Somehow the information leaked out just before SIHH 2017 – Audemars Piguet would be presenting its first all-ceramic watch (bracelet included) during the Geneva fair, an all-black version of the iconic Perpetual Calendar Royal Oak. Not surprisingly this news immediately created a buzz of excitement amongst collectors, because clearly, this Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Black Ceramic is hot.
So what’s the big deal? The launch of the newest version of the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar (26574) in 2015 had set the tone. Audemars Piguet was rebirthing the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar, distilling the essence of two brand icons (the Royal Oak and the Perpetual calendar) into a new, modern perspective. This slender timepiece is built around the calibre 5134, an ultra-thin automatic perpetual calendar movement based on the iconic calibre 2120 (found in the original 1972 Royal Oak, once manufactured by LeCoultre, now produced in-house). As always with Audemars Piguet, the 26574 shows some really impressive attention to detail throughout.
The Royal Oak goes black
The new reference 26579CE is the first all-ceramic (case and bracelet) watch from the brand and, to say the least, it has a powerful look. Beyond the modern black aesthetics, ceramic is one of the hardest materials used to craft cases but it is also light and wearable.
The stated aim by Audemars Piguet is to finish its ceramic case and bracelet to the same standard as that of a steel Royal Oak. Not an easy feat by any means, and one that was only made possible after 600 hours of R&D. The finishing of the bracelet alone requires 30 hours, which is five time longer than for the steel version. The result is visually stunning, this is easily one of the best ceramic bracelets I have ever seen (and I’ve seen quite a few…)
Everything about this watch feels very precise. The architecture of the bracelet is indeed impressive. As appropriate for a Royal Oak, not a single link seems to be exactly the same size. This does not make manufacturing easy and this is a further demonstration of the brand’s ethic of no-compromise – especially when you know the numerous steps involved in producing ceramic parts.
The dial comes in a slate grey “grande tapisserie” pattern (a tradition for this icon and it is made in-house), with white lettering, except for the red 31. Its clean layout displays the day, date, month, leap year and moon phase. Everything is proportional and in the right place. It also shows the week, a rather unusual but quite practical feature, printed in a flange circling the dial.
The applied hour markers are white gold. The gold “baton” hands feature luminescent material. The moon phase is simply incredible with extreme detailing and features a laser micro structured moon laid on a star-studded sky made of aventurine.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar is built around the calibre 5134, just like its steel or gold siblings. This ultra-thin (4.31mm) automatic movement is 29.00 mm in diameter and boasts 40 hours of power reserve. Its balance has variable inertia blocks and runs at an unusual 19’800 vibration per hour.
To enhance winding efficiency, the openwork gold oscillating weight is guided by a peripheral ring rolling on four ruby runners to reduce friction. The finish is top notch, with Geneva stripes, circular graining and superb bevels. The astronomical moon requires correction every 125 years and 317 days.
At 41 mm in diameter and 9.5 mm thick, the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar wears extremely well – remember that we’re talking about a sports watch, with a complex movement, and having a sub-10mm case is impressive. The bracelet is super-flexible and comfortable. It is both sporty and elegant. Timeless yet modern, it is sure to draw some attention.
The Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in ceramic is a boutique exclusive and will definitely be in short supply. At CHF 85,000, it is surely not for every pocket, but this gorgeous watch has all it takes to get you to forget about the price tag. For more information, visit www.audemarspiguet.com.