Collaborations between watch brands and designers, artists, musicians, trendsetters, artisans, comic characters, action heroes, etc., are the order of the day. You’d be hard-pressed to think of a brand that has not succumbed to some outside input to generate a buzz among younger collectors or even wizened collectors looking for something fresh. Since the unveiling of the then ‘shocking’ Royal Oak in 1972, Audemars Piguet has always had a finger on the pulse of contemporary trendsetters. The latest collaboration involves Australian Haute Couture designer Tamara Ralph. Using the Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon as a base, Tamara Ralph has dreamed up an impressive watch with warm shades of bronze, gold and brown, contrasting textures and loads of volume unveiled during her recent Spring/Summer 2024 runway show in Paris.
Destined initially as a one-off edition to celebrate the Royal Oak’s 30th anniversary in 2002, the Royal Oak Concept or ROC became a collection in 2008 and has since become the brand’s platform for technical experimentation, blending innovative technical solutions with avant-garde design and cutting-edge materials and usually incarnated by beefy 44mm men’s models. The model chosen for Tamara Ralph’s creation is the Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon, a 38.5mm model intentionally designed for women that debuted in 2018 and appeared with a frosted gold case in 2020. Recently enlarged to accommodate Marvel-themed characters Black Panther and Spider-Man, the brand’s latest collaboration with Tamara Ralph returns to the more compact 38.5mm diameter.
Italian jeweller, Carolina Bucci introduced Audemars Piguet to the ancient Florentine technique of frosted or hammered gold in 2016. Adopted by the brand to decorate special cases, the frosted finishing is realised at AP using a diamond-tipped tool to create tiny indentations in the metal. The result is a discreet sparkle that glistens like frost but which is never flashy. The hammered surface is not only beautiful to the eye and touch, but it is also extremely hard-wearing and resilient to scratches.
The iconic eight-sided bezel of this 18k pink gold Royal Oak and the top surfaces of the hexagonal case have been given the special hammered treatment. Contrasting radically with the discreet sparkle is the pronounced polished slope of the bezel. Along with the satin-brushed flanks of the case, these contrasting textures highlight the dynamic architecture of the Royal Oak Concept. Echoing the shape of the signature hexagonal steel screws in the bezel, the six-sided pink gold crown has a translucent cabochon-cut sapphire in its tip.
Although the thickness of the watch is not pronounced – it has a height of 11.9mm – you get the sensation of peering into a deep well, like Alice in Wonderland, as she falls down the rabbit hole. As a fashion designer, Tamara Ralph plays with textures, volume, and colour, elements that are recreated here in the layered arrangement of concentric rings on the dial.
The tourbillon cage dictates the design of the dial. With its central diamond-set circle and four pink gold concentric rings, the motif of the tourbillon expands outwards to the dial in a series of stepped rings that gradually decrease in size as they reach the perimeter. Tamara Ralph emphasises each ring with a different colour, starting with brown for the ring closest to the tourbillon and ascending through bronze to pink and yellow gold. The graduated colours, transiting from dark to light, increase the sensation of depth and are decorated with a sleek sunburst satin finish. There are no hour markers, and the semi-openworked pink gold hour and minute hands are off-centred and treated with an inlay of luminescence.
The caseback reveals the contemporary bridges of AP’s manual-winding calibre 2964. Like the layout of the dial, the bridges are decorated with a series of circles emanating from the flying tourbillon cage, increasing in size as they reach the periphery. The apertures reveal the sole bridge on which the flying tourbillon cage is fixed and parts of the geartrain. Beating at a frequency of 3Hz, the hours, minutes and flying tourbillon enjoy an autonomy of 72 hours.
Availability & Price
A bronze-toned alligator strap with a pearly finish and a pink gold AP folding clasp add the final touch of glamour to this limited edition of 102 pieces. Although the price is upon request, don’t expect anything under CHF 170,000 for this runway beauty.
For more information, please consult audemarspiguet.com.