It is not a secret anymore… More and more watchmaking brands are collaborating with external designers. The mission is to reach out to new customers and to cater to a clientele more and more influenced by streetwear and high-end urban fashion. Modern, influenced by street art or urban fashion, we’re talking about merging luxury watchmaking with a contemporary approach to design. Today, Audemars Piguet announces a new collection of four Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore watches designed in collaboration with Matthew Williams’ fashion brand 1017 ALYX 9SM. It’s polarising all right, but there’s something oddly appealing in this sleek, minimalist and almost rough take on the emblematic luxury sports watch.
1017 ALYX 9SM (what a name…) is a fashion brand founded in 2015 by Matthew Williams, a Chicago-born creative director active in the world of art, music, photography and fashion throughout his decade-long career. On the other side is Audemars Piguet, which needs little or no introduction anymore and has demonstrated in recent years its wish to move from traditional watchmaking to becoming the most modern of all high-end brands. Through multiple collaborations with artists or designers, resulting in bold, cutting-edge designs, the brand once responsible for breaking the norm with the RO and its integrated design has no plans of settling down. Despite remaining focused on true haute horlogerie, modern APs are far from classic.
The idea of emblematic models such as the Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore being revamped by a fashion designer could have been worrisome, to say the least. With 51 and 30 years of existence, respectively, many things have been seen and tested on these watches – not always for the best – and there’s little room for improvisation with such cult watches. Yet, when we saw the result of the Audemars Piguet x 1017 ALYX 9SM for the first, there was an odd reaction at MONOCHROME… As if we were forced beforehand to dislike it but ended up being more than pleasantly surprised. Don’t get me wrong, these four (plus one) new APs are far from conventional and are truly polarizing, but the almost industrial design, the lack of any traditional elements of display, the focus on materials and textures and the overall sleek, almost utilitarian take on these watches is captivating. Surely, not for all, but there’s no denying a real inspiration from Matthew Williams. It is different, but not bad at all…
Making analogies with architecture and art, there’s an undeniable brutalist approach to the design in these Audemars Piguet x 1017 ALYX 9SM Collection, where adornments have been replaced by a focus on the shapes, exposed textures, angular geometric shapes (thanks to the original designs of Genta and Gueit) and a predominantly monochrome colour palette. Just like in architecture, it is a reaction to nostalgia, a complete departure from vintage inspirations. These four new Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore watches are resolutely modern, almost utilitarian… Something of an encounter between Genta and Le Corbusier. I know some of you will probably scream when looking at these watches, clamouring for the return to the original design and tapisserie dials, but in a world where we have choices, this feels fresh and yet luxurious. These are watches of their times…
The basic concept is, on paper, pretty simple. The idea of 1017 ALYX 9SM and Matthew Williams was to design a collection with a minimalist aesthetic composed of several references ranging from 37 to 42mm. This is also the first time that the same design has been developed for both the RO and the ROO collections simultaneously. In an effort to make the aesthetics as clean and pure as possible, Matthew Williams and Audemars Piguet have reduced the dials to their simplest form, removing the hour markers and the date aperture on the Royal Oak models to highlight the textures and the shape of the watches. Monochromatic, with matching gold dials finished with a vertically brushed pattern, there’s a polarizing consistency in the design to create a continuous object where only the hands and logos can be seen.
The two Audemars Piguet x 1017 ALYX 9SM Royal Oak models are crafted entirely in 18k yellow gold. The first is a time-only self-winding (reference 15550BA) indicating the hours, minutes and seconds, housed in a 37mm x 9.1mm case, sized for both men and women. The minimalist dial comes with luminescent yellow gold hands and the signatures “Audemars Piguet” and “1017 ALYX 9SM”, the former in a gold applique and the latter transferred. This edition is powered by the calibre 5909, a Vaucher-sourced movement with a 4Hz frequency and a 60h power reserve. It is worn on a solid 18k yellow gold RO bracelet.
The second version, a Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph 41mm (reference 26240BA), pushes the minimalism of the dial to the limit, going so far as to eliminate the chronograph counters, leaving only the hands to rotate at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock – surely not the most practical in terms of legibility, but quite striking indeed. This edition, with a 12.4mm profile, is powered by the in-house, integrated automatic calibre 4409. A flyback column-wheel chronograph, this movement also features a vertical clutch and boasts a comfortable power reserve of 72 hours. Again, it is worn on an 18k yellow gold RO bracelet.
The two Royal Oak Offshore models follow the same theme, dispensing with the information usually present on the dial and keeping only the bare minimum. Only the date aperture, a classic element of the ROO, has been kept next to the applied AP logo. The 1017 ALYX 9SM signature is for its part located at 6 o’clock. As with the 41mm RO Chronograph above, these two ROOs also see their chronograph counters at 6, 9 and 12 o’clock removed, leaving only the hands on the brushed gold dial. Available in a choice of 18k white or yellow gold, they are worn on a matching bracelet with the brand’s interchangeable strap system; an additional strap in black rubber is also included. Inside is the calibre 4404, sharing the same technical architecture as the RO 41mm above, yet with a different display that respects the original design of the 1993 Royal Oak Offshore.
All four watches in the Audemars Piguet x 1017 ALYX 9SM Collection are fitted with a special 22k gold oscillating weight featuring an engraving of the 1017 ALYX 9SM signature as well as the indication of Newton’s millimetre and rotor weight, a nod to the technical references indicated by Matthew Williams on his buckles. These four watches are released as limited editions, but we still have to confirm the production numbers.
RO 37mm Selfwinding – 37mm x 9.1mm 18k yellow gold case – sapphire crystals front and back – 50m water-resistant – 18k yellow gold dial with vertical satin finishing, 18k gold hands and markers – calibre 5909, automatic, 4Hz frequency, 60h power reserve – 18k yellow gold bracelet – 15550BA.OO.1356BA.02 – CHF 61,000 (excl. taxes)
RO 41mm Chronograph – 41mm x 12.4mm 18k yellow gold case – sapphire crystals front and back – 50m water-resistant – 18k yellow gold dial with vertical satin finishing, 18k gold hands and markers – calibre 4409, in-house automatic integrated flyback chronograph, 4Hz frequency, 72h power reserve – 18k yellow gold bracelet – 26240BA.OO.1320BA.01 – CHF 75,000 (excl. taxes)
ROO 42mm Chronograph – 42mm x 15.2mm 18k white or yellow gold – sapphire crystals front and back – 100m water-resistant – 18k white or yellow gold dial with vertical satin finishing, 18k gold hands and markers – calibre 4404, in-house automatic integrated flyback chronograph, 4Hz frequency, 72h power reserve – 18k white or yellow gold bracelet, additional black rubber strap, interchangeable system – 26238BC.OO.2000BC.01 (white gold), 26238BA.OO.2000BA.01 (yellow gold) – CHF 92,500 (excl. taxes)
A unique two-tone piece for charity
In addition to these four models, Audemars Piguet and American designer Matthew Williams have created a unique Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph 41mm, with a two-tone case and bracelet, combining 18k yellow gold and stainless steel. It features a contrasting black PVD-coated gold dial decorated with a vertical satin finish. The dial also includes the signatures of both brands as well as yellow gold chronograph hands. The auction of this unique piece will take place during the launch party of the collaboration between Audemars Piguet and 1017 ALYX 9SM on August 24 in Tokyo.
The funds raised will be donated to projects aimed at supporting play-based learning initiatives in favour of disadvantaged children, notably through the actions of the NGOs Kids in Motion and Right to Play.
For more details, please visit www.audemarspiguet.com.