There is no hiding the popularity of the Royal Oak as a collection. Audemars Piguet‘s luxury sports watch, the initiator of the genre born in 1972, is one of the few truly iconic watches on the market and celebrated its grand 50th anniversary earlier this year. If most Royal Oak models are highly coveted, there are a few pieces crafted in ceramic that hold an even more coveted and special place in the collection. As part of a collection of high-end, complicated pieces focused on the use of this innovative material, Audemars Piguet has released a watch that has already generated a lot of attention: a full-blue ceramic Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar. And we’ve been lucky enough to try on it on the wrist. Spoiler – it is an absolutely mind-blowing watch… like it or not!
Full ceramic Royal Oak watches have ascended to become the top of the range for the brand, surpassing precious metals in terms of aura and collectability. The ultimate RO, if you like. The full ceramic (case and bracelet) attire has been reserved for the Tourbillon Extra-Thin, the Perpetual Calendar – in black ceramic, in white ceramic and in black ceramic with openworked movement – for the Tourbillon Chronograph Openworked and recently for the Double Balance Wheel Openworked. The innovative material also found its way into more classic models, with the 34mm Royal Oak Selfwinding in black ceramic and, a few days ago, a 41mm Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph.
For the first time now, the Royal Oak, and to be precise, the 41mm Perpetual Calendar model, is entirely honed from blue ceramic, from the case to the bezel and the bracelet. As such, it continues the story started with the black and white editions, which we’ve extensively covered here on MONOCHROME. You might have already seen this watch in other watch publications, illustrated with the brand’s official images. However, we wanted to pay a little more attention to this watch because, as you know, official images can be deceptive. Or, to be more accurate, they don’t reflect the reality, the ambient light, the way a watch reflects and plays with its environment. And yes, the official images of that blue ceramic Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar didn’t make a great impression on us. Well, that was until we managed to get our hands on it.
Before I move to my personal feelings, let’s dive into the technical details. This new full-blue ceramic is basically the same watch we’ve come to know in white or black ceramic. Its 41mm case – with the signature design of the Royal Oak collection, as well as its unmistakable bracelet – is now entirely crafted from blue-coloured ceramic. Lightweight and highly resistant to scratches, it’s obtained from Zirconium Oxide (ZrO2) powder, modified to obtain a blue pigmentation once baked, and mixed with a dedicated binder content before being transformed into ceramic through a complex industrial flow requiring different stages of high-precision machining. The components achieve their final colour only once they have been sintered at more than 1,400°C. Reaching a homogeneous colour represents an additional challenge.
Another challenge comes from the machining and finishing. As we explained with the black model, the Royal Oak is a watch with complex architecture; its case is sharp, angular and mixes brushed surfaces with polished bevels. Also, its bracelet is composed of countless small parts, making the creation of a ceramic version a complicated task. In fact, ceramic is about five times more time consuming than traditional metals in this field. And the trademark alternation of satin-brushing and polished chamfers is, of course, applied by hand. The result is, on the wrist and in the metal, truly special and complex.
There’s a lot going on with this Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar 41mm Blue Ceramic 26579CS, yet things remain thin and highly wearable. The overall thickness, despite the complicated movement, is maintained at a slender 9.5mm. And the lightness of ceramic certainly enhances comfort. The signature octagonal bezel, with its eight white gold studs, is still present. So are the ceramic screw-lock crown and the titanium caseback (necessary for the assembly of the watch). The only complaint regarding the case could be the water-resistance, limited to a mere 20-metre rating. Still, I can’t imagine taking this watch underwater.
In order to create a monochromatic look, Audemars Piguet has created a new blue tone for the dial that harmonises with the blue ceramic case and bracelet. Obtained by Physical Vapour Deposition (PVD), the blue Grande Tapisserie dial is more saturated in colour than the traditional Bleu Nuage found on the Jumbo model. Bright, vivid and with a metallic shimmer, this dial and the matching subdials and inner bezel are all classic Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar features. Time is read thanks to white gold hands and markers filled with luminous material. The display consists of three calendar subdials and a moon phase aperture equally distributed on the dial, as well as a rare week indicator on the periphery. The level of detail and the overall finishing is, as always with Audemars Piguet, simply impressive.
Under the sapphire back is a movement that has already been seen in the past ceramic, steel or gold editions. This calibre 5134, based on the iconic calibre 2120, was launched in 2015 and measures a mere 4.3mm in height. A delicate and handsome movement, it runs at a frequency of 2.75Hz and stores 40 hours of power reserve. The decoration includes a solid 22k gold rotor, Côtes de Genève, circular graining, sunray brushing and polished chamfers.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar 41mm Blue Ceramic (reference 26579CS.OO.1225CS.01) is now released as part of the permanent collection and joins the white and black ceramic models. Like its siblings, it won’t be produced in large quantities. The price is indicated at CHF 129,000 (excl. taxes).
My thoughts on this polarising watch
Polarising, bold, colourful, slightly provocative, a talking piece, superbly crafted… There are a lot of adjectives that I could use to describe this watch. It is, in all objectivity, a watch that will provoke debate, that will generate emotions (in both directions), and won’t create consensus. Which was already the case with the white model. This new blue ceramic Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar follows suit. It is once again a typical “hate or love” watch, a talking piece with an impactful design and colour.
But let me go beyond the first impression. Let me go beyond just the blue colour. Yes, this is an entirely blue watch, and for this, it’s far from the norm. It is bold and provocative, but there’s an undeniable attention to detail in the execution and in the choice of materials and colours. The result, in the metal, is absolutely stunning. It looks like nothing else, it feels like nothing else, and yet it has an incredible attractiveness, a level of desirability that is, in the end, simply stronger than you…
This RO Perpetual Calendar Blue Ceramic is the perfect definition of ‘useless yet indispensable’. Nobody needs such a watch. Yet, this is its very raison d’être, its purpose. It is a watch that is impactful, far from the norm, ultra-modern and at the same time respectful of haute horlogerie traditions; a watch that combines a contemporary colour and material with one of the most classic complications.
Another important thing with this watch is the colour and the way the watch interacts in real life. Far from being just blue, it has a lot of depth, and more subtlety than the initial images would let you think. Although I would never call this watch restrained or discreet, there’s a certain modern elegance and an impressive coherence in this watch. Something intrinsically attractive and cool… I don’t ask you to agree with me (and I’m sure many won’t), but spending a few hours with this watch on my wrist left me with some very, very positive feelings. Yes, it is a stunning watch. And I didn’t have this feeling when driving to Le Brassus before seeing it in the metal. Who’d have thought?
For more details, please visit www.audemarspiguet.com.