Watch enthusiasts are more or less used to conversations with friends and relatives who don’t share their horological passion: it mostly consists of explaining, enthusing, justifying, and sometimes arguing about the fact that different occasions call for different watches. On the one hand, that’s perfectly correct, but on the other hand, there are exceptional timepieces that not only cover pretty much every occasion of life, but in fact enrich it. Piece of evidence number one: Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin (Ref. 26586IP.OO.1240IP.01).
Sports model meets Haute Horlogerie
The long name might seem somewhat nonsensical, yet it says pretty much everything; after all, it’s a ‘Royal Oak’. Although the terms ‘iconic’ and ‘legendary’ are no doubt over-extensively used, there is no doubt that the ‘Royal Oak’ collection – designed by Gerald Genta – is absolutely extraordinary. The octagonal case significantly influenced the industry and eventually established the niche field of luxury sports watches. To this day, it remains one of the most popular watch collections in the world.
That said, it would be wrong to simply call the new model a sports watch. Although it obtains the sporty look of the classical ‘Royal Oak’, it is only water-resistant up to 20 meters, due to its delicate construction and parts within.
You can wear it with jeans and a plain white t-shirt, yet it also manages to work well as a dress watch with a tailor-made suit. However, it is a pity that due to its 6.3 mm case height, it pretty much disappears under your sleeve. This watch is way too exciting to be hidden – after all, world record holders have no reason to hide.
2,89-millimetre construction height – a world record
This ‘Royal Oak’ is currently the world’s thinnest perpetual calendar. It is the serial-produced model of prototype RD#2 from 2018, although it differs quite a lot in detail. Instead of the classical Royal-Oak-tapisserie-dial, the brand now uses a blue satin-finished one in order to improve its readability. The dial’s shade magically changes from dark to bright blue depending on the incidence of the light.
RD#2 was entirely created out of platinum, whereas the new case and bracelet are mainly made of titanium. Only the bezel and bracelet links are made from platinum, making the watch much lighter and more comfortable to wear.
The long-distance runner (boasting a 40-hour power reserve) is powered by the automatic manufacture-calibre 5133. The movement’s 2.89 mm construction height proves once again that Audemars Piguet is capable of outstanding achievements in the field of perpetual calendars and ultra-thin movements.
In 1921, the horology house presented the world’s thinnest pocket watch, with the movement’s height measuring a mere 1.32 mm. In 1955, it manufactured model 5516, the first wristwatch with perpetual calendar and leap year indication. In 1978, AP presented the thinnest automatic wristwatch equipped with a perpetual calendar, with a movement of just 3.95 mm. Over the past few years, it has principally been the Royal-Oak-Perpetual-Calendar models with ceramic cases (and movement height of 9.5 mm) that have been most sought-after by collectors and dealers alike.
Patented and genius construction – three becomes one
The new ultra-thin ‘Royal Oak’ is in no way inferior to its predecessors, but rather the opposite. The integration of a perpetual calendar into such a minimal amount of space is not only impressive, but also poignant. Ultimately, it’s the idea of a watch having the ability to indicate the precise date across generations, while overcoming the obstacles presented by ultra-thin movements.
Watches rarely ever come across as both poetic and so technically sophisticated at the same time. There tends to be almost no scope when producing movements of such a size. No spare space is left, and every component is manufactured to be as delicate and long-lasting as humanly possible.
The manufacturing possibilities of such components have improved a lot over the past few decades, thanks to technical innovations in the field of mechanical engineering. The use of CAD (Computer-Aided-Design) has significantly contributed to this. The process involves inserting space-saving gaps for the components into the mainplate. Similarly, the dial of the ‘Royal Oak’ model is not simply decorative, but also the most essential part of the perpetual calendar’s overall structure.
Two essential constructions have been specially produced and patented to achieve a world record for the new calibre 5133: The end-of-the-month cam has been integrated into the date wheel, while the month cam has been joined to the month wheel. Instead of three different levels, all perpetual calendar functions of this model are compressed to one level only – the result of five years of development.
The ultimate status symbol
With its 41 mm case diameter, this ‘Royal Oak’ sits comfortably on almost any wrist. That said, the octagonal design of this slender model makes it look bigger than you would expect for 41 millimetres. Thanks to the amplified sub-indexes for the day, date and month, it is in fact more legible than the classical perpetual calendars in the collection. As a result of its ingenious design, word of how charming and diverse sports watches with a perpetual calendar can be has spread amongst collectors.
The combination of elegance, nonchalance, the highest horological complication and brand prestige has already led to the Patek Philippe Ref. 5740 to become an ultimate status symbol, and it ultimately inspired the aforementioned ceramic references of Audemars Piguet.
They are watches with an extra wow factor; at first glance, the simple fact that it is a ‘Royal Oak’ serves to impress. But at a second glance, it reveals itself to be the finest, most sophisticated ‘Royal Oak’ that is available for the price of your money and patience – should you get hold of one. It is that one watch that will always correspond to any occasion. But let’s be honest: if you can invest 140,000 Swiss francs in the all-encompassing creation, you are already way beyond the stage of a ‘one watch for every occasion’ collection.