The sleek, elegant and versatile vibe of the 34mm black ceramic Royal Oak Selfwinding could be seen as the equivalent of a little black dress or, for that matter, a smart black shirt for gentlemen who prefer smaller watches. The Royal Oak Selfwinding 34mm made its debut in 2021 and marked the first time a straightforward time-and-date RO got the full-ceramic look, a treat formerly reserved for complicated Audemars Piguet models. In light of the 50th-anniversary Royal Oak celebrations, the latest 34m Royal Oak Selfwinding 77350CE reveals some of the subtle design updates that have been applied and will be applied to the permanent collection throughout 2022.
Smaller dimensions and ceramic Case
The first 34mm Royal Oak Selfwinding appeared in 2020 and was a breath of fresh air for women or men with small wrists who didn’t want to settle for the 33m quartz-powered Royal Oak. Fitted with an automatic calibre made by Vaucher, the news that the 34mm time-and-date was going to be the first uncomplicated Royal Oak to get the full-ceramic treatment in 2021 was well received.
AP’s first ceramic case appeared on the gigantic 48mm limited edition ROO Arnold Schwarzenegger Legacy Chronograph of 2011, followed in 2017 by the black full-ceramic (case and bracelet) RO Perpetual Calendar 41mm, ref. 26579CE. Given the intrinsic hardness of ceramic, it is notoriously difficult to machine and takes a lot longer to produce than a model in steel. Notwithstanding the challenges of working with ceramic, AP was determined to respect the Royal Oak’s bold geometry, sharp facets, and finishings, including its vertically brushed flat surfaces and polished bevels. As Xavier explained in his coverage of the RO Perpetual Calendar, AP aimed to “finish the 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 times longer than the steel version”.
If you’ve been reading our reviews of the evolutions of the Selfwinding Royal Oaks in light of this icon’s 50th anniversary, you know that there was nothing – thankfully – earth-shattering about the design updates. Meddling too much with Gérald Genta’s octagonal 1972 design would not be appreciated by the legions of Royal Oak fans around the world. The 34mm RO Selfwinding black ceramic has not undergone as many changes as some of the other members (37, 38 and 41mm) of the Royal Oak family; the main tweaks can be appreciated on the dial.
Like the 2021 model, the dial has a black guilloché Grande Tapisserie background with applied pink gold applied indices and hands to match the eight pink gold screws on the bezel (most RO models use white gold screws), and the pink gold insert in the crown. What changes, however, is that the applied AP monogram at noon with the brand name below of the 2021 model has been replaced with a 24k pink gold applied signature. Initially developed for AP’s Code 11.59, the signature is created using galvanic growth, a chemical process similar to 3D printing. Each letter is connected with practically invisible links and placed by hand on the dial.
Another subtle modification regards the size and length of the hour markers and hands. The 2022 update of the Royal Oak Selfwinding and Selfwinding Chronograph models is all about coherence, and the indices and hands have been standardised across the collection and calibrated to the diameter of the watch. Set against a matching black background, the discreet date window at 3 o’clock picks up on the pink gold details with pink gold-coloured numerals.
Although the ceramic case does not display the wider chamfers of the 2022 facelift, all the surfaces of the case and bracelet have been finished with alternating satin-brushed and polished chamfers. The case, with a 34mm diameter and a slim height of 8.8mm, has a glareproofed sapphire crystal protecting the dial and a sapphire caseback. It is water-resistant to 50m.
In contrast to the 2021 model, the new 2022 model reference 77350CE hides the pins connecting the links to the studs on the bracelet for a sleeker, more elegant look.
The movement, which can be seen from the sapphire opening on the titanium caseback, is not an in-house movement. Produced by high-end movement maker Vaucher, calibre 5800 is an ultra-slim automatic movement with a 4Hz/28,800vph frequency and a power reserve of 50 hours. The highlight of this 2022 model is the dedicated anniversary rotor in 22k pink gold with the hand-engraved ’50 Years’ logo decorated with satin-finished, microbead-blasted and polished chamfers.
Availability & Price
The Royal Oak Selfwinding 34mm in black ceramic (77350CE.OO.1266CE.01) is part of the regular collection and retails for EUR 47,400. For more information, please visit Audemars Piguet.com.