Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Self-Winding Flying Tourbillon

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Extra-Thin RD#3, reference 26670ST.OO.1240ST.01 (if you can keep 20-character alphanumeric reference numbers in short- and long-term memory, bless you, because I can’t) landed with maybe a little less impact than it deserved when it launched last April. There are probably several reasons why. First of all, I think a lot of us were still suffering from a bit of Royal Oak overload from the announcement of the ref. 16202 Jumbo when it launched in January, along with several other models (including a non-Jumbo flying tourbillon). Secondly, the Jumbo Tourbillon RD#3 appeared in the context of a larger world in which Bulgari more or less owns the community mindshare of ultra-thin self-winding tourbillons.
As astonishing as that might have been a couple of decades ago, there is little doubt that in 2022, it’s tough to make a splash with an ultra-thin tourbillon unless you have managed to unseat Bulgari. And not only is no brand challenging them, nobody even seems inclined to try. It’s telling, though, that to set their record, Bulgari had to unseat Audemars Piguet, and moreover, an AP watch that dropped back in 1986: The AP caliber 2870 self-winding tourbillon, which reigned as the undisputed champion of ultra-thin automatic tourbillons for over three decades until Bulgari came out with the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic, in 2018. While there’s no gainsaying Bulgari’s technical achievements, AP’s new Royal Oak Tourbillon does represent what is probably the single longest lineage in horology of automatic tourbillon wristwatches.
For many years, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon has been using basically the same tourbillon – that is, the same cage, balance, and escapement, as well as the same upper tourbillon bridge – in all of its tourbillon watches. The bridge has a distinctive, inverted “V” shape, and the cage has three arms, with a free sprung balance fitted with poising and timing screws on its outer edge. Minus the upper bridge, this is the same tourbillon used as recently as the Royal Oak Flying Tourbillon 26730, launched in January of this year. It’s also the tourbillon used in the Code 11.59 collection’s automatic flying tourbillon chronograph.
The new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Extra-Thin RD#3, on the other hand, uses a new configuration for its tourbillon, and moreover places a flying tourbillon, for the first time, in a Jumbo case. The RD#3 has exactly the same dimensions as the Jumbo – 39mm x 8.1mm.
To get a flying tourbillon into the Jumbo case, AP had to develop a new tourbillon movement. The Royal Oak Flying Tourbillons introduced earlier this year use the AP caliber 2950, which is 31.5mm x 6.24mm, and it has a larger case than RD#3, at 41mm x 10.6mm. The RD#3, on the other hand, uses the caliber 2968 – a smaller movement, at 29.6mm x 3.4mm, which is considerably flatter than the 2950. For comparison, Bulgari’s caliber BVL 288, used in the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic, is 1.95mm thick, but it’s also larger in diameter than AP’s caliber 2968, at 36.60mm which is getting into smaller pocket watch caliber territory. It’s sort of like squishing a jelly donut – you can flatten it but it’s going to spread out at the same time. This means that Bulgari’s Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic has to be a little larger in diameter, at 41mm.
The AP caliber 2968 isn’t the flattest automatic tourbillon in the world, but you do have to bear in mind that unlike the BVL 288, it’s not a peripheral rotor caliber. Instead, it’s a full rotor movement, and it’s almost exactly the same size as the caliber 7121 used in the new 16202 Royal Oak, which is 29.6mm x 3.2mm. In fact, the caliber 2968 looks quite a lot like a re-engineered 7121, including the arrangement of the automatic winding train and the position and configuration of the mainspring barrel.
And aesthetically? What can I tell you, it’s a Jumbo, 39mm x 8.1mm, with that lovely Bleu Nuit, Nuage 50 dial. The only classic Jumbo element missing from the RD#3 Jumbo Tourbillon is the AP logo at six o’clock, but it seems a reasonable thing to lose if you’re going to have an open dial flying tourbillon. If you like the Jumbo, you’re probably going to like the Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Extra-Thin RD#3, unless the idea of an open dial flying tourbillon is just not your brand of vodka. Comparing ultra-thin automatic tourbillons can be a little tricky – it helps to know the history of the complication and it also helps to understand that a full rotor movement compared to a peripheral rotor movement is fair on one hand, but on the other hand it’s also a little bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison. Seen from that perspective, RD#3 is a beautiful, very well-thought-out piece of contemporary watchmaking.

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Starwheel

Let’s get a couple of things about Audemars Piguet’s Code 11.59 collection out of the way up front. It was introduced in 2019 as a clear commercial effort by AP to be something more than the Royal Oak. Second, that initial time-only Code 11.59 was a relatively uninspired way to introduce a collection that was supposed to represent “the future of AP.”

