This year, at the SIHH 2018, Audemars Piguet unveiled a host of novelties. If the Extra-Thin 15202IP in titanium and platinum stole our hearts, and if there was a strong focus on ladies’ watches – see the Double Balance Wheel Openworked 37mm Frosted Gold or the Millenary Frosted Gold Opal Dial – there was clearly more to please us. This includes the Royal Oak Tourbillon Chronograph Openworked Reference 26343CE, the first time this complex and powerful watch is cased in black ceramic.
This new version of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Tourbillon Chronograph Openworked once again demonstrates the expertise of the Le Brassus brand when it comes to the use of ceramics. AP already showed such mastery with the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar 26579CE, the first all-ceramic watch (bracelet included) of the brand – and when you have the chance of wearing this watch on your wrist, you understand what expertise means. The execution is simply brilliant. While not really a new watch per se, the Royal Oak Tourbillon Chronograph Openworked is now available in a black ceramic case with coloured accents, produced in four 25-piece limited editions – featuring light grey, green, blue or gold-coloured details.
The Royal Oak Tourbillon Chronograph Openworked was already in the collection and has been released in several editions – rose gold case/bracelet, titanium case/rubber strap, platinum case with blue and gold movement, and more – and for the first time in its career, it goes for the stealth mode. The 44mm case, with its typical Royal Oak Chronograph shape, is now offered in full black ceramic – central case, bezel, case back, screwed pushers and crown – combined with a black rubber strap. As usual, this watch wears large and is built to be robust and visible on the wrist – yet the thickness remains acceptable at 13.2mm.
Crafted in ceramic, the case of this Royal Oak Tourbillon Chronograph Openworked Reference 26343CE retains the usual high-quality finishings found on the Royal Oak watch – rough brushed finish on the flat surfaces, highly polished bezel flanks and a polished bevel running on the side of the case. This new reference does bring a discreet splash of colour though with some parts – the chronograph hands, the seconds track on the periphery of the dial and the sides of the rubber strap – highlighted in light grey, green, blue or gold. The watch photographed here has some gold accents, even though the strap mounted at that time was fully black – the other models are visible on AP’s website.
As for the dial and the movement (we can’t talk about one without the other), Audemars has chosen to feature black sub-dials, a blackened main plate and rhodium-plated mobile parts – balance wheel, tourbillon bridge, barrel and gear train. This gives the background a monochromatic look accented with discreet pops of colour.
The movement itself is familiar and is based on hand-wound Calibre 2936. This movement combines two dynamic complications – the one-minute tourbillon and the chronograph – with a traditional architecture. When viewing the back of the watch, you’ll discover an old-school movement with a column wheel and a horizontal clutch. The treatment and execution are much more modern though, with sharp bridges on the back and an overall technical look. The decoration is superb, with all parts finished by hand; the black polished tourbillon bridge and the drum cover of the barrel, with multiple sharp internal angles, are spectacular.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Tourbillon Chronograph Openworked Black Ceramic 26343CE will be produced in 100 pieces – 25 pieces for each colour – and available only at official AP boutiques. It is priced at CHF 290,000. More details on audemarspiguet.com.