The launch of a new Royal Oak Concept is always quite of an event. Since 2002, the collection has been a platform of experimentation for Audemars Piguet, blending innovative technical solutions with avant-garde design. A case in point, the new ROC Split-Seconds GMT ref. 26650TI combines a new automatic rattrapante chronograph movement with dual-time function and large date, a new case size and an interchangeable strap system.
If the chronograph is one of the most revered complications, the rattrapante or split-seconds function takes it to a whole new level. This intricate mechanism is one of the most difficult to make. Split-second chronographs feature two superimposed seconds hands that time two events of different lengths simultaneously. One hand (the rattrapante) can be stopped to display an intermediate time, while the other one keeps running. A second push on the rattrapante pusher allows the stopped hand to catch up (rattraper in French) with the moving hand.
This complication has been extremely rare in Audemars Piguet’s wristwatch offerings with only one example documented before 1996, a watch sold in 1949 that now belongs to a prestigious private collection. The function was then included in three grandes complications (1996 Grande Complication, 1997 Royal Oak Grande Complication, 2013 Royal Oak Offshore Grande Complication). And, mention must be made of the Royal Oak Concept Laptimer. If this watch developed with Michael Schumacher is not per se a split-second chronograph, it is capable of measuring consecutive lap times on the racetrack.
The new Royal Oak Concept Split-Seconds premieres a brand-new movement combining a flyback chronograph with split-seconds, a GMT function and a large date. Its open-worked dial gives a glimpse of its spectacular architecture while reinforcing the modern and technical character of the watch. The red and yellow accents, respectively marking the chronograph and GMT functions, and the tachymeter scale transferred onto the inner bezel add a sporty touch.
As its reference number suggests, the new calibre 4407 of this ROC Split-Seconds is derived from the calibre 4400, the brand’s in-house integrated chronograph first seen within the Code 11.59 collection. As such, it is a high-end, modern construction with a column wheel and a vertical clutch. Still, it has been substantially re-engineered to allow the addition of the rattrapante function, specifically for energy management. And unlike the calibre 4400, the hairspring features a Breguet overcoil.
One of the highlights of this modern-looking movement can be seen via the sapphire caseback. The split-second mechanism has been partially integrated within the centre of the platinum winding rotor (that AP aptly describes as semi-peripheral). This allowed the AP watchmakers to keep the movement thinner and to offer an unimpeded view of the split-second wheel and clamp, under the x-shaped bridges at the centre of the movement. All of this while offering the practicality of automatic winding.
The Royal Oak Concept Split-Seconds GMT also introduces a new 43mm case size. Fashioned out of titanium, with a mix of satin-brushed, sandblasted and polished surfaces, it is probably one of the most complex cases ever produced by the brand. Its dynamic and angular architecture features ceramic push-pieces, multiple inserts and guards. The rattrapante push-piece is located at 9 o’clock (a nod to the 2015 Royal Oak Concept Laptimer). The GMT corrector is a push-piece co-axial to the screw-locked crown.
For the first time in this collection, this new ROC Split-Seconds GMT comes with an interchangeable strap system. The click-and-release mechanism integrated both in the case and the clasp allows you to swap your straps in seconds. The watch is delivered with an integrated black and grey rubber strap and a spare all-black rubber strap. Additional black rubber straps with red or yellow accents will be available in boutiques.