Today, Audemars Piguet announced the latest addition to the Code 11.59 collection, the “Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Starwheel.” More than three years since that initial Code 11.59 release – and more than 30 Code 11.59 models into the collection – we’re far enough removed from that initial launch to evaluate new Code 11.59 models on their own terms. Not every release needs to be a referendum on Audemars Piguet or the Code 11.59.
Yes, it’s an inherently weird watch, with a complication originally designed by a couple of Roman clockmakers for a pope in the 17th century, and a brash case construction that’s as technically fascinating as it is confounding to wear. No, this particular watch isn’t the “next Royal Oak,” or even “the future of AP” – it’s just a watch, and that’s just fine.
This new Code 11.59 Starwheel has a wandering hours complication inside an 18-karat white gold Code 11.59 case with a black ceramic midcase. It’s a time-only watch. The 12 wandering hour disks “wander” across the dial, with the current hour pointing to the current minute along the 120-degree minute track at the top of the dial. For example, the time in the image above is about 10:36. The next hour disk reaches the minute track at the turn of the hour. It’s actually a somewhat intuitive, elegant way of telling the time. The rotating disks are fixed on the central rotor wheel, each attaching to the rotor by a star wheel at the center of the disk. Hence the name.
It’s a little trite to call anything in watchmaking “romantic” nowadays, but I guess it’s fitting here: Not only is the wandering hour complication itself anachronistic, but so is the effect on the wearer. One could, if one wanted, wax poetic about watching each hour rise and set as it works its way across the dial, like a (just slightly) more practical moonphase. The implementation is fairly simple, too. The central rotor completes a revolution every three hours, while the hour disks make a quarter turn (90 degrees) every hour.
At $57,900, the price isn’t outlandish (well, not any more outlandish than, say, Cartier asking $44,000 for its new Pebble). Sure, it’s a lot of money, but it’s not a lot more than you’d pay for an original Audemars Piguet Starwheel from the 1990s, and there’s a hell of a lot more modern watchmaking to unpack here.

To achieve this, Audemars Piguet added a wandering-hour module to its time-only caliber 4309. On the dial, black opaline disks rotate above a blue aventurine dial and a black inner bezel. The font on the hour disks and minute track is decidedly modern, and a white gold center seconds sweeps atop the whole apparatus. Meanwhile, the white gold case, with its black ceramic midcase (which we’ve seen AP use a few times now), is the type of complicated construction AP promised when it first introduced the Code 11.59, beveled edges and all.
The Starwheel complication is a callback to the Starwheel AP introduced in 1991, which is itself an implementation of the wandering hours complication that Roman clockmakers the Campani Brothers developed for a pope in the 17th century (here’s an example of the complication in one of their clocks in the British Museum). The original Starwheel had a traditional, 36mm case, a dressy watch that had more in common with AP’s ultra-thin perpetual calendar than with the Royal Oak. A wandering hours complication in a traditional profile wasn’t intended to rival the Royal Oak in 1991, nor is it in 2022.

AP produced the Starwheel in a number of variations through the early ’90s, typically in yellow gold or platinum (and eventually, in rose gold), with guilloche or Arabesque engraved dials. Rarer are gem-set examples: last year, Antiquorum sold a pair of unique Starwheels with ruby- and emerald-set bezels for more than $100,000. Like the entire made-up category of neo-vintage, appreciation for Starwheels of all types has grown: While a standard yellow-gold Starwheel could be found selling for $8,000 just four years ago, today they might sell for $30,000 to $40,000.
In 1996, Audemars Piguet discontinued this first generation of the Starwheel, along with the rest of its classic model lineup (goodbye, Starwheel; goodbye ultra-thin perpetual calendar; hello, The Beast!). But AP wasn’t finished with the Starwheel altogether: it’d bring back the complication in its short-lived John Shaeffer Collection, and then in the Millenary. The John Schaeffer Collection was inspired by a single cushion-shaped minute repeater watch from the early 1900s, commissioned by American industrialist (and watch collector) John Schaeffer.

In the 1990s, AP used the watch as inspiration to introduce a small line of mostly complicated watches. Among these were limited runs of the Starwheel, paired in a cushion case along with a minute repeater – production of these is counted in the dozens, with most variations having been produced in limited runs of ten, five, or three. Nowadays, these John Schaeffer Starwheels are some of the most coveted: The last example to publicly surface sold for $100,000 more than two years ago. Finally, in 2000, to celebrate its 125th anniversary AP introduced a limited edition of the Starwheel in the Millenary.
While AP was finished with the Starwheel by 2000, its impact on the watch industry remained: most notably, Urwerk has used the wandering hours complication in dizzying varieties since its launch in 1997. Not only that, but hardcore collectors – and even staffers inside AP, by its own admission – immediately lamented the departure of the Starwheel. To many, the original Starwheel represents an example of a large Swiss brand innovating its way beyond the Quartz Crisis.

