If anything has become clear when reviewing all the novelties presented by Audemars Piguet earlier this month, it is the simple fact that it has gone all-in in terms of complexity. Sure, there are some new time-and-date models for the Royal Oak and the Code 11.59 collections, but (ultra)complicated watchmaking by AP is in the spotlight this year. Not only did we get to see the most complex wristwatch Audemars Piguet has ever made, but others impressed us with their sheer mechanical prowess. One such watch is the newest version of the once-thinnest QP wristwatch in the world, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin 41mm. And although it has been bested since it was first released in 2019, it is still a mighty watch to behold and handle, and one of our favourite watches from AP for various reasons.
Although ultra-thin watchmaking is technically not a complication in itself, as it doesn’t do anything extra for a watch other than cut down height, we consider it a complication nonetheless. It takes immense engineering and watchmaking capabilities to pack as much as possible in as little as possible. This starts with time-only watches, of course, but gets exponentially more challenging when you want to add more to a watch than just hours and minutes. Brands like Piaget, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Bvlgari are forever associated with the art of ultra-thin watchmaking, setting and breaking records in the field time and time again. And although Audemars Piguet currently doesn’t hold any ultra-thin records, the Royal Oak QP Ultra-Thin (for ease of reading) remains a tantalising engineering exercise.
The history of the Royal Oak is well documented; it has been around for 50+ years now and is one of the most sought-after luxury sports watches on the market. It has been a gigantic success for AP, although it wasn’t that popular initially. Nevertheless, it is considered the gold standard of luxury sports watches and is often used as a benchmark to compare new entries or returning players to the segment. It has also seen its fair share of complexity over the years in both its Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore collections as well as the RD# Concept range. This Royal Oak QP Ultra-Thin follows the classical lines of the APRO, though, with a very slim profile in full titanium.
This is a change from the Royal Oak QP Ultra-Thin when it was first presented three years ago, as that model came in a combination of a full-titanium case and bracelet, topped with a platinum bezel. And although this full-titanium execution doesn’t shave off any height, it does lose a bit of weight in the process. Overall, you still end up with the signature octagonal shape with a case measuring 41mm in diameter and a mere 6.3mm in height. This new reference also differs from the previous model in terms of finishing. The platinum bezel of the ref. 26586IP.OO.1240IP.01 was fully polished, whereas this one has a brushed top surface; only the bevelled edge is polished. The only other touches of contrast on top are the polished, functional screw heads in the bezel (fastened from the rear, as always).
Continuing, the caseband reveals three correctors for the QP indications; three on the left for the moon phase, the date and the day, and one more on the right for the month and leap year (integrated). A special tool is supplied with the watch to minimise the risk of scratching the metal when you adjust the functions. The crown screws down and allows for the setting of the remaining indications. Around the back, a slender caseback with a sapphire crystal reveals the incredibly complex and slim movement, but we’ll come to that in a bit. Overall, the case feels very tight and solid, something ultra-thin watches might not always transmit because cutting down height often means compromising rigidity. The only letdown, if we’re being honest, is the 20m water-resistance.
Another update can be appreciated on the dial. Whereas the original RD#2 Concept watch, which this Royal Oak QP Ultra-Thin is based on, had a Grande Tapisserie dial, the 2019 version and this one have smooth blue dials instead. Changing the look for this full-titanium iteration, though, is the introduction of a blue fumé dial. Personally, I think this is very smart, as there is already a lot going on on the dial, and the iconic squared pattern would only distract from the QP display. The base dial has a sunray-brushed finish in blue, which darkens towards the edge. The applied markers and hands are finished with luminous inserts. Spread across the dial are recessed indications for the QP in black. This starts with the date in a stand-alone sub-dial at 6 o’clock. Up and to the left is the display for the day of the week, which semi-integrates the day/night indication. In a similar style, you will find the month and leap year indications on the opposite end. And finally, on top, there is a moon phase display with an aventurine background and a realistic-looking moon. It’s all cleverly done, as the displays are spacious and can easily be consulted at a glance.
All this is made possible thanks to the ingenious calibre 5133, which is produced in-house and was first seen in the 2019 Royal Oak RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin 26586PT. Thanks to its construction, it packs 256 components in a diameter of just 32mm and a height of 2.89mm. One of the tricks to achieve this is to spread components on a single level, something Bvlgari also does in its record-breaking range of Octo Finissimos, for instance. Re-engineering the wheels and aligning everything on the same level helped achieve this incredible slenderness. Two patents were filed back in 2019, one for the weekday wheel and the second one for the inventive 48-month wheel.
The movement is automatic, which is remarkable given the overall height. The rotor is skeletonised to reveal as much of the mechanical movement as possible. It runs at a rate of 2.75Hz, or 19,800vph, with 40 hours of power reserve. I won’t go into too many more details about this incredible feat of engineering, as we’ve already described the calibre 5133 in detail here and here.
As ever, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Selfwinding Ultra-Thin 41mm comes on the iconic integrated bracelet, also made of titanium. The fit and finish are outstanding, and it sits snugly on the wrist thanks to the folding clasp with the AP signature. Audemars Piguet no longer publically mentions prices for its most complex pieces in the Royal Oak and Code 11.59 collections, and the retail price for this one is upon request. But, considering that the previous titanium & platinum Royal Oak QP Ultra-Thin from 2019 cost CHF 140,000 when introduced, you can bet this full-titanium iteration (reference 26586TI.OO.1240TI.01) will be priced similarly, if not higher. Certainly, that’s a lot of money and out of reach for most of us, but the watch is just superb from all angles. And with only 200 pieces being made, it will remain a rarity as well.
All in all, this is perhaps one of the best watches in AP’s current portfolio, combining the iconic shapes of the Royal Oak with the advanced mechanical watchmaking capabilities of the brand. It’s just an absolute joy to wear on the wrist. It’s slim, smooth, extremely comfortable, highly legible and a seriously impressive piece. No wonder the MONOCHROME editorial team like it so much!
For more information, please visit AudemarsPiguet.com.