In the early 1970s, Audemars Piguet introduced a watch that would forever unite the worlds of luxury and sport. Now, almost 50 years later, the brand continues to find innovative and intriguing ways to reinvent the Royal Oak, ensuring it remains one of the most sought-after watch collections in the world. This year, Audemars Piguet has done it again, introducing a very special limited-edition model. It wasn’t accompanied by the usual fanfare, however, so this one may have slipped right under your radar. Luckily, we were able to get our hands on the new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Tourbillon Extra-Thin Black Ceramic ref. 26522. Here’s everything you need to know.
Case and Bracelet
If this new model looks somewhat familiar it’s because this is the second all-ceramic watch to come from Audemars Piguet. Preceding this model was the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Black Ceramic, easily one of the most talked about watches of 2017. As with that watch, the new Royal Oak Extra-Thin Black Ceramic boasts both a case and bracelet made entirely from ceramic (with the exception of the caseback, which is in titanium).
With the first model, Audemars Piguet set itself the almost impossible task of finishing its ceramic case and bracelet to the same standard as that of a steel Royal Oak. Achieving this required over 600 hours of R&D, and the finishing of the bracelet alone requires 30 hours. That’s about five times longer than for the steel version. The Royal Oak bracelet is legendary, and when you hold this piece in your hand, or better still, put it on your wrist, you appreciate every single minute spent in the pursuit of perfection.
Measuring just 9mm thick, the 41mm case sits very comfortably on the wrist. As you might expect, it’s super light thanks to the use of ceramic. It’s also very eye-catching. All-black watches are generally known for being a bit more understated. “Stealth-like” if you will. Not so here; wear this watch out and everyone will be staring at your wrist. Of course, that may have something to do with the dial…
If you recall, Audemars Piguet introduced a new dial pattern to the Royal Oak Extra-Thin Tourbillon collection last year (along with a bold new purple colour too). Called “Tapisserie Evolutive”, the signature “Tapisserie” guilloché pattern was reimagined as a sunburst motif that radiates outwards from the tourbillion.
The effect is quite strong but is toned down here somewhat by the decision to use a black dial. I imagine it would have been quite a different story if Audemars Piguet had opted to use the purple/plum colour shown last year (although part of me thinks that would be cool to see).
White gold applied hour-markers and Royal Oak hands with luminescent coating are the only other embellishments on the dial. Aside from the ultra-thin tourbillon at six o’clock of course, which is superbly decorated. The overall look is sleek and sophisticated, yet still with that hint of sportiness the Royal Oak is known and loved for.
Inside is the hand-wound Calibre 2924, which measures just 4.46mm thick. It’s the same in-house movement used in the other Royal Oak Extra-Thin Tourbillon models and oscillates at 21,600 v/ph. When fully wound, it offers a max power reserve of 70 hours, the remainder of which is shown on the power reserve indicator on the rear of the movement. Visible through a sapphire window in the titanium caseback, this movement is a prime example of why AP is so good at why it does.
Following last year’s changes, the architecture of the bridges has been modified to offer a better view of the moving parts beneath and the Geneva Stripes take on more of a radiating sunburst pattern (known as côtes rayonnantes), emulating that of the dial. Lastly, the movement is finished with a dark grey galvanic treatment, in keeping with the dark theme of the overall watch.
Availability and Pricing
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Tourbillon Extra-Thin Black Ceramic ref. 26522 is offered as a limited edition of just 100 pieces, and as you might expect, it is a Boutique exclusive. The price is CHF 156,000 and the word on the street is that all 100 examples have already been spoken for. I can’t say whether that’s accurate or not but don’t expect to see too many of these bad boys out in the wild (and certainly not without a premium attached). For more information: www.audermarspiguet.com.