Monochrome Watches
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The New Purple 37mm Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Tourbillon Extra-Thin RD#3

The second installation of AP’s Royal Oak RD#3 returns in a smaller 37mm case size and a vibrant plum petite tapisserie dial.

| By Rebecca Doulton | 4 min read |
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Extra-Thin RD#3 37mm plum Dial 26660ST

Imagine the responsibility and challenges of having to produce 50th-anniversary watches to honour the forerunner and undisputed leader of the luxury sports watch. Luckily, Audemars Piguet is not daunted by challenges and has feted its Royal Oak’s 50th birthday with standout models like the Jumbo Extra-Thin 16202 with a newly developed movement. A couple of months after the initial euphoria, AP unveiled the first Jumbo ever fitted with a flying tourbillon. Merging the classic design cues of the iconic Jumbo with a new extra-thin flying tourbillon movement (calibre 2968), the 39mm steel case displayed the signature blue petite tapisserie dial. Given the challenges of developing a new calibre to fit inside the thin 8.1mm case height of the Jumbo, the project was entrusted to AP’s Research & Development department to become RD#3. History repeats itself today as AP unveils a second version of its Royal Oak RD#3 in an even smaller 37mm case size with a classic petite tapisserie dial in an intrepid plum colour.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Extra-Thin RD#3 37mm plum Dial 26660ST

When is a Jumbo not a Jumbo?

Revered as a design icon, the Jumbo is as close as you can get to Gerald Genta’s original 1972 Royal Oak. With its 39mm, extra-thin stainless steel tonneau-shaped case, integrated bracelet, octagonal bezel with eight exposed screws and petite tapisserie dial, the Jumbo has become one of the most sought-after models in the world. Nicknamed ‘Jumbo’ in the 1970s because of its ‘large’ 39mm case, many fans feared for the soul of the Jumbo when AP killed the legendary ref. 15202 in 2021 to pave the way for the 50th-anniversary ref.16202 of 2022. Fitted with a new extra-thin in-house movement after fifty years ticking to the beat of calibre 2121 – a JLC 920 ébauche – the latest Royal Oak Jumbo 16202 is, in the eyes of the MONOCHROME team, almost identical on the outside to the original but even better on the inside.

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Although the spirit of the ‘Jumbo’ lives on in this 37mm, and I am tempted to call it a ‘Baby Jumbo’, this new watch cannot be considered a Jumbo because it does not comply with the strict specification of a 39mm case size AP has in place to protect its king of the castle. Perhaps the best way of understanding the classification of this new 37mm model is in the context of AP’s Research & Development models, a hotbed of innovation where creations like the RD#1 RO Concept Minute Repeater Supersonnerie and the RD#2 RO Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin were engineered. The 39mm RO Jumbo Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Extra-Thin RD#3 marks the third innovation and is now accompanied by this smaller 37mm, both powered by the new calibre 2968.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Extra-Thin RD#3 37mm plum Dial 26660ST

Case and Dial

The smaller 37mm model retains the 8.1mm case height and 50m water-resistance of its larger sibling and is also fitted with a sapphire crystal caseback. Like the facelift operated on permanent members of the Royal Oak earlier this year, the polished bevels are wider, and the increased taper of the bracelet gives the watch a more slender profile.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Extra-Thin RD#3 37mm plum Dial 26660ST

Although the diameter of the 37mm model rules it out as a Jumbo, it does share some features with the 39mm Jumbo – including the price! For one, the dial is decorated with the signature petite tapisserie guilloché pattern but picked out in a very vivid plum colour. Obtained by Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) to ensure a homogenous long-lasting hue, the dial incorporates the original 1972 bathtub-shaped hour markers in white gold and Royal Oak hands with luminescent coating. The Audemars Piguet signature and minute track are printed in white, and the aperture at 6 o’clock reveals the titanium flying tourbillon cage.

Technical Challenges

Developed over five years, the extra-thin flying tourbillon movement – calibre 2968 – powering the 39mm and 37mm models was a technical achievement. As a complication previously reserved for 41mm diameters, AP’s technical team had to rethink the architecture to reduce the thickness of the flying tourbillon. One of the solutions was to equip the tourbillon cage with a peripheral drive. The peripheral drive allowed for a reduction in the thickness of the tourbillon to fit inside the slim 8.1mm case, all the while improving energy efficiency. Another modification was an increase in the amplitude of the oscillator. To enhance the spectacle of the flying tourbillon, the geometry and position of the balance wheel arms have been modified, and the tourbillon is placed at dial level.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Extra-Thin RD#3 37mm plum Dial 26660ST

The caseback reveals the openworked bridges and rotor of the automatic 2968 calibre. The movement is based on the new 7121 calibre fitted inside the automatic Jumbo 16202 with an extended power reserve and a ball-bearing mounted rotor. With 226 components and 33 jewels, it measures 29.6mm across and has a height of just 3.4mm (just 0.2mm more than the straightforward automatic). Like other Royal Oak 50th-anniversary watches, the 22k pink gold rhodium-plated rotor features the special “50 Years” logo. From 2023, the dedicated anniversary rotor will disappear. Hand-decorated movement components include more modern line-cut (traits tires) finishings on the mainplate and bridges, replacing traditional Côtes de Genève.

Availability & Price

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Extra-Thin RD#3 37mm in stainless steel, reference 26660ST.OO.1356ST.01, is not a limited edition. It might be petite, but it comes with a ‘Jumbo’ price tag of CHF 165,400.

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