Sure, it’s not an icon like the Royal Oak. Nor is it as important to Audemars Piguet as its ultra-thin perpetual calendar. But the Starwheel is a niche that collectors have come to enjoy, not only for its unique aesthetic and way of displaying time but also for the era of watchmaking it represents. For serious collectors, the Starwheel is something to collect in its own right. And in a world where collectors love “firsts,” the Starwheel will always have a following as the first modern wandering hours watch.

Today, the Starwheel is back where it started, with AP. Only time will tell if this new Starwheel – or really, Code 11.59 more broadly – will mean something similar to this era.

Audemars Piguet CODE 11.59 Automatic White Gold

Entirely new watches are a rare occurrence. It might not seem like it with the constant slew of “new watches” we see press releases for, but almost all of those are updates to existing models, reissues, or new models that are heavily inspired by old models. But a genuinely unique and original watch doesn’t come along often. That’s what Audemars Piguet set out to create with the Code 11.59. This is the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding in 18k White Gold.
Audemars Piguet spent more than half a decade working on the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding collection and introduced not just a new watch but an entirely new line of watches with all-new in-house calibers. This white gold automatic model with its deep blue lacquered dial was apart of that inaugural collection. Introduced in January of 2019, AP wanted to release a watch that was totally original and unique, and they made it a point to call out that no one could claim this watch was derivative of any other model. I’d have to say they achieved their goal, this isn’t a wildly avant-garde piece, but it is an entirely new design.
Visually the watch has a lot of presence. Because this timepiece has an internal bezel, the dial appears much bigger than it’s 41mm measurement suggests. The inner bezel denotes minutes in five-minute increments and helps add some depth to the dial, as do the sizeable white gold applied numerals and indices. The typeface used for the applied numerals and on the bezel is very clean and modern. I think they come up just short of seeming futuristic, which’s a good thing. The date window is tucked nicely between four and five o’clock and doesn’t displace any other features. It appears that AP went with a slightly different typeface for the date, but it doesn’t throw you off. This is a very clean and legible design. It gives you everything you need and nothing you don’t.
While the dial layout itself is very legible, AP also put a special emphasis on the design of the sapphire crystal to increase legibility. The crystal has been double curved, spherically on the underside, and vertically from six to twelve on the top. Being curved this way optimizes visibility at multiple angles and allows one to adore the rich blue dial more clearly. This detail—maybe more than any other on this timepiece—showcases just how much thought went into creating this watch.
Like the rest of the watch, the case and lugs were totally reimagined for the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding . Looking from above, the case and lugs look relatively standard, nothing to write home about. But from the side, you can see how complex they are. While the top and bottom of the case are round, the mid-case is octagonal and has some beautiful alternating brushed and polished finishing that shows off all the facets and angles. This is a nice nod to AP’s history of experimenting with novel shapes in case design and takes what is often a boring angle of the watch and makes it captivating.
There was also a very strong focus on wearability with this timepiece. Though it’s 41mm in diameter, AP specifically does not market this or a men’s or women’s watch. It’s a watch for whoever wants to enjoy it and has been ergonomically designed to be comfortable on a wide range of wrist sizes. You’ll also notice the lugs’ unique shape and style. This is a new tension fit design with the top portion attached to a slim bezel that holds the crystal down, and the bottom rests just against the case.
Through the display caseback, you can see the large 32mm automatic caliber 4302. The 4302 is a new design made in house by AP specifically for this watch. It’s a time and date movement with a generous 70-hour power reserve. It has a large beautiful 22k gold winding rotor, runs at 4hz, and contains 257 total components. The movement is beautifully but conservatively finished keeping with the overall tone of the timepiece. This is the modern caliber that a forward-looking watch like this deserves.
The Code 11.59 collection is a bit divisive. People seem to either love it or hate it. But I think that will change. Like most things that are ahead of their time, it’s going to take a bit for people to appreciate just how well done this watch is. This timepiece’s whole design is thoroughly modern without needing any gimmicks or outlandish features, which is rare. With the watch world currently so focused on the past, we lack fresh designs to push the industry forward. This is a refreshingly original watch that stands out in a vintage heavy era.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Self-Winding 37

