depending on your wrist size. Obviously if you’re LeBron James and you make an Offshore look like a lady’s piece, then perhaps not. But for someone like myself with very thin wrists, the 37 mm has always proved a great canvas, especially as an entry point to the exclusive brand.

Well, you can most probably scrap the idea of the new Ref. 15550 as an entry point – coming in with a case and bracelet in frosted yellow gold, it is no beginner piece. The frosted finish is a result of repeatedly hand hammering the cases and bracelets with a diamond-tipped tool, making it very labour intensive and time consuming. The frosted look is always complemented by AP’s choice to keep the brushed case sides and polished bevelled edges which create a light manipulating masterclass. As well as this, the dial follows in pursuit of the 26240BA and 16202BA that I mentioned earlier: a yellow gold tapisserie with smoked black gradient. Need I labour the point any more about how much I love this dial and material combination? I think not.

37 mm case in 18-carat yellow gold, water resistant to 50 meters.
Powered by calibre 5900 with 60 hours of power reserve. Retail price: 67,500 EUR.

Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Ref. 15605SK.OO.A350CA.01

Audemars Piguet did also bring us a new Royal Oak Offshore for those that prefer something bigger and sportier. The 43 mm stainless-steel case has the addition of a blue rubber bezel with an almost frosted texture to it, although it most certainly isn’t frosted. Whilst this does seem pretty rogue from AP, we have seen this in the past with the ‘Rubber Clad’ Offshore unveiled in 2002. The rubber bezel always emphasised the sportiness of the watch, but it was much more susceptible to long-term damage.

To complete the theme, the new Offshore has a matching blue rubber strap and a smoked blue Méga Tapisserie dial. Whilst Offshores have never been for me, I do like the well thought-out colour scheme on this new model and as a result it seems more refined.

43 mm case in stainless-steel, water resistant to 100 meters.
Powered by calibre 4302 with 70 hours of power reserve. Retail price: 28,300 EUR.

Royal Oak Ref. 15551BC.ZZ.D405CR.01 and Ref. 15551OR.ZS.D344CR.01

Luckily for the ladies, AP also added some smaller gem-set pieces to the catalogue too. Ref. 15551 is a 37 mm diamond set version of the Ref. 15550 and is therefore more closely aimed towards females. The new white-gold version is entirely set with brilliant-cut diamonds, and has a matching green Tapisserie dial and large-square alligator strap. The rose-gold version, however, features a bezel set with dark and light blue brilliant-cut sapphires, and a case set with brilliant-cut diamonds. It has a matching light blue Tapisserie dial and large-square alligator strap.

37 mm case in 18-carat white or rose gold, water resistant to 50 meters.
Powered by calibre 5900 with 60 hours of power reserve. Retail price: 67,100 EUR.

Ladies Royal Oak Selfwinding ref. 77450OR.OO.1361OR.01

In addition, a 34 mm Royal Oak was released in two new executions. In rose gold with a pink tapisserie dial – certainly, an interesting combination of hues – and in two-tone in stainless steel with rose gold.

34 mm case in 18-carat rose gold or two-tone in stainless steel with rose gold, water resistant to 50 m.
Powered by calibre 5800 with 50 hours of power reserve.
Retail prices: 54.000 EUR for the full gold version and 29.200 EUR for the two-tone version.

If you didn’t happen to see anything here that took your fancy, then fear not, as this isn’t the end for 2024 and AP. The brand is due to release more watches later on in the year.