Last year, at the SIHH 2018, Audemars Piguet presented a case study, a concept watch made to show the brand’s savoir-faire in terms of watchmaking: the Royal Oak #RD2, also known as the world’s thinnest self-winding perpetual calendar. Impressively complex inside and very familiar outside (clearly it had all the traits of a Royal Oak watch), we knew this piece was not going to remain a concept for long… And here it is. Meet the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin.
Based on the RD#2
The race for ultra-thin is one hot topic these days, with a battle between newcomer Bvlgari and long-term expert Piaget. In just half a decade, the Italians managed to break five world records, the other recently presented the thinnest mechanical watch ever made… However, these two aren’t the only masters of thinness on the scene and Audemars Piguet has, for some decades now, savoir-faire in this field. The latest proof of this expertise came in the shape of the concept watch introduced at the SIHH 2018, the RD#2.
This impressive piece of mechanical engineering was, by quite some margin, the thinnest automatic perpetual calendar ever manufactured. Inside a very familiar Royal Oak case measuring 41mm in diameter but only 6.3mm in height was a newly developed movement based on the old calibre 2120 base (ex-JLC, now manufactured in-house by AP) with a brand new QP mechanism integrated into the movement in order to gain space. This concept watch was, in fact, more of a prototype to test the mechanics and public reactions… As it now comes in its final, commercial phase.
The new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin
The new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin retains most of the specifications and mechanical solutions of the RD#2 watch. Changes are mostly on the visual side. Indeed, its case (still 41mm x 6.30mm) is now an “IP”, meaning a brushed titanium base – for the central case, caseback, crown and most of the bracelet – with some polished platinum accents – bezel and bracelet central links. The RD#2 prototype was fully made of 950 platinum and was very, very heavy on the wrist.
The second evolution can be seen on the dial of this Royal Oak Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin. Instead of the classic “petite tapisserie” guilloché pattern found on the RD#2, the commercial version offers a cleaner matte, vertically brushed dial with tone-on-tone sub-counters. Considering the large number of indications displayed on the dial, this choice creates a watch that is both cleaner and easier to read.
For the rest, the new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin retains the dimensions of the RD#2. The case is 6.30mm in height, which is 3.2mm less than a regular Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar, itself already not a thick watch. So how did AP manage to achieve this, knowing that these two watches are based on the same mechanical architecture?
The Royal Oak Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin has a new movement inside its titanium case, dubbed 5133. New…? Not entirely, as its base is the 2120, the movement that powers the Extra-Thin Royal Oak 15202 and the in-house version of the JLC movement that was once found in the early Jumbo 5402 – an old movement that is still one of the thinnest automatic calibres and one of the few with a central rotor. This movement features a floating barrel (no bridge on top) and a rotor with a specific construction, as most of its weight is moved to the periphery and it is supported by a beryllium ring and 4 jewels to support the oscillating weight – two solutions kept on the RD#2 and the present watch.
However, compared to the movement found in the regular Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar, the QP mechanism has been entirely redesigned. First, Audemars Piguet worked on simplifying the mechanism – don’t be scared, it is actually a complex exercise. Instead of 374 parts in the cal. 5134, the new cal. 5133 features 256 components. Also, some thickness has been reduced thanks to a redistribution of the parts on a horizontal plane, however, creating a larger movement (32mm vs. 29mm).
The classical construction of the perpetual calendar module has been re-engineered to become a single element on one plane only. Finally, several parts of the QP mechanism have been rethought, with two patents filed. One concerns the date wheel, the second the 48-month wheel, both elements that allow the watch to calculate the calendar indications and display the correct date. Both feature new geometry to reduce height.
Price and Availability
As you can imagine, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin ref. 26586IP.OO.1240IP.01 won’t be the most accessible watch on the market, both in terms of price – CHF 140,000 before taxes – and in terms of availability, as the watch will only be available at official boutiques and production is expected to be low. It is out there though, as some have been spotted on Instagram already…
More details at www.audemarspiguet.com.