Swiss Haute Horlogerie manufacturer Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Self-Winding is pleased to expand its 15452 series with two new Royal Oak Selfwinding models in 37 mm. Crafted in white or pink gold, the two iterations are meticulously set with diamonds and colourful gemstones, while their guilloché dial incorporates new grey or beige hues. A new satin-finished calfskin leather strap completes the watch’s elegant and original aesthetic.
Each of the 40 brilliant-cut gemstones adorning the gold bezel has been meticulously chosen to offer a smooth and harmonious gradation. The stones have been individually cut and polished to present clear and sharp angles before being set by hand on the bezel. Perfectly aligned, they reflect the everchanging light to create unique optical effects, ranging from red and orange tints to pink hues, depending on the model.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Self-Winding case of the 18-carat pink gold model is paved with 124 brilliant-cut diamonds down to the bracelet connecting studs. The new beige hue of the “Grande Tapisserie” dial echoes the pink gold case and matching hour-markers and hands, while bestowing the watch with a contemporary flair. The two pink gold applied hour-markers at 12 o’clock are also set with brilliant-cut diamonds. For its part, the pink gold bezel is embellished with 40 yellow sapphires, red garnets and orange spessartite garnets. This vivid gradation – a first for the Royal Oak – adds a warm and bright touch.
The 18-carat white gold case and connecting studs of the second reference are also set with 124 brilliant-cut diamonds. The rhodium-toned dial is enhanced by a “Grand Tapisserie” pattern and applied 18-carat white gold hour-markers and hands. As for the pink gold version, the two hour-markers at 12 o’clock are set with brilliant-cut diamonds. To contrast with the watch’s monochromatic aesthetic, the white Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Self-Winding gold bezel is set with 40 brilliant-cut pink sapphires and rubies offering a refined and subtle gradation. Resolutely feminine, this unique combination will seamlessly sit on the slenderest wrists. “Each gemstone was meticulously chosen to achieve these gradations, while privileging the purest and most vibrant colours. Finding the perfect gradation required months of research. The smooth and harmonious whole it creates pays tribute to the infinite palette of coloured gemstones.” Nathalie Barzilay GIA Graduate Gemologist

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Self-Winding 41

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of its iconic Royal Oak, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Self-Winding reinvents the traditional rainbow with the launch of two unprecedented Royal Oak Selfwinding sets in 37 and 41 mm, both illuminated by some of the most beautiful gemstones. The two sets are composed of ten white gold selfwinding hours, minutes and seconds timepieces, each entirely paved with a different baguette-cut gemstone so as to form a rainbow when all the pieces are put side by side.
The different watches adorn some 800 baguette-cut coloured stones of the exact same hue, all meticulously selected and custom-cut to offer intense and pure colours. The gemsetting was accomplished by long-time partner Salanitro, a company specialised in watch manufacturing and stone setting. A first in the watchmaking industry, the Royal Oak Selfwinding Rainbow sets build on Audemars Piguet’s long legacy of avant-garde high-jewellery timepieces, while pushing the art of gemsetting to new heights.
The two Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Self-Winding sets reinterpret the “traditional” rainbow watch to celebrate 50 years of Royal Oak design innovation. Instead of playing with iridescent colours on one single watch, the Manufacture has reinvented the rainbow altogether with ten timepieces per set, each fully decorated with a distinctive gemstone in vivid red, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink or orange hue.

Finding the right stones, colours and contrasts, while responding to Audemars Piguet’s strict criteria of colour, clarity and quality, was a crucial step in the design of the rainbow sets and no easy task for timepieces covered with 861 identical gems (ranging between ~30 and ~47 carats per watch) for the 41 mm version and 790 stones (varying between ~21 and ~37 carats) for the 37 mm models. The sourcing of the perfect stones took approximately a year.
Each gemstone also went through an intensive quality control process. After a rigorous selection done by the supplier, an additional check was carried out at Audemars Piguet to ensure full homogeneity amongst the coloured gemstones selected per watch. Lastly, the purity and natural origin of each stone was then verified by an external laboratory.
The three “Queens” of gemstones – ruby, emerald and blue sapphire – set the tone for the colour gradation. To complement these intense colours, the Manufacture’s gemmologist and design team chose a selection of stones rarely seen in the Haute Horlogerie industry.
Tanzanites, yellow chrysoberyls, pink tourmalines, amethysts, blue topaz, orange spessartites and tsavorites were selected for their vivid colours and purity so as to achieve a harmonious and expressive rainbow when set side by side. Although evoking the colours of the rainbow when put together, these ten pieces also tell their own story linked to the unique property, colour and symbolism of the gemstone they each adorn.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Self-Winding and Salanitro worked hand in hand through all stages of production to push the gemsetting of the Royal Oak further, while retaining the collection’s aesthetic codes and ensuring water-resistance, reliability, robustness and repairability. Each gemstone being unique, the design, development, manufacturing and hand-setting of each one of the timepieces composing the two sets have been adjusted according to the typology, hardness and specific properties of the different stones.

To match the architecture of the Royal Oak case, bracelet and dial, the gemstones have been individually cut in baguettes of 179 different sizes for the 41 mm models, and 153 sizes for the 37 mm, before being polished by hand to present sharp and clear angles. The quality of the gemstones’ cut is as important as their inherent quality and clarity. The custom-cut baguettes not only need to be eye clean (i.e. no visible inclusion by the naked eye), their lines and stepped facets have to be perfectly symmetrical and aligned to let the light shine through and emphasise the stone’s purity and transparency.
To give pride of place to the gemstones and use as little material possible between them, the Manufacture chose the intricate technique of invisible gemsetting for the dial and bracelet links. Tiny grooves have been delicately incised in the baguette-cut stones, which are then carefully snapped one by one into a hidden rail mounted in the gold component, giving the impression that they are holding on their own.
The complexity also lies in reaching flawless alignment between the different stones once set – a painstaking task requiring extreme precision. Only ten artisans at Salanitro, out of 80, were trained to perform this meticulous gemsetting which amounted to a month and a half of work per artisan to realise one of the sets to be launched in 2022.

The gemsetting of the dial embodies the technical prowess behind these invisibly set watches as the very thin gold plate has been covered with 152 baguettes, cut in 30 different sizes for the 37 mm version and 28 sizes for the 41 mm models. To further highlight the stones, the hour-markers have been left out, while the “Audemars Piguet” signature and the “Swiss Made” indication have been discreetly printed in white or in black on the sapphire crystal.

Audemars Piguet’s Code 11.59 Collection

Audemars Piguet’s Code 11.59 collection was born in 2019 with a biblical-size bang. Thirteen total watches. Six different sub-collections, ranging from a three-hand with date to a minute repeater. Three brand-new in-house movements. An entirely new case. And more than 500 snark-filled comments on HODINKEE’s initial Introducing post. The bang was heard around the world, but it wasn’t entirely well-received.
There was a lot to take in that day, honestly too much to formulate an immediate coherent opinion. One of Swiss watchmaking’s most prestigious and oldest marques had launched an entirely new collection agnostic to the Royal Oak, the company’s flagship product. For better or worse, Audemars Piguet is the Royal Oak, and the Royal Oak is Audemars Piguet.So if it’s not a Royal Oak, then what exactly is the  Audemars Piguet’s Code 11.59 ?

Three years after its difficult debut, it feels like the Code 11.59 collection is finally starting to find its groove. Here are three of the steps Audemars Piguet took to get there.
So much of the negative discourse that surrounded the Code 11.59 launch was centered on the time-and-date Code 11.59, the simplest, entry-level model of the collection with a decidedly bland execution. The watch admittedly does not look much better today, but it was also never meant to be the hero of the collection.
There’s a reason AP launched Code 11.59 in so many different variants – it was to show off the flexibility of the case profile as a home for complications. Focusing on the three-hander was entirely missing the point, and by doing so, many people missed out on the biggest news of the Code 11.59 introduction (the development of a new in-house integrated automatic chronograph movement, the caliber 4400, AP’s first in-house chronograph). Yes, it’s AP’s fault for including it in the initial batch, but it’s understandable that it would have wanted to bring a more affordable execution to market.
Audemars Piguet has slowly rectified its early missteps. I can’t remember the last time it brought a new three-hander Code 11.59 reference to market, while AP has continually experimented with new complications and new formats for existing complicated models. Just look at the big news I reported on earlier this week – AP released three different Code 11.59 models that are, in my opinion, some of the best-looking examples yet.
There’s a pair of new flying tourbillon models, and they aren’t just empty tourbillon-laden vessels, they feature details such as an inky dial made of solid onyx stone and aesthetic tweaks such as no applied numerals. Don’t overlook the openworked model that highlights the insanely symmetrical movement architecture inside that’s decorated to the highest standards. (And did I mention the insane shade of blue on the bridges? Yeah. I think that’s pretty sweet.)

That same insane symmetry is found on the movement layout of the Code 11.59 Flying Tourbillon Chronograph, a beast of a watch with a mirrored movement execution and flyback chronograph functionality.
There’s no  Audemars Piguet’s Code 11.59  Grande Sonnerie this time around (AP did that in 2020), but it’s amazing how much more complete these watches look compared to the somewhat pedestrian lacquer dial finish found on the first batch of Code 11.59 watches. Yes, the Flying Tourbillon and Openworked Flying Tourbillon were both included in the initial batch of Code 11.59 models from 2019 (the Tourbillon Chronograph hybrid also joined the collection in 2020), but the execution has only improved in the past three years. I mean, c’mon, how can you not drool over the wild two-tone bridges and insane depth perspective in the Code 11.59 Flying Tourbillon Chronograph? If it came out of some independent workshop in the Vallée de Joux, collectors would be politely lining up around the block.
The solid onyx dial found on the newest Code 11.59 Flying Tourbillon might have been the headline material out of the three references I covered last Wednesday, but the most significant material at play among all three models is ceramic. One of the benefits of the two-part Code 11.59 case design that AP made such a big deal about three years ago is the ability to use two different types of material in a single watch. All three of the new Code 11.59 references use an inner ceramic case in the shape of an octagon (Code 11.59’s sole reference to the Royal Oak) encapsulated by an 18k white or pink gold lug cage. The result is aesthetically very interesting, resulting in an unexpected take on two-tone, through the application of the extra-hard inner ceramic case that protects the movement and the precious metal bezel, lugs, and caseback.
Two of the three new Code 11.59 watches that were released last week feature a black ceramic inner case, but the Flying Tourbillon Openworked has a bright blue ceramic inner case that is the result of the same blue ceramic process found in the blue-ceramic Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar that Danny went Hands-On with last week. Colored ceramic is quite a bit more difficult to achieve than black-and-white ceramic; it wasn’t until the early 2010s that the sintering process was figured out to achieve colors such as blue, red, and green. Of course, these inner cases are hand-decorated, featuring satin-brushed central areas with polished chamfers.
Although AP does decorate the ceramic material itself, it works with a supplier to produce the material. (Which is no surprise – very, very few Swiss watch brands produce ceramic themselves. The only ones I’m aware of are Rolex and maybe Hublot.) AP works with a company called Bangerter which utilizes a proprietary process that combines zirconium oxide power with an undisclosed binding agent. The binding agent is removed before the start of the sintering process but after a five-axis CNC machine has shaped the unique octagonal shape of the inner case. The blue shade (and hardness) of the ceramic material eventually comes after it’s been heated to approximately 1,400 degrees Celsius.

It seems, then, that Audemars Piguet and Bangerter are able to withstand the heat.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph 41 Ceramic

The hottest luxury watch on the planet is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak.

Ah, but which Royal Oak? Which one is the most interesting and collectible of all the contemporary, current-production models? My nominee is the ceramic-cased Royal Oak QP.

It features everything that makes a “conventional” (if there is such a thing) Royal Oak so damn good – namely the grande tapisserie dial, the thin profile, the integrated bracelet that’s a work of art unto itself, and of course, the octagonal bezel – but the ceramic-cased RO QP pushes it all to the max. The use of state-of-the-art colored ceramic for the case and bracelet means the entire package is bolder, more recognizable, and more scratch-proof than ever before.

At the same time, inside, the ultra-thin caliber 5134 is able to balance the seemingly disparate realm of the highly technical and the supremely slim, in superlative fashion. Ben was absolutely right when, in 2017, he introduced the inaugural ceramic Royal Oak QP by saying, “I’m calling it right here and right now, this is the hottest watch of SIHH 2017.” Five years later, during the Royal Oak’s ongoing 50th anniversary, the watch is still causing temperatures to rise.
That’s because, earlier today, Audemars Piguet quietly unveiled another scorcher. Following 2017’s original blacked-out ceramic RO QP and the white-ceramic sequel that came two years later, AP has released a new Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar (ref. 26579CS.OO.1225CS.01) via its official brand website – and this one comes in blue (!) ceramic for the very first time. Is anyone else sweating or is it just me?

The new, blue Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar is mostly identical to its predecessors, sharing an identical ultra-thin self-winding movement (caliber 5134) and case profile (41mm × 9.5mm), with the only major updates coming in the form of the high-tech blue ceramic case and the matching blue color of the grande tapisserie dial. But given how coveted the black and white ceramic Royal Oak Perpetual Calendars have become, this one still rates as a big deal.
Details on the new release are currently fairly scarce (in this case, what you see is what we see), but considering the high-profile nature of many of the known owners of previous ceramic RO QPS, it’s safe to say it’s a watch that will land on the wrists of many of AP’s best clients. We’ve previously spotted Draymond Green rocking his white-ceramic example, and everyone from UK rapper Stormzy, French actor Omar Sy, American comedian Kevin Hart, and Norwegian DJ Kygo have been seen with a touch of ceramic on their wrist.
The Royal Oak turns 50 this year, and we’ve already had one hell of a party. Remember the new “Jumbo,” ref. 16202? That was only announced to the world in January of this year. Karl Lagerfeld’s Royal Oak came up for auction, and so did Gérald Genta’s. We took a close look at the Royal Oak A2, the oldest known example of the original 15202 reference, and then we went ahead and broke open the entire history of the watch in the latest episode of Reference Points. There’ve already been so many memorable moments dedicated to the Royal Oak this year, and yet today’s announcement might just be my favorite.
The Royal Oak has always been controversial. The original 1972 design was just so incredibly, inherently subversive for its era, and somehow a half-century later I find that it continues to stand alone in the luxury sport-watch segment, surrounded by a sea of pretenders. In my view, not a single competitor has come close to channeling both virility and elegance in the same package to the same degree. And the blue-ceramic Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar brings out the best of both of those qualities, combining the ultra-hard ceramic material and aggressive styling with the same high-grade movement and the same delicate brushing and polishing of the case and bracelet that Royal Oak collectors expect.

It’s hard not to see a watch like this as a certain type of pinnacle for the Royal Oak anniversary. There’s a futuristic material that’s incredible difficult to work, now combined with one of the most traditional and elaborate complications, all inside of a genuinely iconic package.

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Chronograph

Audemars Piguet just announced three new variations of the Code 11.59 collection, demonstrating the Swiss watchmaker’s dedication to the line as it celebrates the Royal Oak’s 50th anniversary. The three different just-released Code 11.59 watches all iterate aesthetically on existing Code 11.59 models in dramatically different ways.

The new Code 11.59 Tourbillon Openworked features a blue ceramic case that’s encompassed by an 18-karat white gold bezel, lugs
and caseback. The movement inside is the hand-wound openworked tourbillon-equipped caliber 2948, which has been comprehensively decorated in numerous shades of blue through a chemical process known as Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD). It’s surrounded by an interior rehaut that’s been blued through chemical vapor deposition (CVD, rather than PVD), while the long, thin handset is made of solid 18-karat pink gold and the balance wheel is executed in a matching gold tone.
The architecture of the caliber 2948, newly executed in the bright blue hue, is completely unique and almost irresistible in its boldness. The movement measures just 3.65mm in height, which means the impressive sense of three-dimensionality the movement conveys is almost magical.

Slightly less complicated but just as visually compelling is the new Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon with a black ceramic central case, an 18-karat white gold bezel and lugs, and a rich dark dial made of solid black onyx. The big news on this model, for those who have followed the 11.59 series since its 2019 debut, is that AP decided to kill off the applied hour markers on the dial, allowing the stone dial material to move to center stage.

AP worked with the La Chaux-de-Fonds-based dial maker Someco to carve the dial out of a single black onyx stone. The dial is first cut into a thin disc, ground, sanded, and polished before ending up in the two-tone case. Each dial is naturally unique, which means that there is potentially endless room for aesthetic variation. The Code 11.59 Flying Tourbillon with a black onyx dial is not a limited edition release.
Finally, the most complicated release of the day, the new Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Chronograph, is focused almost entirely on executing a comprehensive two-tone design. Featuring a combination of black ceramic and 18-karat pink gold throughout the case and (almost nonexistent) dial, the new hybrid chronograph-tourbillon watch is really, more than anything, a showcase for the powerhouse movement inside.

Opting for Audemars Piguet caliber 2952, the watch features two of the most complicated creations out there – a flying tourbillon and a flyback chronograph. The overall movement architecture features highly openworked bridges in both black and pink-gold tones, with AP’s watchmakers noting specifically that a total of 111 V-angles on the movement were sandblasted, satin-finished, and polished by hand. The entire decoration is said to have taken over 70 total hours of work to complete.
The original batch of six Code 11.59 models released by Audemars Piguet on the eve of SIHH 2019 was a touch too baroque for my personal design sensibilities, but I’ve greatly appreciated the offbeat and colorful directions the collection has gone since then. Remember the Grande Sonnerie Carillon Supersonnerie? Today’s releases fall more into the latter camp: electric blue skeletons, blacked-out dials, and a highly complicated two-tone creation all are conceptually and aesthetically interesting enough to stand on their own.
If I had to pick one of the three new watches for my personal collection, I think I’d have to go with the Code 11.59 Flying Tourbillon Chronograph. It’s such a complicated watch, with an irresistible movement design featuring bridges galore, that I think I’d have a nearly endless amount of fun watching the flying tourbillon and flyback chronograph do what they do best. The electric-blue Code 11.59 Tourbillon Openworked is a close second though, simply for its intense, out-of-the-box colorway.

Stay tuned for a closer look at all three of these watches, plus an overview of the broader evolution of Audemars Piguet’s Code 11.59 collection since its initial 2019 release, later this week.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT Goes Green

Announced in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the Royal Oak Concept line, this is the latest expression of one of Audemars Piguet’s most wild watches, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT. Never one to skip the chance to celebrate an anniversary, the Concept line was created as a special project to mark the Royal Oak’s 30th birthday in 2002. Since then, the Concept line has operated as the most avant-garde branch of the Royal Oak family tree, offering very limited production of equally bold and decidedly tech-forward modern Royal Oaks.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT debuted in 2018, but the general format dates back to the non-flying Concept GMT Tourbillon of 2011. This model, complete with a flying tourbillon surrounded by green ceramic and pink gold accents, uses a 44mm case that is 16.1mm thick and has been fitted with sapphire crystals front and back to show off its remarkable movement.
While this is essentially a new color for an existing model range (AP last offered this model with bright blue accents in 2020), it is also a good opportunity to revisit this model’s functionality, all thanks to the remarkable AP caliber 2954 movement.

The 2954 is something extra special and the flying tourbillon is only the start. With some 348 parts, the 2954 is hand wound and, get this, offers a maximum power reserve of 237 hours. Or about 10 days. Ticking at 3 Hz, the movement also supports a second time zone via a clever pair of stacked discs positioned at three o’clock on the dial.

The top disc is made of sapphire and has a transparent background, showing the hours 1-12 and thus rotating once every 12 hours. You can advance the indicated hour – to quickly track another time zone – by pressing the green ceramic pusher located just below the crown on the case flank. Beneath the sapphire hour disc is a second disc (this time made of brass) that manages an indication of day/night by only rotating once every 24 hours. Very clever and rather subtle.
Finally, the movement also features a function indicator that shows what function the crown is currently controlling. “H” for time setting, “R” for winding up the power reserve, and “N” for neutral. All of this complexity comes together in a skeletonized movement with, for this reference, green and pink gold accents tucked into black PVD-treated bridges.

While production of this CHF 198,900 travel watch is not specifically limited to a numbered edition, AP is not planning to make very many.
As something of a nerd for GMT watches – up to, and most certainly including those I will never be able to afford – I love that a Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT even exists. It’s a truly wild design that does a great job of modernizing the Royal Oak while still connecting to both the original Genta design and Audemars Piguet’s longstanding talent for complicated watchmaking.

Sure it’s big, costs more than my first house, and is likely destined only for serious AP collections, but the Concept line managed to do something new and special back in 2002 and I’d argue – green or otherwise – the whole concept (wink) is aging rather well.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept GMT Tourbillon Titanium

Twenty years ago, Audemars Piguet introduced the first Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept, an extreme-looking watch (both then and today) made of Alacrite 602 and titanium. Alacrite is a lightweight alloy mainly used in the aeronautical industry. Not only was the design extreme, but the movement inside was also rather special. Besides a tourbillon, the Royal Oak Concept from 2002 also featured a Dymograph. The Dymograph indicates the torque of the mainspring at that particular moment.

That watch still looks impressive today. To my delight, Audemars Piguet let me try on its most recent descendant the other day when I was visiting the brand’s museum in Le Brassus. This new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT is unmistakably related to its 20-year-old brother. The similarities are obvious but no less impactful. Over the years, Audemars Piguet has introduced several Royal Oak Concept watches, including the incredibly impressive Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher. With the Royal Oak Concept watches, Audemars Piguet has introduced technical and aesthetically groundbreaking designs. Today, the manufacture from Le Brassus introduces the latest addition, the 44mm Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT .

The large and complex case is made of titanium, but this time, it is enrichened by a beautiful green ceramic bezel. Camo-style green can also be found on the dial, but more about the movement and skeletonized dial later. What makes the use of ceramic so incredibly nice on this Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT (but also on the recently introduced blue Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Ref. 26579CS that we wrote about here) is that the finishing is identical to that of the steel and precious-metal Royal Oak models. It’s all finished by hand, something that perhaps contrasts a bit with the use of “modern” material like ceramic. The green ceramic (ZrO2) consists of secret ingredients, but AP lets us know that the ceramic components only get this deep green color once they have been sintered at more than 1,400°C. Getting the right color and consistently doing so is not an easy task. The secret composition of the materials and the specific sintering temperatures are of the essence here. Caliber 2954 at the heart of the watch can be admired from both sides thanks to the skeletonized dial. The movement has been designed with black PVD-treated bridges and green-colored inserts, which are achieved through a Chemical Vapor Deposition process that adds a thin green layer to the parts. The green components of the dial match nicely with the green ceramic bezel and, of course, the green rubber strap. The hand-wound AP caliber 2954 features a flying tourbillon and a second-timezone (GMT) function. At 6 o’clock on the dial, you will find the letters H (setting the time), N (neutral), and R (winding the movement). We’ve seen this before (including on watches from other brands like Grönefeld), but it remains a useful and attractive feature. With the green pusher at 4 o’clock, you advance the hour hand. At 3 o’clock, you will find the second-timezone display that consists of two discs. One is sapphire with the numerals for the hours, and it rotates once every 12 hours. An additional day/night disc rotates every 24 hours, indicating daytime in white and nighttime in green. Lastly, the AP caliber 2954 has two barrels that give the watch a power reserve of approximately ten days. There’s a very clever mechanism behind this, providing a constant force for 237 hours of autonomy. The gear train gets its energy from the double barrels at exactly the same time using a clever mechanism. This solution reduces pressure in the gearing and friction in the barrels and increases precision, power reserve, and reliability.

To complement the green and black design elements of the watch and movement, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT decided to use pink gold for the hands, the applied AP logo at 12 o’clock, and the flying tourbillon cage. The green crown has a pink gold insert as well. Although the name might suggest otherwise, AP’s Royal Oak Concept watches are available to customers. They come at a high price point, but that’s what you have to accept when you want to be at the forefront of groundbreaking watches, I guess. Over the last 20 years, I have come across a handful of Royal Oak Concept watches “in the flesh”, and they always made a lasting impression on me. They are so out of the ordinary that you won’t quickly forget about these special Audemars Piguet watches.